The Union Pacific Railroad History

Table of Content

North America has one of the largest transportation systems in the world. Union Pacific Railroad is the largest railroad in the North America currently covering over 23 states across the western two-thirds of the United States with over 36,000 miles of track. The Union Pacific Railroad maintains coordinated schedules with other rail carriers for the handling of freight to and from the Atlantic Coast, the Pacific Coast, the Southeast, the Southwest, Canada, and Mexico. Union Pacific Railroad commodity revenue totaled $13. billion in 2005 and is comprised of six commodity groups: Agricultural, Automotive, Chemicals, Energy, Industrial Products, and Intermodal (Kenefick, 1985).

This case study will analyze Union Pacific Railroad and what it has accomplished over the last 150 years.  This paper will contain a chronological history of Union Pacific Railroad and the achievements it has made as being part of the first transcontinental railroad. Next, an analysis of Union Pacific’s financial data includes examining their net revenue, stock, and how they compare with their competitors History.

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The Union Pacific Railroad has been business for over 150 years. Union Pacific Railroad was established through the purchase of former railroads which were the Southern Pacific, Missouri Pacific, Chicago and North Western Railroads. The railroad was first established in 1848 when the first ten miles of Galena and Chicago Union Railroad were completed, a direct predecessor of the Chicago & north Western (Union Pacific, 2006). The main turning point for the railroad system was put into place in 1862 when the sixteenth President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln, Signed the Pacific Railroad Act.

This Act allowed Union Pacific and the Central Pacific to build the first transcontinental railroad. Central Pacific Railroad started building from Sacramento, California. Union Pacific started in Omaha, Nebraska in 1863. Due to financial hardships and the civil war taking place, the first rail was not laid until 1865 in Omaha, Nebraska. On May 10, 1869, the two railroads came together as the greatest historical event in transportation on the continent occurred at Promontory, Utah. The Union Pacific tracks joined those of the Central Pacific Railroad.

McNally, R. (1971). This meeting between the two railroads is known today as the Golden Spike. Due to World War II being in session shortly after, the materials were needed to assist with the War and were removed. Today there is a historical landmark placed in Promontory, Utah. A replica was built where the golden spike was laid to establish the first transcontinental railroad. In 1872 the “New York Sun” revealed the Credit Mobilier scandal: UP officials had pocketed excess profits during the railroad’s construction.

Debt and lingering effects of the scandal forced UP into bankruptcy in 1893(Hoover’s Inc, 2006). Soon after Promontory Point was established as Union Pacific needed to expand the railroad system and created the Oregon Short Trail. This railroad system ran from Granger, Wyoming through Idaho and finished in Huntington, Oregon in 1884. At the same time, Southern Pacific Railroad was established and built a railroad from El Paso, Texas to Oregon and established the first transcontinental railroad even more so. In 1892, Jay Gould died and passed the Union Pacific over to his son, George Gould.

Shortly after in 1893 Union Pacific went bankrupt and was sold in 1897 for $110 million dollars to E. H. Harriman. With the expansion of Southern Pacific Railroad, E. H. Harriman decided to purchase 38 percent of Southern Pacific Railroad in 1901 and established Union Pacific Railroad, taking control of the railroad industry. Union Pacific would only have possession of the railroad industry until 1913 when the Supreme Court ordered Union Pacific to sell Southern Pacific 46 percent of its share back on antitrust grounds. Union Pacific lost control of the railroad.

It wouldn’t be until 83 years later that Union Pacific would take over Southern Pacific and would obtain Missouri Pacific in 1997. Currently, there are two main railroad carriers in North America which they are Union Pacific Railroad and Burlington Northern Santa Fe. Union Pacific was also part of the trucking business and purchased Overnight Transportation in 1986, which was later sold in 2003 to United Parcel Service 2005 and renamed UPS Freight the next year (Hoover’s Inc, 2006). The first UP logo was in 1868 and represented a Mountain Elk with the word Union Pacific Railroad around the Elk picture.

In 1887, Union Pacific changed the logo to a shield. The shield was chosen as a symbol of strength and a tie to the company’s heritage to the Pacific Railroad Act (Union Pacific 2006). Since the change to the logo in 1887, there have been eleven different shield designs. There have also been twenty-seven changes total to the logo since the mountain elk logo in 1868. The Union Pacific logo has been a trademark patent logo for over 100 years. Union Pacific has gone as far as making sure Microsoft, has not used there logo in video games or allowed to illustrate how trains are operated.

Since the establishment of the Union Pacific Railroad in 1969, they have become one of the largest transportation companies in North America covering over 33,000 route miles and covering over23 states. Union Pacific has been able to maintain its size and power through the purchases of other railroads, which are: Missouri Pacific, Chicago and Northwestern, Western Pacific and Southern Pacific. Currently the President and Chief Executive Officer is James R. Young. Mr. Young has been with Union Pacific Railroad since 1978. Union Pacific currently employs 50,000 employees with an annual payroll of $3. billion.

The headquarters of Union Pacific Railroad is located at 1400 Douglas Street in Omaha, Nebraska. Also, in Nebraska Union Pacific has the largest railroad classification yard in the world. This classification yard is located in North Platte, Nebraska and is named after Edd H. Bailey, which the a former President of Union Pacific. Bailey Yard covers over 2,850 acres, reaching a total length of eight miles. In 1980 Union Pacific Railroad became publicly traded on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) under the symbol “UNP”.

Union Pacific is also listed as 164th under Forbes 500 list of companies. Its chief competitor is the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway (BNSF), which covers much of the same territory.


  1. (Union Pacific 2006). Chronological History. Retrieved 10/30/06, from http://www. uprr. com/aboutup/history/uprr-chr. shtml
  2. Hoovers (2006). Union Pacific Corporation. Retrieved November 3, 2006, from http://hoovers. com/union-pacific/–ID__11544,ticker__–/free-co-fin-factsheet. xhtml
  3. Hoover’s Inc. (2006, October 31). Union Pacific Corporation. Retrieved November 3, 2006

Cite this page

The Union Pacific Railroad History. (2018, May 25). Retrieved from

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