The History of Kansas Railroads




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1803

The Louisiana Territory was purchased from France, by the United States, this  started the new era settlement for the Kansa Indian tribe.

1825

Treaties between the federal government and the Kansa and Osage tribes.

The last chief of the Kansa Indians, the man on the right was identified as Wah-shung-gah.
1830

The South Carolina Canal and Railroad Company operated the first American-built  train.  This is the era of the transcontinental railroads in American.  Over time  railroads would be built westward.

Laying the rails on UP Railroad at two miles a day.

1850

President Millard Fillmore signed the first railroad land-grant act.  From this  date on, railroad transportation has been the most important factor in the  development of the western part of the United States.

 

1854

A purpose of the Kansas-Nebraska Act was to open the country to the  transcontinental railways to connect the east with the west.  The pioneers would  state what does Kansas have to offer but flat land, no trees and snakes.

 

1859

The Capitol of Kansas is Topeka and The Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railway  was founded by Cryus K. Holliday.  The state of Kansas was named after the Kansa  Indian tribe.

Photo of Cryus K. Holliday

The state's first railroad was a five-mile line built from Elwood to Wathena.   How did the people get from place to place over land?  People came by wagon  train, they walked, rode horses, or rode the stagecoach.  This new era of the  steam-railway was the threshold of transportation and the greatest era of  expansion for the pioneers.

Wagon train of pioneers going to the unknown west at Great Bend, Kansas.
1860

The first locomotive run on the tracks laid on Kansas soil at Elwood.  This  locomotive and car was ferried up the Missouri River and placed on the track the new age had come to Kansas.  This was the future for travel and for tourist.

 

1861

Kansas became a state and is located in the mid-central part of the United  States. Kansas is 411 miles from East to West and 208 miles from North to  South, and Topeka is the Capitol of the state.  Kansas is a large amount of land  with a diminutive amount of population.  Geographical center of the 48  contiguous states is Smith County, Kansas.

 

1862

The land for the Homestead Act came from the railroads.   Covered wagon used by the pioneers.   Locomotive  The railroads were granted enormous acreage of federal land plus significant  land endowments from the state.  The railroad also purchased huge acreage 'for a  song' from the Indians.

 

First train tracks being surveyed across Kansas from east to west was the  Kansas Pacific Railroad. Construction begins with a firm from Canada (Ross and  Steele) in 1863.  In 1864, the train is opened for traveling from Kansas City to  Lawrence.

 

1863

The locomotive engineers formed the first brotherhood union because they could  not get insurance.  The railroaders were the true settlers of the West.

 

1864

The unknown or unexpected battles of the prairies.  This is the year that Native  Americans begin attacks on the frontier settlers, and the "iron  horse".  This horse (train) takes in water but eats wood they acknowledged.   Only one set of railroad tracks were laid at a time during this westward  expansion.

 

1865

It was established that the railroads needed to be guarded because of the U.S.  mail and to save lives.  The building of the railroad over the Kansas flat  plains should have been steady work, but the workers had many hard times with nature   like the heat, being dry, winds-dust storms, floods, the cold and snow.

 

1867
  to
1872

Over three million head of Texas longhorn cattle were driven to the Kansas  Pacific Railroad for shipment at the center of Abilene.  By the time the cowboys  had their herds safely inside the loading corrals, they were ready to  celebrate.  The Wild West town of Abilene had saloons for gambling and drinking  with dance halls.

 

1867

Rifles were issued to the workers as part of the equipment, to protect  themselves against attacks and buffalo stampedes.

 

1869

The first train tracks built across Kansas from the north to south was the  Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe.  A rail from East to the West was on the ground the link from ocean to ocean on May 10th, 1869 at Promontory,  Utah.

 

The problem of obtaining food for the laborers was solved by contracting hunters  to keep a supply of fresh buffalo meat on hand.

 

Photo of William F. Cody ("Buffalo Bill")The most prominent to perform this important service was William F.  Cody, as a result of his work he received the famous title of "Buffalo  Bill".  The importance of the railroad being realized as the horde of land  settlers going West.

 

1870

The Kansas Pacific Railway reaches the Kansas-Colorado border with its tracks.

 

The Missouri, Kansas & Texas Railway was the first railroad to construct to  the Kansas - Oklahoma border line.

 

  
1872

A branch of the Santa Fe Railroad arrived at Wichita and the town  "busted-wide-open."  A sign was erected at the outskirts of the town  proclaiming: "Everything goes in Wichita."  Many parade celebrations  with fireworks commenced when the railroad track reached a town.  Every village  was enthusiast about the railroad, because if a town got a railroad it would  become a distributing center.  The site for greatness was to obtain more than  one railroad to radiate from the town.

When the Santa Fe Railroad was finished to the Colorado border people started  using the railroad to transport goods and materials from one settlement to  another settlement location.  The Santa Fe Trail was no longer the main  transportation route.

 

  
1874

Four railroads shipped over 122,900 head of Texas cattle in eight months to  Kansas.

