The Galena and Chicago Union Railroad (G&CU) was a railroad running west from Chicago to Freeport, Illinois, never reaching Galena, Illinois. A later route went to Clinton, Iowa. Incorporated in 1836, the G&CU became the first railroad built out from Chicago.
The first railroad constructed out of Chicago, the Galena and Chicago Union, was chartered January 16, 1836, to connect Chicago with the lead mines at Galena. "The Pioneer," the first locomotive on the road, arrived at Chicago on October 10, 1848, nearly thirteen years after the charter was granted. In 1850, the Galena and Chicago Union Railroad was completed as far as Elgin. The railroad and the Illinois and Michigan Canal were vital in the development of Chicago, and the population of the city tripled in the six years after the opening of the canal. Eventually other railroads were built and Chicago became the largest railroad center in the world.
In 1862 the G&CU leased in perpetuity the Cedar Rapids and Missouri Railroad which was to be the first railroad to reach Council Bluffs, Iowa and the First Transcontinental Railroad. The 1862 map by G. Woolworth Colton shown here lays out the various lines in operation at that time. The G&CU consolidated with the Chicago and North Western Railway in 1864, which merged with the Union Pacific Railroad over a century later in 1996.