1848: A Pioneering Locomotive Arrives in Chicago

October 10, 1848

The first railroad locomotive to operate in Chicago arrived in the city via schooner. This steam locomotive, aptly named the Pioneer, had been built in 1837 for the Utica and Schenectady Railroad (U&S) in New York. Originally called Alert, this locomotive was used by the U&S for nine years before being sold to the Michigan Central Railroad. 

Michigan Central sold the locomotive to Chicago resident William B. Ogden (1805-1877) in 1848 for use by the Galena and Chicago Union Railroad (G&CU), the Windy City’s first railway. (Ogden, who was one of Chicago’s wealthiest citizens, had served as the first mayor of that city in 1837-38.) After the acquisition of this locomotive, G&CU officially renamed it the Pioneer.

Fifteen days after its waterborne arrival in Chicago, the Pioneer pulled the first train westbound out of the city. In doing so, the Pioneer helped set the stage for Chicago’s still-strong status as a major railroad center and vital transportation hub within the United States. This locomotive can be seen today on display at the Chicago History Museum.

Photo Credit: Public Domain

For more information on the steam locomotive Pioneer, please check out https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pioneer_(locomotive)

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