The Railroads of Hall County, Nebraska
From the ©1920 "History of Hall County," by Buechler, Barr, and Stough


Importance of the Railroads

     That the history of the railroads of a county is not only an important part of any county's history can readily be established by a casual glance at the map of any state. Along the lines of the established railroad systems will be found innumerable towns, between the lines on the maps that mark railroads will be found fewer towns. A comparison of the size of those having railroad facilities and those without such advantage will drive the fact home even more quickly. Another observation at the map, picking out those points which indicate a junction between a main line and a branch line, or even between two branch lines will emphasize that much advantage to any town. Add to this a division point on a through main-line system. Give a town two railroads and even a greater position of prestige falls to its lot. Give it a third railroad and you have already a town with the opportunity of becoming one of the important centers of its state. All of thise advantages have fallen to the lot of the capital and seat of justice of Hall County. The first railroad to reach Grand Island and traverse the entire width of Hall County was the Union Pacific, which came about nine years after the original colony of 1857 selected Hall County as their home. Selecting Grand Island as its division point in central Nebraska, and later establishing to the north a branch or rather a series of branches radiation from Grand Island to Ord and Loup City and connection with branches built by the Burlington, this railroad has meant more to Hall County than it is possible to set forth in this chapter. The story of the building of htis pioneer railway of the West is not only an incident in the hisotry of Hall County but one of the most charming though turbulent chapters of American industrial history. It will be more than appropriate to connect htis story with Hall County by giving it in the language of a man whom Hall County has honored by bestowing his name upon the first important schoolhouse of her main town, the Dodge School of Grand Island.

How We Built the Union Pacific
by General Grenville M. Dodge

     Major-General Granville M. Dodge, chief engineer of the Union Pacific Railway from 1866 to 1870, the period of its most active construction, has narrated th story of "How we built the Union Pacific Railway" in such form that it consumes forty printed pages, so that the portion of it quoted hereafter will form but a small part of his narrative:

     In 1836 the first public meeting to consider the project of a Pacific railway was called by John Plumbe, a civil engineer of Dubuque, Iowa. Interest in a Pacific railway increased from this time. The explorations of Fremont in 1842 and 1846 brought the attention of Congress, and A, C., Whitney was zealous and efficient in the cause from 1840 to 1850. Thefirst practical measure was Senator Salmon P. Chase's bill, making an appropriation for the explorations of different routes for a Pacific railway in 1853. Numerous billd weere intorduced in Congress between 1852 and 1860, granting subsidies and lands, and some of them appropriating as large a sum as $96,000,000 for the construction of the road. One of these bills passed one of the houses of Congress. The results of the explorations ordered by Congress were printed in eleven large volumes, covering the countury between the parallels of latitude thirty-second on the south and forty-ninth on the north, and demonstrated the deasibility of building a Pacific railway, but at a cost on any one of the lines much larger than the Union Pacific and Central Pacific were built for. It is a singular fact that in all of these explorations the most feasible line in an engineering and commercial point of view, the line with the least obstacles to overcome, of lowest grades and least curvature, was never exploored and reported on. Private enterprises explored and developed that line along the forty-second parallel of latitude.
     This route was made by the buffalo, next by the Indians, then by the fur traders, next by the Mormans, and then by the overland immigration to California and Oregon. It was known as the Great Platte Valley Route. On this trail, or close to it, was built the Union and Central Pacific railroads to California, and the Oregon Short Line branch of the Union Pacific to Oregon.
     In 1852 Henry Farnum and Thomas C., Durant were building the Mississippi and Missouri Railroad, a line westward across the state of Iowa as an extension of the Chicago and Rock Island, then termination at Rock Island, Illinois. They desired to end that line at the Missouri River where the Pacific Railroad, following the continent forty-second parallel of latitude, would commence. Under the direction of Peter A. Dey, who had been a division engineer of the Rock Island and was chief engineer of the M. & M. in Iowa, I made the first survy across the state of Iowa, and the first reconnoissances and surveys on the Union Pacific for the purpose of determinign where the one would end and the other commence, on the Missouri River in the fall of 1853 and made our explorations west of the Platte Valley and up it far enough to determine that it would be the route of the Pacific road.
     General Dodge speaks of the Platte Valley "then the chief thoroughfare for all the Mormon, California, and Oregon overland immigration." Detailing an interesting incident of the last above referred trip, he states:
     My party crossed the Missouri in the fall of 1853 on flatboats. The Omaha Indians occupied the country where we landed, and after obtaining a line rising from the bluffs west of where the city of Omaha now stands, I gave directions to the party to continue the survey while I went on ahead to examine the country to the Platte Valley some 25 miles farther west. I reached the Platte Valley about noon the next day, and being tired, I lariated my horse and laid down with my saddle as a pillow and with my rifle under it, and went sound asleep. I was awakened by the neighing of the hors, and when I looked up I saw an Indian leading the horse toward the Elkhorn River, pulling with all his might and the horse holding back, evidently frightened.
     I was greatly girghtened myself, hardly knowing what to do, but I suppose from instinct I grabbed my rifle and started after the Indian, hollering at the top of my voice. The Indian saw me coming, let the horse go, and made his way across the Elkhorn river. This Indian afterwards was an enlisted man in the battalion of Pawnees that served under me in the Indian campaigns of 1865, and he told Major North, the commander of that battalion, that he let loose of the horse because I hollered so loud that it frightened him. On obtaining my horse, I saddled up and made my way back to the party that was camped on the Big Papillion on the emigrant road leading from Florence to the Elkhorn. The camp was full of Omaha Indians and they had every man in the camp cooking for them. I saw that we would soon lose all our provisions, and as the party was armed, I called them together and told them to get their arms. I only knew one Indian word, "Puckechee" which meant get out. That I told them, and while the Indians were surly they saw we were determined and they left us. I don't believe there was anyone in the party that had ever seen an Indian before or had any experience with them. We were all tender-feet. It taught me a lesson, never to allow an Indian in my camp or around it without permission, and this was my instructions to all our engineering parties. Those who obeyed it generally got through without losing their stock or lives. Those who were careless and disobeyed generally lost their stock and some of their men. As soon as we had determined the line from the Missouri River to the Platte we returned to Iowa City, which was the headquarters of the M. & M. Railway.

