Construction of the Midland Pacific Railroad, now a part of the Burlington system, was an attempt by Nebraska City to exploit the rich resources of the state's interior. During the late 1850s and the early 1860s, Nebraska City, eastern terminus of the great Platte Valley freighting business of Russell, Majors, and Waddell, had overshadowed Omaha. After the Union Pacific built west, Nebraska City saw her advantage slipping away.
In 1866 businessmen in Nebraska City organized the Midland Pacific Railway Company, later known as the Nebraska Railway Company. Citizens of that city raised $50,000, which was spent on grading the first ten miles in the spring of 1870. After that Otoe County voted a bond issue, and the state made a land grant. The normal route of the line would follow the old Platte Valley freighting line from Nebraska City to Fort Kearny, running not far from the new state capital at Lincoln. Accordingly the company asked Lancaster County to vote bonds to aid in construction to Lincoln. In response the county voted $50,000. It was found that this was not enough, and the company asked for an additional $150,000.
One mass meeting after another kept railroad fever at a white heat in Lincoln. In the midst of the campaign, when it appeared doubtful that Lincoln citizens would vote more bonds, Joel N. Converse, speaking for the Midland Pacific, stated that some of his associates favored running the line from the west boundary of Otoe County directly to the Republican Valley, where they would not meet such strong competition from the Burlington and Missouri.
The Nebraska State Journal aroused interest in subsidizing the railroad in article after article, urging readers to do their part to secure the railroad for Lincoln. The bond issue passed, and the Midland Pacific built into Lincoln on April 22, 1871. In the meantime the B & M had built from Plattsmouth via Ashland to Lincoln, arriving there on July 26, 1870. Three weeks earlier citizens had used the Fourth of July to celebrate the arrival of the first train. In early 1875 a branch line from the Midland Pacific called the Nebraska Trunk Line was completed to Brownville.