This is a detailed railroad map covering the western two-thirds of the country, from Chicago west to California and Washington. It depicts numerous main rail lines as well as spur lines and countless small rail stops. A vignette to the left of the map shows “One of the World Famous Dining Cars of the Great Rock Island Route,” reflecting mid-to-late 19th century efforts to make train travel more comfortable; changes most commonly associated with the innovations of George Pullman, whose career began in Chicago.
Back in the 1850s, railroads faced opposition from river men, and tensions escalated as the rails approached the Mississippi River. The Chicago & Rock Island Railroad built a bridge into Iowa over the river at Rock Island, IL in 1856. Within days a steamboat, the Effie Aflon, smashed into it at full speed, with an ensuing fire that engulfed the bridge. It was pretty clearly a deliberate act.
Representing Rock Island in court as lawyer was none other than Abraham Lincoln. Wolmar (p. 86) states: “The importance of the Effie Aflon case went well beyond the interests of the local boat owners, as it was effectively a test of whether the right of railroads to traverse rivers prevailed over those who sailed on them,” pitting rail towns like Chicago against riverside towns like St. Louis, who had an interest in developing the waterway. Lincoln successfully (barely) argued that the need for Americans to travel to populate the vast country should be paramount.
The Chicago Rock Island & Pacific Railway was created when the Chicago and Rock Island Railroad acquired the Mississippi and Missouri Railway Company in 1866.
This map was included in volume #1, issue #1 of the May 1881 edition of “The Western Trail.” The three pages of newspaper text provide promotional information on the states traversed by the railroad.