     General Dodge's relation of the events occuring in the next few years had an importance upon the future of Hall County that it is almost impossible to estimate, even as one looks back upon it from the viewpoint of fifty to fifty-five years later. For had he failed to locate the Union Pacific railroad where it evntually did run, much of the history of Hall County would have been essentially different and the bulk of Hall County's history probably would have been much less.
     The times were such that the work on the M. & M. Railway was suspended for some years. Meanwhile I located at Council Bluffs, continuing the explorations under the direction of Messrs. Farnum and Durant and obtaining from voyagers, immigrants, and others all the infomation I could in regard to the country farther west. There was keen competition at that time for the control of the vast immigration crossing the plains, and Kansas City, Fort Leavenworth (then the government post), St. Joseph and Council Bluffs were points of concentration on the Missouri. The trails from all points converged in the Platte Valley at or ner old Fort Kearny, following its waters to the South Pass. A portion of the Kansas City immigration followed the valley of the Arkansas west, and thence through New Mexico. The great bulk of the immigration was finally concentrated at Council Bluffs as the best crossing of the Missouri River. From my explorations and the information I had obtained with the aid of the Mormans and others, I mapped and made an itinerary of a line from Council Bluffs through to Utah, California and Oregon, giving the camping places for each night, and showing where wood, water and fords of the streams could be found. Distributed broadcast by the local interests of this route the map and itinerary had no small influence in turning the mass of overland immigration to Council Bluffs, where it crossed the Missouri and took the great Platte Valley route. This route was up that valley to its forks, and then up either the north or south fork to Salt Lake and California by way of the Humbolt, and to Oregon by the way of the Snake and Columbia rivers. This is today the route of the Union Pacific and Central Pacific to California and the Union Pacific to Oregon.
     After collecting all the information we could as to the best route for a railroad to the Pacific, I reported to Messrs. Farnum and Durant, who paid out of their private funds for all of my work.
     In 1854, when Nebraska was organized, we moved to its frontier, continuing the explorations under the patronage of Messrs. Farnum and Durant, and obtaining all valuable information, which was used to concentrate the influence of the different railways east and west of Chicago to the support of the forty-second parellel line.
     General Dodge narrates a visit to New York in 1857or 1858 when he was called to the office of the Rock Island Railroad to explain and present to the directors of the Mississippi and Missouri Railroad, the report he made. Before the secretary had it read through, he narrates that every one left the room except himself, Messrs. Durant and Farnum who still had faith that it was feasible and a stimulation of interest in the Pacific railroad along that line would enable them to raise funds and finish their line across the State of Iowa. General Dodge continues:
     In 1861 we discontinued the railroad work because of the civil war. The passage of the bill of 1862m which made the building of a transcontinental railroad possible, was due primarily to the persistent efforts of Hon. Samuel R. Curtis, a representative in Congress from Iowa, who reported the bill before entering the Union service in 1861. It was then taken up by Hon. James Harlan, of Iowa, who secceeded in obtaining its passage in March, 1862.
     In commenting upon how this road obtained its name, General Dodge narrates that various lines proposed had received the names of the "North Route," "Buffalo Trail," "South Route," but that in 1858 a bill was fostered that gave out the name "Union Pacific." One of the arguments advanced for the bill that eventually passed was that the route proposed would tend to hold the people of the Pacific coast in the Union. He adds:
     Lincoln advocated its passage and building, not only as a military necessity, but as a neans of holding the Pacific Coast to the Union. This bill became a law in 1862, and there is no doubt but what the sentiment that the building of the railroad would hold the Union together gave it the name of the Union Pacific.
     As to the organization of the road, and its commencement:
     In 1862 the Union Pacific Railway was organized at Chicago, and soon after Mr. Peter A. Dey continued the exploration, and in 1863 he placed parties over the Black Hills and in Salt Lake and over the Wasatch in Utah. In 1863 I was on duty at Corinthe when I was called to Washington by Mr. Lincoln, who had met me in 1859 at Council Bluffs and had questioned me very systematically as to the knowledge I had of the western country and the exploration I had made there. Remembering this he called me to Washington to consult with me as to where the eastern terminus of the Union Pacific Railway should be. I explained to him what my surveys had determined, and he fixed the initial point of the Union Pacific, (at Council Bluffs). At this interview with Mr. Lincoln he was very anxious to have the road constructed. It was my opinion then that it could not be constructed unless it was built by the Government, and so I informed Mr. Lincoln. He said that the United States had at that time all it could handle, but it was ready to make any concession and obtain any legislation that private parties who would undertake the work would require.
     I then went to New York City and met with Mr. Durant and others connected with the Union Pacific and informed them of what Mr. Lincoln had said. It gave them new hope and they immediately formulated the amendments to the law of 1862, which was passed in 1864 and enabled them to push the work.
     The ground was broken in Omaha in December of 1863, and in 1864 about $500,000 was spent in surveying and construction, and in 1865, 40 miles was completed to Fremont. Mr. Dey, who had charge of the work as chief engineer, resigned, and stated in his letter that he was giving up the best position in his profession this country had ever offered to any man.
     In May, 1866, I resigned from the army, came to Omaha and took charge of the work as chief engineer, and covered the line with engineering parties from Omaha to California, and pushed our location up the Platte Valley.
     In 1866 we built 260 miles.
     This takes the Union Pacific on beyond Hall County.
     The construction of the road continued until the meeting and joining of the two "ends of the track" at Promontory Point, Utah, on the 10th day of May, 1869. Governor Leland Stanford, of California, president of the Central Pacific, arrived with his party from the west. Vice-President Durant and Directors Duff and Dillon, of the Union Pacific, with other prominent men and a delegation of Morman saints from Salt Lake City came in on a train from the east.
     The ties were laid, about one hundred feet space left open for rails, and while the coolies from the west laid the rails from one end, the paddies from the east laid them at the other, until they met and joined. The "last spike" remained to be driven. Telegraphic wires were so connected that each blow of the descending sledge would flash the report to cities from the Atlantic to the Pacific. Spikes of gold, silver, and iron were presented by the officials of Arizona, Nevada, and California, and when the last spike of gold was driven with the sledges of silver by President Stanford and Vice-President Durant, the word "DONE" flashed over the wires. The Central Pacific train backed up, and the Union Pacific locomotive, with its train, passed slowly over the point of junction and back again. What this meant to Nebraska, to the nation, to Hall County, is told by Berte Harte:


