1848 The Galena & Chicago Union, authorized in 1836 to lay rails to the lead mines at Galena in northwestern Illinois, was the city's first railroad. The first railroad rails were erected in 1848, although not to Galena, but to a location known as Oak Ridge (now Oak Park).
1850 The first train ran from Chicago to Rockford, now also in Illinois. It was a success, and more trains were soon running between Chicago and Rockford, as well as other cities along the line. By 1852, there were enough passengers that a company was formed to operate them. This company failed, but another one was organized in 1855, which is still operating today under the name of Amtrak. In 1857, the first track was laid out around Lake Michigan, opening up shipping lanes for merchants on the Great Lakes.
1860 After the Civil War started in 1861, many roads were abandoned by their owners. The Galena & Chicago Union was one of these roads that was taken over by the government. It was sold back to its shareholders in 1872.
1880 The last regular run into Chicago's Union Station occurred on January 13, 1880. A special named The Last Train is run today at sunset by Golden Gate Railway Company at the end of the San Francisco Presidio Tour. This tour began in 1898 when the U.S. Army took over operation of the railroads following the Spanish-American War.
Baltimore businessmen chartered the first railroad in North America, the Baltimore & Ohio. 1830: The Best Friend of Charleston, the first regularly scheduled steam-powered rail passenger service in the United States, begins operating in South Carolina, using a locomotive constructed in the United States. 1832: The first train travels more than 100 miles between Baltimore and Ellenton, using an innovative cable system to connect with other vehicles on the track. The train is operated by the B&O Railroad, which will become one of the largest railway companies in the country.
American engineers developed several important innovations for use on American railroads: the sliding door (1869), the safety switch (1872), and the pneumatic tire (1891). These advances made it possible to operate large trains across our continent.
The Milwaukee Road was founded in 1855 as the first transcontinental railroad line in the world. By 1890, this small railroad network reached from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, to Seattle, Washington, a distance of 3,000 miles! In addition, the Milwaukee Road built some of the most beautiful bridges in America, including the Golden Gate Bridge. The Milwaukee Road's slogan was "The Most Perfect Railroad in the World," and they were certainly close to being right. After many changes and acquisitions, the Milwaukee Road was acquired by Union Pacific in 1983. Today, most of the former Milwaukee Road tracks are part of the Union Pacific Railroad network.
Chicago Rapid Transit Railroad and the South Side So, in 1892, the first "L" train (then known as the Chicago and South Side Rapid Transit Railroad) was built, and its first run took place on June 6, covering 3.6 miles in 14 minutes. At the time, the "L" was merely a regular steam-powered train on elevated lines.
Today, we know it as the CTA 'L' or El. The original line was replaced by an underground line in 1953, and part of this route is now called the Lake Street Elevated.
The South Side "L" was one of the first modern mass transit systems in America. It was also the first electric railway in Chicago. In fact, it was so innovative at the time that it still ranks as one of the early adopters of grade-separating technology, long before it became popular elsewhere. The system had its origins in a private company that was granted a franchise by the city to build an electric railroad from downtown to the then-newly developed area south of the city limits. The line opened in 1892 and was named after its principal backer, George M. Pullman. It was immediately successful and soon after extended north into the city limits. By 1900, there were 36 "L" trains running on eight lines with a total length of 105 miles. This made it the largest mass transportation system in the country at the time.