Northern Pacific Railway, former American rail line, following the northern route from Duluth and St. Paul, Minn., to Seattle, Wash., and Portland, Oreg. The Northern Pacific RR Company was chartered by special act of Congress in 1864, and construction was begun in 1870. Jay Cooke at first managed the enterprise, but after the Panic of 1873 the railroad company went into bankruptcy. Under the leadership of Henry Billard, the Northern Pacific was opened in 1883 from Ashland, Wis., to Portland, Oreg. The company became the Northern Pacific Railway in 1896. In 1901 there was a spectacular financial contest between the interests of E. H. Harriman and those of James Hill and J. P. Morgan for control of the Northern Pacific. The Hill-Morgan group secured control, but an agreement between the two groups resulted in the organization of the Northern Securities Company, a giant holding company that controlled the Northern Pacific, the Great Northern, and the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy. When the trust was dissolved (1904) as a violation of the Sherman Antitrust Act, the Hill-Morgan interests came into control of the Northern Pacific. In spite of the breakup of the Northern Securities Company, a proposal for a very similar merger was made by a consultant for the Interstate Commerce Commission in 1921. The plan was never acted upon, but 40 years later the Northern Pacific again asked for permission to merge with the Great Northern and the Burlington lines. Finally, in 1970 the Supreme Court approved the consolidation. The merged company became the Burlington Northern RR, which in 1995 merged with the Santa Fe line to form the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.