Railroad Mergers & Takeovers

Compiling this calendar of rail mergers and takeovers took quite a bit of time and I hope that it helps you get an understanding of how the American rail picture has changed since WWII. Obviously, this breakdown only chronicles the Class 1s and Class 2s of the time, not the small shortlines and switching railroads. Naturally, if you find any informational errors or have additional information that should be added please contact me. – AC 

1941 – 1945 – American Railroad ridership reaches its highest level as U.S. trains ferry soldiers across the country to fight in the European and Pacific Theaters of war. Ridership begins to decline after the war as the automobile takes the place of trains.

1946 – The great Pennsylvania Railroad, for the first time in its history, records a loss during its centennial year.

1947 – Chesapeake & Ohio merges Pere Marquette. 

1949 – New York, Chicago & St. Louis (NKP-Nickel Plate Road) absorbs Wheeling & Lake Erie.

1949 – The Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad, the Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad, and the Western Pacific Railroad launch the California Zephyr from Chicago, Illinois, to San Francisco, California; it is the first passenger train to regularly offer the Vista Dome Cars.

1950 – Railroad passenger travel declines drastically as more and more Americans take to their cars and begin to use air travel.

1953 – The first of the ‘piggyback’ semi-trailers hauled by trains on flat cars is implemented.

1957 – Louisville & Nashville bought a majority interest in 1879, and merged Nashville, Chattanooga & St. Louis Railway on August 30, 1957. Many consider this the beginning of the “modern merger movement.”

1957New York, Ontario & Western Railroad ceases to exist.

1959 Norfolk & Western merges the Virginian Railway. 

1960 Erie Railroad + Delaware, Lackawanna & Western = Erie Lackawanna.

1960Lehigh & New England railroad ceases to exist.

1960 – Chicago & North Western merges the Minneapolis and St. Louis Railroad.

1960 – Minneapolis, St. Paul & Sault Ste. Marie (“Soo Line”) + Wisconsin Central + Duluth, South Shore & Atlantic merge to form the Soo Line Railroad.

1963 Baltimore & Ohio controlled the Western Maryland, Central New Jersey & Reading Railroad at this time.

1963 Southern Railway merges the Central of Georgia.

1963 Southern Railway takes control of the Georgia and Florida Railway.

1964 – Norfolk & Western merges the Nickel Plate Road.

1964 – Norfolk & Western takes over the Wabash Railroad and despite disappearing in the 60s the railroad existed on paper until it was officially merged into Norfolk Southern Railway in 1997. 

1964 – Norfolk & Western takes over the Pittsburgh & West Virginia.

1964 – Norfolk & Western takes over the Akron, Canton & Youngstown Railroad.

1967 – Seaboard Air Line + Atlantic Coast Line = Seaboard Coast Line. 

1967 –New York Central‘s Twentieth Century Limited makes last run.

1968 – Pennsylvania + New York Central + New Haven = Penn Central…. The ripples of which can be felt to this day and with that merger, changed American railroading for all time.

1968 – Tennessee Central is abandoned and split between Illinois Central, Louisville & Nashville and Southern Railway.

1968 – Chicago & North Western merges the Chicago Great Western Railway.

1969 – Seaboard Coast Line merged the Piedmont & Northern Railway.

In the late 1960s, Norfolk & Western acquired Dereco, a holding company that owned the Delaware & Hudson (D&H) and Erie Lackawanna (EL) railroads. Dereco’s troubled railroads were not merged into NW; EL eventually joined Conrail in 1976 and D&H was sold to Guilford Transportation Industries in 1984.

1970Great Northern + Northern Pacific + Spokane, Portland & Seattle + Chicago, Burlington & Quincy = Burlington Northern.

1970Texas & Pacific merges Kansas, Oklahoma & Gulf.

1970 – Congress passes and President Richard Nixon signs the Railway Service Act creating Amtrak, providing passenger service throughout the U.S. The California Zephyr makes its last run when it arrives in Oakland, California from Chicago, Illinois.

