Leaving Oz by Train

In March of 1860, iron rails arrived in Elwood, Kansas, just across the Missouri River from St. Joseph, and track-laying began on the first railroad in Kansas. The Elwood and Marysville Railroad was born with the idea of connecting Marysville, a spot on the Oregon Trail and a hitching post for the Pony Express, and Elwood, a distance of one hundred miles. By April, five miles of track were laid from Elwood to Wathena. Charles Gleed, The First Kansas Railroad, Transactions of the Kansas State Historical Society, Volume 6. It wasn’t until January 6, 1871, that the line was completed to Marysville and the first carload of freight arrived.

The locomotive was the Albany.

early locomotive engines in Kansas
Early locomotive, from Missouri State Archives, public domain

In Kansas, the railroads provided a means to transport cattle and grain to eastern markets. To encourage railroads to build the US government passed the Pacific Railroad Act of 1862, giving land grants to railroads in exchange for building tracks west. In Kansas, this amounted to 8.2 million acres.

Today we take railroads for granted in Kansas. They are a part of the landscape. They efficiently go about their work of transporting 40% off all goods shipped in the United States.

BNSF locomotive engine in Kansas
BNSF locomotive, Chase County, Kansas

And what is the future of railroads in Kansas. Consider, over the next few decades, getting about, heading out on a family vacation or even going to Kansas City to watch the Royals and Chiefs will become a lot easier. Automobiles will drive themselves onto platform cars. Huge locomotive will be replaced by a magnetic rail system powered by sunlight. And computer driven trains will silently speed along at 800 miles per hour.


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