The primary intent of this railroad line, built by Missouri railroad tycoon Louis Houck, was to connect Cape Girardeau with towns to the north which he believed would benefit economically from a railroad connection. Poorly constructed, the original Cape Girardeau & Chester Railroad floundered, so too did the subsequent railroad with the name of the Cape Girardeau Northern Railroad.
Built in 1905, the line ran from Cape Girardeau, on the Missouri/Illinois border, to Jackson, and a connection with the Missouri Pacific. Initially, the line did well; however, financial struggles overcame any profits gained by the line, and the railroad came close to bankruptcy.
Talks with the Saint Louis & San Francisco Railway (the "Frisco") to acquire the line fell short (due to the Frisco's own financial woes) in 1913, and the CGN soldiered on without help.
As money dwindled, service along the line was truncated to only the tracks in and around Cape Girardeau. By 1925, the line was saved by the Missouri Pacific Railroad, who only saw value in the line as a short industrial spur in Cape Girardeau proper, cutting service beyond. Within the city, street running along the ill-maintained line proved troublesome to both the railroad and motorists alike. Finally, the MP pulled the plug on the line in 1986 and removed the tracks shortly thereafter.
Little exists of the CGN today, and it is difficult to locate on maps. A lone viaduct stands in the Cape, half buried in the ground, motorists passing over without further thought of the railroad that once passed under.