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The Union Railway Company


On this date in 1907, the Courier Democrat of Langdon reported that promoters of a new railroad met with potential investors in Minneapolis. The delegation proposed a line through the northeastern portion of Cavalier County, connecting with either the Great Northern or the Soo Line. Representatives of the Union Railway Company of North Dakota visited the offices of both of the established railroads to advertise the benefits of their plan.

Known as the “Farmer’s Railroad,” the Union Railway was intended to relieve Cavalier County farmers from having to haul their grain fifteen to twenty miles to Langdon. Olga, Mount Carmel, and Stillwell would be located on the line. There were obvious benefits, but the plan depended on connecting with another railroad. That would not be easy to arrange.

Officials of the Soo Line and the Great Northern scoffed at the idea. Soo officials pointed out that North Dakota was already a network of railroads, calling the Union Railway “a useless expense.” They said railroad branches already ran within twenty miles of each other, and didn’t consider the hauling distances a burden. G.C. Conn, the general freight agent for the Soo Line, pointed out that a new railroad would cut into the profits of the older railroads, while barely meeting its own expenses.

Disappointed with the lack of enthusiasm, backers of the new railroad went to Winnipeg and met with officials of the Canadian Pacific. Those officials were more receptive, but a variety of obstacles – including the objections of established railroads – prevented the Union Railway Company from being developed.

Even in recent years, the relationship between farmers and the railroads can become difficult. In 2014, the New York Times reported that farmers were having difficulty shipping their grain because oil trains had taken priority over agriculture. In August of that year, BNSF and the Canadian Pacific each reported a backlog of over 1,000 cars of grain and other products. The situation was so dire that farmers predicted crops would rot in the field.

Dakota Datebook written by Carole Butcher


New York Times. “Grain Piles Up, Waiting for a Ride, as Trains Move North Dakota Oil.” 22 August, 2014.

Courier Democrat. “Railroad Talks in St. Paul.” “Bucking the New Railroad.” 2 May, 1907.