January 17, 1867

First Railroad Line Across Iowa Complete

Iowa crews began laying the first rails in 1854. A year later, the first locomotive was shipped across the Mississippi River by ferry. As with the Pacific line, the U.S. government was instrumental in funding railroad construction in Iowa. The Chicago, Iowa and Nebraska Railroad, which later became the Chicago and North Western Railway Co., was the first company to span the state.

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The completion of the C&NW into Council Bluffs, Iowa, made it possible for Union Pacific to receive supplies by rail. This was a major advantage over the earlier route by steamboat or wagon from St. Joseph, Mo., to Council Bluffs. The infusion of supplies supported the major advances in construction from 1867 to 1869.

In 2012, Union Pacific celebrates the shared stories that have shaped our country since 1862. To mark our 150th anniversary, we invite you to explore how the nation’s largest railroad came to be and how UP continues to build America with innovation and tenacity, touching the lives of nearly every citizen.