The Northern Pacific in North Dakota History

From  the Journal of the Northern Plains
Published by the State Historical Society of North Dakota

Compiled by Mike Borkan


Dedication of Northern Pacific Steam Locomotive No. 2164 by Russell Reid, Vol 22, No 4, October 1955, pp 139-146.

Commentary by the editor, along with remarks by Robert S. Macfarlane at the dedication of NP steam locomotive# 2164 to the North Dakota State Historical Society on October 22, 1955.


The Railway Construction Episode of 1881-1882 by H.C. Groth, Vol 28, No 4, October 1961, pp 155-161.

Discussion of the Casselton Branch Railroad Company and the desire for its control by both the NP and the GN.


The Economic Aspects of the Northern Pacific Railroad by Hiram M. Drache, Vol 34, No 4, Fall 1967, pp 321-372.

Very extensive article on the economic history of the NP in North Dakota.  There is complete research up till 1885 and selected topics after that date.  Topics include population growth, land sales, building booms, real estate sales, immigration, complaints against the railroad, and freight business.


The Railroads and Rural Development in the Dakotas by Ronald Ridgley, Vol 36, No 2, Spring 1969, pp 163-4, Part I pp 165-170, Part II pp 171-187.

General article on early efforts by railroad companies to encourage development of agricultural technology and improvement of road transportation during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.  There is much GN material and the article specifically mentions the 1912 NP demonstration train and exhibits.


Territorial Towns and the Railroads by Kenneth Hammer, Vol 36, No 4, Fall 1969, pp 357-369.

Discussion of the relationship of the railroads and the towns of Dakota Territory.  This is a general article regarding railroads in Dakota Territory and is not NP-specific.


Northern Pacific Officials and the Disposition of the Railroad’s Land Grant in North Dakota After 1888 by Ross R. Cotroneo, Vol 37, No 2, Spring 1970, pp 77-103.

Article covers aspects of the NP’s land disposition in North Dakota during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.  Discussion of land offices, agents, and the effectiveness of dry-land farming experiments.


Reserving the Subsurface: The Mineral Lands Policy of the Northern Pacific Railway, 1900-1904 by Ross R. Cotroneo, Vol 40, No 3, Summer 1973, pp16-25.

Discussion of the NP’s policy of reserving mineral rights on land assets from the 1864 land grant and some of the related problems.  Material on both North Dakota and Montana is included.


North Dakota Railroad Depots: Standardization on the Soo Line by Frank E. Vyzralek, H. Roger Grant and Charles Bohl, Vol 42, No 1, Winter 1975, pp 4-26.

Discussion of the evolution of the Soo Line depots in North Dakota from the 1880s to the second half of the 20th century.  There are 30 photos of Soo Line depots and only a couple passing references to the NP.


North Dakota Oral History Project, Vol 44, No 4, Fall 1977, pp 8-87.

This special issue presents excerpts from 27 recordings from the North Dakota Oral History project and has only a couple passing references to the NP.


The Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railway and James J. Hill in Dakota Territory, 1879-1885 by F. Stewart Mitchell, Vol 47, No 4, Fall 1980, pp 11-19.

Despite the focus of the Milwaukee Road and James J. Hill's conflict in eastern Dakota Territory in this article, there is good information about the Northern Pacific and its presence in the Red River Valley.


North Dakota’s Railway War of 1905 by John C. Hudson, Vol 48, No 1, Winter 1981, pp 4-19.

Discussion in this article focuses on the Soo Line's efforts to build a line from Thief River Falls, Minnesota, across the Red River Valley, and well into North Dakota, despite the thwarting efforts of the Great Northern.  There is mention of the NP's Jamestown and Northern Branch and the local farmers' request to Howard Elliott in 1905 to build an extension at Leeds, North Dakota.


A German Journalist Visits the Northern Plains: Paul Lindau’s Memoirs of the 1883 Last-Spike Excursion, translated and edited by Frederic Trautmann, Vol 52, No 1, Winter 1985, pp 2-12

Memoirs of Paul Lindau about the Villard Party traveling to Montana Territory for the last spike ceremony in 1883.  Paul Lindau was a German journalist and playwright.


Fort Desolation”: The Military Establishment, the Railroad, and Settlement on the Northern Plains by Paul Andrew Hutton, Vol 56, No 2, Spring 1989, pp 20-30.

The interactions and relationship of the U.S. military with the NP railroad during the 1870s are brought forth here.  Controversies within the military are also explored; focus is on prominent personnel including Colonel William B. Hazen, General Philip H. Sheridan, General William T. Sherman, and Lieutenant Colonel George A. Custer.


The Northern Pacific Railway Bridge at Bismarck by Edward C. Murphy, Vol 62, No 2, Spring 1995, pp 2-19.

This is a brief history of the NP bridge at Bismarck that covers most of its life.  There is discussion of the preparation of the Missouri River channel, construction details including a thorough description of the piers and caissons, bridge completion, land slide activity and remediation, conflicts with the Bismarck Water Company and its possible contributions to slope changes and leaking water, replacement of the spans in 1905 to accommodate heavier trains, and resloping the hillside on the east end of the bridge in 1952 to slow down the slide activity.