(Excerpts of articles by Ava Betz, and C. V. Mills,
of Lamar (CO) Daily News used in the Centennial Edition of May 19-23,
James Marshal in "Santa Fe, the
Railroad that Built an Empire", published by Random House in
Milepost information from Larry R.
Green - email@example.com
The AT&SF Railway Coompany was incorporated in Topeka,
Kansas February 11, 1859 by Colonel Cyrus K. Holliday as president,
but it was ten years before a steam engine had trackage to leave
Topeka. This first trip was the Wakarusa Creek Picnic Special taking
picnickers on a 30 minute trip seven miles from Topeka, at a speed
of 14 miles per hour, according to James Marshal in "Santa
Fe, the Railroad that Built an Empire".
By 1870 the line was under construction for the 130
miles to Newton. With the modern track laying and maintenance machinery
of today, it seems impossible to build a railroad without it. However,
in those days the work was mostly by brawn. There was little machinery.
Picks, shovels, and plows to cut through the hills; horse drawn
scrapers made the fills. To make a curve, rail was cut into short
lengths, new holes drilled by hand, and bolted together. No rail
bending machines here. Rails and ties were carried by hand, and
secured by muscles using spike mauls, and wrenches for bolts and
nuts. Men with pry bars aligned the track to the proper gauge.
The Santa Fe Trail and the Arkansas River was their
guide when they left Newton on May 1, 1872 heading for Colorado,
estimated to be 340 miles away. The supervising engineer was Albert
Alonzo Robinson and the construction foreman was J. D. (Pete) Criley.
There was a requirement in the Kansas land grant (2,000,000 acres
spread over 300 miles) the Colorado state line had to be achieved
by March 1, 1873, or the grant would be voided.
In the beginning they laid a mile a day, except on Mondays,
when a half mile was the norm allowing for hangovers from Sunday
"rest days". The day after payday was even worse, averaging
about 500 yards of new track.
However, knowing that deep winter and frozen ground
made construction impossible, it became imperative to reach the
Colorado state line no later than late December, the historical
time when severe blizzards usually started.
As the crew settled into a rhythm, they picked up speed
and were laying three miles of track a day. They were in Hutchinson
by June 14; Great Bend July 15; August 8, west of Larned; September
19, in Dodge City, and had extended the line over 300 miles in 230
Quite a feat, even under perfect conditions, but weather
and other delays slowed the work somewhat. On July 23, a prairie
gale blew three cars off the track at Raymond. On July 30 the westbound
work train was held up at Ellinwood by desperadoes. The wildness
of Dodge City was a problem, a story unto itself.
By Thanksgiving Day, the grader crew had arrived at
the site the railroad's surveyor said was the Kansas-Colorado state
line, and a tent community was set up known as State Line City.
The actual trackage arrived on December 22. At dusk that day, a
surveyor drove a wooden stake into the ground, with a sign reading
"Kansas" on the east end, and "Colorado" on
the west end.
"Home for Christmas, boys," yelled Pete, "work
train leaves in the morning." The men gathered the remaining
rail and ties in a pile, and retired to their tents to pack and
celebrate. The work train, crammed with most of the men left the
next morning, but Pete was in his tent blissfully catching up on
Hours later he was awakened by Robinson who had a government
surveyor in tow advising they were four miles short of the actual
state line. With the main crew gone, and very little rail and ties
on hand, as well as manpower, they were in a quandary. With the
government man leading the way, the skeleton crew graded ahead to
the point designated by the surveyor.
An important man with the crew was the telegrapher to
keep in contact with headquarters. He called for a work train to
be sent out to State Line City, to pick up Criley and Robinson,
and what ever men were still there, and to bring whatever manpower
they could find. The job was to return east to tear out four miles
of sidings to get the necessary rail and ties, for the final trackage.
By dusk of December 28, 1872 the actual Colorado line was reached,
and Pete drove the last spike.
They were 5 yards into Colorado at this point, and all
available rail and ties were now in place, and a blizzard was in
the making. The work train engine crossed into Colorado, and to
celebrate, drinks were hoisted, and buffalo steaks were fried on
the fireman's coal scoop, in the manner that engine men heated meals
in those days. State Line City (later Sargent, still later Trail
City in 1885) was also moved to the new end-of-rail at MP 471.9,
and the land grant was secure.
In April 1873 the line was built across the Arkansas
River reaching Old Granada MP 481.5 on July 5 1873. A nationwide
financial panic stopped the progress, and the expected surge of
settlers did not become reality, so for two years Old Granada became
the western terminus of the line, complete with a three stall roundhouse
and turn table, as well as other structures, and stock yards for
cattle from area ranches, or trail herds from the New Goodnight
New Granada MP 485.3 was established in 1888, when Old
Granada was abandoned to avoid paying bonds that were taken out
to improve the city. Old Granada became the headquarters for the
famous XY ranch, and as a town, faded into obscurity.
Rail revenue came from shipping of cattle, buffalo hides,
and bones. From Dodge City, in the winter of 1872-73 Charlie Rath
and Bob Wright shipped 200,000 buffalo hides worth $1 to $3 apiece,
and 200 cases of frozen tongues and hindquarters, to New York and
Chicago restaurants. There was a constant stockpile on hand of 40,000
hides worth around $100,000. It took 100 bleached buffalo skeletons
to make a ton of bones, and the collectors received $8.00 for each
ton. Other revenue came from the travels of a few trappers, gold
prospectors, and land seekers, but it was fleeting at best, so in
September 1875 they started moving west, reaching Pueblo in 1876.
The Santa Fe published brochures by the thousands which
painted grandiose verbal pictures of the Golden West available along
the Arkansas Valley route, from Missouri to Colorado and New Mexico,
of which settlers would find irresistible. Land sold between $1.50
to $8.00 per acre, and credit was available for eleven years at
7 per cent interest, or 20 per cent off if paid in cash. The availability
of land takes us into my next story:
"THE PURLOINED DEPOT OF BLACKWELL"