1971 – Amtrak goes into service; eventually Amtrak will take over the California Zephyr route.

1971Louisville & Nashville merged the Monon Railway.

1971 Grand Trunk Western is grouped under Canadian National’s Grand Trunk Corporation Holding Company.

1971 Southern Railway officially merges the Georgia and Florida Railway into the Central of Georgia Railroad.

1972 Illinois Central Gulf merges Gulf, Mobile & Ohio.

1972 Illinois Central Gulf merges Illinois Central.

1972/1973B&O + C&O + Western Maryland = Chessie System Holding Company…. This is where it gets confusing…. The Chessie System was NOT an actual railroad but a holding company (much like the CSX Corporation). The railroads themselves were still separate entities which is why each had their individual reporting marks underneath the cab numbers on all locomotives.

Circa 1974Seaboard Coast Line began advertising itself, Louisville & Nashville, Clinchfield, Georgia Railroad, and the West Point Route as “Family Lines System,” but FLS was not a corporate entity. More like a pseudo alias or a nickname. Officially the FLS was made up of the Seaboard Coast Line, Louisville & Nashville, Clinchfield, Georgia Railroad, South Carolina Pacific Railway, Louisville Henderson & St. Louis Railway, Gainesville Midland, Atlanta & West Point Railroad, Columbia, Newberry & Laurens.

1974 – Southern Railway absorbs Norfolk Southern (1942).

1976Penn Central + Central of New Jersey + Lehigh Valley + Lehigh & Hudson River + Reading + Erie Lackawanna + Ann Arbor + PRSL = Conrail.

1976 – C&EI was split between the Missouri Pacific and the Louisville & Nashville railroads.

1976Missouri Pacific merged Chicago & Eastern Illinois (C&EI).

1976 – Missouri Pacific merged Texas & Pacific.

1980 – The Staggers Act was passed which allowed deregulation of the rail industry and greatly sped up the merger madness and abandonments that would dominate the remainder of the 20th century.

1980Rock Island Railroad ceases to exist.

1980Burlington Northern merged the St. Louis San Francisco (Frisco).

1980CSX (Corporation) was created combining Seaboard Coast Line Industries holding company and Chessie System holding company.

1981 – Burlington Northern merges the Colorado & Southern.

1981 – Norfolk & Western merges Illinois Terminal.

1981 – Guilford Transportation Industries absorbs Maine Central.

1982 – Family Lines monicker was dropped when SCL and L&N merged on December 29, 1982, to form the Seaboard System.

1982 – The Southern Railway was brought into the Norfolk Southern (Holding Company).

1982 – Seaboard System merged the Atlanta & West Point Railroad.

1982Union Pacific merged Missouri Pacific.

1982 – Norfolk Southern officically mergers the Akron, Canton & Youngstown Railroad.

1983Southern Pacific and Santa Fe attempted to merge and both began painting locomotives into a new red, black & yellow “Kodachrome“ paint scheme. But alas, the SPSF proposed merger fell through resulting in the infamous acronym for SPSF (Shouldn‘t Paint So Fast).

1983 Baltimore & Ohio officially merges Western Maryland.

1983Union Pacific merges Western Pacific.

1983 – Guilford Transportation Industries merges the Boston & Maine.

1983 – Grand Trunk Western merges Detroit, Toledo & Ironton.

1983 – Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe absorbs Toledo, Peoria & Western.

Circa 1983Seaboard System merged the Georgia Railroad.

Circa 1983Seaboard System merged the Clinchfield.

1984 – Guilford Transportation Industries purchases the Delaware & Hudson from Norfolk & Western Holding Company Dereco.

1985Soo Line purchases the Milwaukee Road in February 1985. 

1986Soo Line merges the Milwaukee Road on January 1, 1986. 

