CRYSTAL LAKE – As the Union Pacific Railroad celebrated its 150th anniversary this year, it also celebrated its historical connection to Crystal Lake.
Last week the railroad awarded the city membership in its Train Town USA Registry as part of the anniversary celebration. Union Pacific representatives presented the Crystal Lake City Council with a resolution detailing the long history that the city and the railroad have shared.
One hundred and fifty years ago, President Abraham Lincoln signed the Pacific Railway Act of July 1, 1862, which created the original Union Pacific. The railroad celebrated the benchmark anniversary with a variety of events and a website, www.up150.com.
“We are proud to recognize Crystal Lake as we commemorate our railroad’s sesquicentennial celebration and growing up together,” Adrian Guerrero, Union Pacific's public affairs director for Illinois, said in a press release. “Union Pacific has been part of the country’s fabric throughout the railroad's 150-year history. That bond between us and the nearly 7,300 communities we serve continues to strengthen.
“Our shared heritage with Crystal Lake is a source of pride as we remember our past while serving and connecting our nation for years to come,” Guerrero said.
As the Chicago, St. Paul & Fond du Lac Railroad built northwest from Chicago toward Janesville, Wis., it picked a route that passed Crystal Lake to the northeast. The town of Nunda was established along the line and became the county's commercial hub. The Fox River Valley Railroad, laying out track north from Elgin along the Fox River, also bypassed Crystal Lake.
In 1856 a branch line was built connecting Nunda and Crystal Lake so that ice, cut from the surface of city's namesake lake, could be shipped to Chicago, according to the press release.
Nunda and Crystal Lake merged in 1911, keeping the Crystal Lake name. The two railroad lines came under the ownership of the Chicago & North Western. Union Pacific merged with C&NW in 1995, according to the press release.
"Our community is what it is because of the rail line," said Crystal Lake Deputy City Manager George Koczwara.
Railroad officials also gave the city Union Pacific's Safety Spike Award. The award, established in 2010, recognizes the city and its police department for "going above and beyond" to help the railroad with safety measures and awareness campaigns at pedestrian and grade crossings, said Union Pacific spokesman Mark Davis.
"Only a handful of these have been given out across our railroad system," he said.