It is a dream nearly as old as the Transcontinental Railroad of 1869-a through-route connecting the Union Pacific and the Southern Pacific lines. It was a vision that almost came to be in 1909.
The announcement in 1995 that Union Pacific would buy Southern Pacific for $5.4 billion to create the largest railroad in North America was a fulfillment of sorts.
After all, it was the UP and SP predecessor Central Pacific that joined the nation together with a ribbon of rails at Promontory Summit, Utah, in 1869. And it was the dream of one railroad builder, Edward H. Harriman, to combine the two lines just after the turn of the century. Harriman was a believer in super-railroads-giant systems that stretched from coast to coast, providing shippers with fast, efficient service.
Harriman, described by the New York Times as "the world's greatest railroad man" because of his incredible hold over several major railroads of the era, exercised control over the voting stock of both western giants briefly in 1909.
Alas, Harriman died before he could see the dream realized. The decades passed, and the UP and SP became fierce competitors. With the creation of the combined Burlington Northern-Santa Fe system in 1995, the next logical step was to combine always strong UP and financially weak SP for a balanced two-railroad West.
Harriman would have approved.
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