Monday, October 25, 2010

Kansas Railroad History

The plow and the rail were two important tools employed in developing the early economy of Kansas. The plow opened up the rich prairie soil to new possibilities for thousands of land-hungry settlers while the laying of rails across Kansas opened up these lands for the establishment of farms, ranches and towns.

Our state's history is in many ways the history of the railroad in settling and developing the Great Plains. Lacking major highways or deep rivers much of Kansas' commerce depended heavily on the presence of nearby railway transportation. This made railroad companies a powerful force in Kansas politics, economic development and daily life. Communities thrived or died depending on access to railway traffic.

The links below are a small sampling of resources available on the history of railroads in the Sunflower State.

Railroads in Kansas
(Articles on the history of railroads in Kansas from

History of Kansas Railroads
(A time line provided by the Kansas Department of Transportation. The Department also has a page on railroad terms as well as a listing of current railroads in Kansas)

Digitized Kansas Maps
(Provided by Special Collections at Wichita State University. This page is a search result display showing historic Kansas maps which include railroad routes)

Railroads of Kansas, compiled and edited by Kathy Weiser
(From the Legends of Kansas website)

List of Kansas Railroads
(Wikipedia article listing past and present railroads in Kansas)

Territorial Kansas website
(Digitized items pertaining to the early development of railroads in Kansas, 1854-1861)
Immigration and railroads
Railroad companies
Railroad conventions
Railroad land grants
Railroad legislation
Railroad promotion
Railroads design and construction
Railroads economic aspects
Railroads finance

Kansas Memory website
(Kansas primary sources from the Kansas State Historical Society. The categories below bring up huge numbers of hits but check out the menu on the left side for subcategories)
Business and Industry -- Railroad
Transportation - Railroads
Transportation -- Railroads -- Depots

A Few Online Articles on Kansas Railroad History

"The Birth of The Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad," by Joseph W. Snell and Don W. Wilson
Kansas Historical Quarterly
Summer, 1968 (Vol. 34, No. 2), pages 113 to 142.
Autumn, 1968 (Vol. 34, No. 3), pages 325 to 356

"The Building of the First Kansas Railroad South of the Kaw River," by Harold J. Henderson
Kansas Historical Quarterly
August 1947 (Vol. 15, No. 3), pages 225-239

"Thomas Ewing, Jr., and the Origins of the Kansas Pacific Railway Company," by David G. Taylor
Kansas Historical Quarterly
Summer 1976 (Vol. 42, No. 2), pages 155 to 179

"Trains," by Elfriede Fischer Rowe
Lawrence Journal-World, December 16, 1970
(One of a series of articles titled "Wonderful Old Lawrence," originally published in the Lawrence Journal-World)

Titles found in the Topeka Libraries ATLAS Catalog
(Subject search results)
Railroads -- Kansas
Railroads -- Kansas -- History
Street Railroads -- Kansas

Museums, Associations, Depots, Historic Sites

(This is a very short list of railroad-related locations in Kansas today)

Abilene & Smoky Valley Railroad
(Abilene, Kansas)

Ellis Railroad Museum
(Ellis, Kansas)

Great Overland Station
(Topeka, Kansas)

Great Plains Transportation Museum
(Wichita, Kansas)

Halstead Heritage Musem & Depot
(Halstead, Kansas)

Heart of the Heartlands, Inc.
(Scammon, Kansas)

Historic Downs Depot
(Downs, Kansas)

Midland Railway Historic Association
(Baldwin City, Kansas)

National Orphan Train Complex
(Former Union Pacific Railroad Depot in Concordia, Kansas)

Rock Island Depot
(Liberal, Kansas)
Take a YouTube Video Tour of the building
Depot Jubilee Article

Santa Fe Depot Foundation
(Kingman, Kansas)

Union Station, Kansas City Mo

Article by: Bill Sowers
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