1986CSX (Transportation) is formed and merges the Seaboard System

1987CSX Transportation officially merges the Chessie System

1988Union Pacific merges the Missouri, Kansas & Texas (MKT)

1988Southern Pacific Railway was absorbed by the D&RGW (Holding Company) and renamed Southern Pacific Lines

1988Illinois Central absorbs Illinois Central Gulf.

1989 – Toledo, Peoria & Western gains its independence back from Santa Fe.

1990Candian Pacific (CP) gains full control of the Soo Line Corporation

1990Norfolk Southern Holding Company officially merges the N&W and the Southern Railway forming Norfolk Southern Railway

1990 – The new Wheeling & Lake Erie buys back most of the old Wheeling & Lake Erie from Norfolk & Western.

1991Canadian Pacific absorbs Delaware & Hudson

1991CSX merges Richmond, Fredericksburg & Potomac (RF&P)

1992Denver & Rio Grande Western (D&RGW) & St. Louis Southwestern (SSW a.k.a. Cotton Belt) lose their identities and are officially merged into Southern Pacific

1992CSX merges Pittsburgh & Lake Erie Railroad (P&LE)

1993 Wisconsin Central Ltd. merges the Green Bay & Western (GB&W)

1995 – Congress abolishes the Interstate Commerce Commission, transferring its powers to the Surface Transportation Board.

1995Union Pacific merges the Chicago & North Western (CNW)

1996Burlington Northern + Santa Fe = Burlington Northern & Santa Fe (BNSF)

1996Union Pacific absorbs Southern Pacific…. A merger that began in 1903. 

1997Norfolk Southern officially merges the Wabash Railroad. 

1997 — Conrail is divided between Norfolk Southern (PRR-58%) and CSX (NYC-42%)

1998Canadian National (CN) merges Illinois Central (IC)

1999Norfolk Southern & CSX begin operating their portions of Conrail on June 1. 

June 1, 1999 marked the official end of the Super Seven era and introduced the era of the Big Four. NS and CSX in the east. Union Pacific and BNSF in the west.



2001Canadian National merges Wisconsin Central Ltd.

2004Canadian National merges Bessemer & Lake Erie

2008Canadian Pacific absorbs the Iowa, Chicago & Eastern Railroad (ICE).

2008 – Canadian Pacific absorbs the Dakota, Minnesota & Eastern (DME).

2009 – Financier Warren Buffet purchases BNSF for 44 billion. 

2011 Wisconsin Central Ltd. merges Duluth, Missabe & Iron Range Railway (DMI)

2011 Wisconsin Central Ltd. merges Duluth, Winnipeg & Pacific Railway (DWP)

2013 Wisconsin Central Ltd. merges Elgin, Joliet & Eastern Railway (EJE). This move gave parent Canadian National a seamless, unencumbered route around the tangled mess of Chicago.

Class 1s today: Union Pacific, BNSF, NS, CSX, Kansas City Southern

Class 2s today:
Alabama and Gulf Coast Railway
Alaska Railroad
Buffalo and Pittsburgh Railroad
Central Maine and Quebec Railway
Central Oregon and Pacific Railroad
Dakota, Missouri Valley and Western Railroad
Florida East Coast Railway
Great Lakes Central Railroad
Indiana Rail Road
Indiana and Ohio Railway
Iowa Interstate Railroad
Kansas and Oklahoma Railroad
Kyle Railroad
Missouri and Northern Arkansas Railroad
Montana Rail Link
Nebraska Kansas Colorado Railway
New York, Susquehanna and Western Railway
Northern Plains Railroad
Paducah and Louisville Railway
Pan Am Railways
Portland and Western Railroad
Providence and Worcester Railroad
Reading Blue Mountain and Northern Railroad
Red River Valley and Western Railroad
San Joaquin Valley Railroad
South Kansas and Oklahoma Railroad
Texas Northeastern Railroad
Texas Pacifico Transportation
Utah Railway
Wheeling and Lake Erie Railway
Wisconsin and Southern Railroad

Class 3s et al: That’s where the fun and this website begins….

The Railroad Mergers And Takeovers Of The 20th Century: