History, Tales, and Destinations in the Land of Ahs


Railroads of Kansas

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Missouri-Kansas-Texas train under several feet of water,1904

Missouri, Kansas & Texas Railway train under several feet of water, 1904.

This image available for photographic prints and downloads HERE.


Railroads of Kansas:


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At the time Kansas was organized as a territory in 1854 the means of transportation west of the Mississippi River were extremely limited. Immigrants came by water from St. Louis to what is now Kansas City, Missouri, from which point the trip westward toward the interior of the state had to be made with wagons, over a country where even wagon roads had not yet been established. Under these conditions the question of better transportation facilities was one which early engaged the attention of the Kansas pioneers. In 1834, twenty years before the passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Bill, Dr. Samuel K. Barlow of Massachusetts advocated the building of a railroad through the western country which he had just visited.


Three years later Dr. Hartwell Carver, in a communication to the New York Courier and Inquirer, suggested a railroad from the Mississippi River to the Pacific Coast, if possible, and at any rate, to the head of navigation on the Columbia River.


But, the public was not yet ready to accept the scheme as feasible and laughed at the idea of a railroad across the continent. In fact, many people looked upon steam railroads as impracticable and an innovation unworthy of adoption by any civilized community. In 1828, only nine years before Carver wrote the article mentioned, the school board of Lancaster, Ohio, replied as follows to some young men who asked for the use of the school house in which they desired to debate the railroad problem:

"You are welcome to the use of the school house to debate all proper questions, but such things as railroads and telegraphs are impossibilities and rank infidelity. There is nothing in the Word of God about them. If God had designed that His intelligent creatures should travel at the frightful speed of 15 miles an hour, by steam, He would clearly have foretold it through His holy prophets. It is a device of Satan to lead immortal souls down to hell."


Notwithstanding the attitude of opposition, Dr. Carver went to Washington to try to interest Congress in the subject of a trans-continental railway. There, he met Asa Whitney, a New York merchant who had a large trade with China, and who was desirous of finding a shorter route to the Orient. But Congress was not yet ready to act on a proposition of such magnitude. Again in 1845, Whitney presented a memorial to Congress asking for a donation of a tract of land 60 miles wide from the west shore of Lake Michigan to the Pacific Ocean, through the corner of which he and his associates would build a railroad and remunerate themselves through the sale of the lands on either side. Whitney was regarded as a speculator, but he continued his efforts to awaken the people to the importance of his project, and even influenced the legislatures of twenty states to endorse his plans. From 1853 to 1861 exploring surveys were made under the direction of General G. M. Dodge, who said in his report:




"The first private survey and exploration of the Pacific Railroad was caused by the failure of the Mississippi & Missouri (later the the Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific) to complete its project. The men who put their money into that enterprise conceived the idea of working up a scheme west of Iowa that would be an inducement to capital to invest in carrying. their project across Iowa to the Missouri River. They also wished to determine at what point on the Missouri River the Pacific railroad would start, so as to terminate their road at that point. The explorers adopted Council Bluffs, Iowa, as that point."


On July 1, 1862, President Abraham Lincoln signed the bill authorizing the construction of a Pacific Railroad. One feature of the bill was that it empowered the president to designate the eastern terminus of the road, and after consultation with General Dodge, Lincoln named Council Bluffs. While this bill did not directly affect Kansas, it marked the beginning of a great railroad system that in 1912, operated over 1,000 miles within the state.


Union Pacific EngineThe Union Pacific Company  was organized at Chicago on September 2, 1862, and by an act of March 3, 1863, the government granted to the company alternate sections of land for 10 miles on each side of the road -- about 3,000,000 acres in all -- and authorized an issue of bonds payable in 30 years to the amount of $16,000 per mile to aid in the construction of the road.

As late as 1857, there was but one line of railroad west of the Mississippi River, extending from St. Louis to Jefferson City, Missouri, a distance of 125 miles. In the meantime, however, the territorial authorities of Kansas had not been idle in their efforts to secure the building of railroad lines in the territory. The first legislature of 1855 granted charters to five railroad companies: The Kansas Central; the Southern Kansas; the Leavenworth, Pawnee & Western; the Leavenworth & Lecompton; and the Kansas Valley Railroad. Among the incorporators of the Kansas Central were John Calhoun, Samuel D. Lecompte , A. S. White and John Duff. The capital stock of the company was fixed at $1,000,000, and it was authorized to build a road "from any point on the Missouri River to any point on the western boundary." The capital stock of the Southern Kansas was fixed at $3,000,000, and the company was given a franchise to build a road "from the Missouri state line due west of Springfield to the west line of Kansas Territory." A. J. Dorn, William J. Godfroy, James M. Linn, Joseph C. Anderson and others were named as the incorporators, and the act stipulated that work was to begin on the road within nine years. Some of the leading projectors of the Leavenworth, Pawnee & Western were W. H. Russell, J. M. Alexander, Samuel D. Lecompte, E. H. Dennis and C. H. Grover. The authorized capital stock of the company was $5,000,000, and the road was to run "from the west bank of the Missouri River in Leavenworth to the town of Pawnee, or to some point feasible and next to the government reservation for Fort Riley , with the privilege of extending the same to the western boundary of the territory." H. D. McMeekin, John A. Halderman, R. R. Russell, Daniel Woodson, Samuel D. Lecompte and C. H. Grover were among the incorporators of the Leavenworth & Lecompton road, which was to run between the points named. The capital stock was $3,000;000 and the company was authorized to take stock in the Lecompton Bridge Company in order to assure an entrance to the territorial capital. Work was to begin on the road within five years. The first board of directors of the Kansas Valley Company were Thomas Johnson, H. J. Strickler, A. J. Isaacs, Rush Elmore, John P. Wood, Johnston Lykins, Andrew McDonald, Thomas N. Stinson and Cyprian Chouteau. The capital stock was fixed at $5,000,000 and the charter provided for the construction of a line of railroad "from the western boundary line of the State of Missouri , on the south side of the Kansas River, commencing at the western terminus of the Pacific Railroad, near the mouth of the Kansas River, running up the valley of said river on the south bank thereof, by way of Lawrence, Benicia, Douglass, Lecompton, Tecumseh, and terminating at or near the town of Pawnee."



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