The Chicago, Nebraska, & Kansas Railway (CK&N) was established in 1885 with Marcus Low, a former attorney for the Chicago and Rock Island Railroad, as its president. The Chicago, Rock Island, and Pacific Railroad advanced the new railroad about $25 million to begin construction in exchange for nearly all of the stock in the new company, essentially making the Chicago, Rock Island, and Pacific Railroad the owner from the outset.
The Chicago, Kansas, and Nebraska Railroad laid almost 1,400 miles of track by 1888, mostly in Kansas and Missouri. However, by 1889, the railroad struggled and failed to make its interest payment. The Chicago, Rock Island, and Pacific Railroad soon began foreclosure proceedings, eventually taking over by June 17, 1891.