 

Train crossing the Walnut River at Winfield, Kansas in Cowley County.
1878

The first abandonment of track was Saint Joseph & Topeka Railway of the  thirteen and a half miles between Wathena and Doniphan.

 

1878
  to
1879

With the purchased land from the Kansas Pacific Railroad, several hundred River  Brethren from Pennsylvania came to the cowtown of Abilene in Dickinson County.   They brought with them carloads of household items and farming equipment, and  more than half a million dollars in cash.  At once they began to organize homes  and fields for farming on the plains.  Everyone wanted to move West to the good  country.  An estimated 55,000 immigrants came to Kansas from England, Germany,  Russia, and Sweden.

 

1880

The Kansas Pacific consolidated with the Union Pacific.  The steel highway was  history now with the following words describing the railroad.  "It  was a hastily constructed highway which cost three times as much as it  was worth and yet was worth many times more than three times as much as  it cost."  The Kansas Pacific Railroad played a key role in the economy for Kansas and the  United States.

 

Topeka, Kansas Railroad Depot
1880's

The bulk of rail was laid and the population of Kansas had increased to almost  one million compared to the 100,000 twenty years before.  Most of the people  lived in the eastern side of the state.  The movement of the settlers into the  west was due to the expansion of the railroad.  Locomotives are now being built  in Atchison, Topeka, and other cities in Kansas.

 

1881

Many of the trail herds headed for Dodge City, a shipping point on the Santa Fe  Railroad line.

 

1883

The railroads adopted Standard 

 

1883

The railroad act to set up a regulatory commission on general rate schedules.

 

1883

Almost 500 car loads of coal being shipped each month out of Litchfield, just  northeast of Pittsburg in Crawford County.

 

1885

The last Texas cattle drive to Dodge City in Ford County.

 

1886

A person could obtain a charter to build any a railroad any place by asking for  a charter and paying one dollar.  Over forty railroad companies were chartered  during the territorial period in hopes of becoming a branch of the  transcontinental route in Kansas.

 

1887

First federal act is the Interstate Commerce Act to regulate rates for  passengers.

 

Anderson Clinton Blanton and his section crew in Ottawa, Kansas yard.

1900

Over seventy Hispanics came to Kansas as laborers for various Railroad companies.

 

1911

The heavy snow over the state tied up the Railroad transportation.

 

1914

With Kansas City having twelve-railway lines entering into the city, they built  one of the largest railroad stations in the country.  The main building covers  15 acres.  A system of tracks, built below the street level to Union Station,  cost $50 million.  Kansas City became a chief railroad junction for the Central  Mid-states.

 

1917

The State of Kansas had its most miles of track totaling 9,367 miles with 26  different railroads and in each county.

 

1926

The Railway Labor Act passed by Congress to help avoid major strikes that might  endanger the economy or create a national emergency.

 

1930

The last ethnic group of 19,402 Hispanics to enter Kansas as laborers for  various Railroad companies.

 

1931

A record Kansas wheat crop of 240 million bushels, with most of it being shipped  out by rail.

A Kansas slopped wheat field, with a barn, house, and windmill in the background.
This is a dated nail 1940 in a railroad tie.  Photo taken by Rail Affairs (KDOT).
General Eisenhower's return home to Abilene, Kansas on June 21, 1945

1951
The Railway Ice Company flooded in Topeka, Kansas.

The flood of 1951 stopped railroad transportation. Do they rebuild or not?

 

Topeka, Kansas in 1951 flood.
1961

The world's largest and longest wheat elevator is located at Hutchinson in Reno  County at the primary hard wheat market in our nation.  Kansas is known as the  grain state, and we ship the majority of it out by rail.

 

1969

Sixteen railroad lines operate more than 8,000 miles of track in Kansas.  More  than a third of the track belongs to the Atchison, Topeka, and the Santa Fe  Railroad.

 

1986

Kansas produced 421,540,000 bushels of wheat with the largest part of it being  shipped out by rail.

 

1993

Floods statewide and through many parts of the upper midwest during June and  July damaged railroads and bridges.

 

Photo by KDOT (Rail Affairs) in Washington County 1993.  The shoulder is washed out and the track was moved by running rain water.
Photo taken by KDOT (Rail Affairs), the flood of 1993 in Saline County, Kansas.  Ties and rail are hanging because all the ballast and dirt is washed away.
1995

Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway and the Burlington Northern and Santa Fe  Railway merged.  Effective in 1997, it is now called BNSF.

 

1999

Kansas railroads serves all but two counties with at least one railroad line in  each county.

2000

The merger between the railroads, Burlington Northern Santa Fe Corp. (BNSF) and Canadian National Railway Company (CN) will not occur this year.

In the past decade many changes have occurred in railroading.  Lines have  been abandoned, corporate mergers and sales have taken place, and familiar  railroad names have disappeared.

 

2001

On June 29th, the Class III Railroad company Central Kansas Railway  (CKR) was sold to the Kansas & Oklahoma Railroad (K & O).  The K  & O started opperations of the railroad line at 12:01 A.M. on June 30th.

Burlington Northern Santa Fe train.