What was it the Engines said,
Pilots touching - head to head
Facing on the single track,
Half the world behind each back?
This is what the Engines said,
Unreported and unread

With a prefatory speechy,
In a florid western speech,
Said the Engine from the West,
"I am from Sierra's crest,
And, if altitude's a test,
Why, I reckon, it's confessed
That I've done my level best."

Said the Engine from the East,
"They that work most talk the least,
S'pose you whistle down your brakes;
What you've done is no great shakes,
Pretty fair - but let our meeting
Be a different kind of greeting,
Let these folks with champagne stuffing,
Not their Engines, do the puffing.

"Listen! Where Atlantic beats
Shores of snow and summer heats,
Where the Indian autumn skies
Paint the woods with wampun dyes,
I have chased the flying sun,
Seeing all he looked upon,
Blessing all that he had blest,
Nursing in my iron breast
All his vivifying heat,
All his clouds above my crest;
And before my flying feet
Every shadow must retreat."

Said the Western Engine "Phew!"
And a long, low whistle, blew,
"Come now, really that's the oddest
Talk for one so very modest.
You talk of your East! You do?
Why, I bring the East to you!
All the Orient, all Cathay,
Find through me the shortest way;
And the sun you follow here
Rises in my hemisphere.
Really, - if one must be rude -
Length, my friend, ain't longitude."

Said the Union, "Don't reflect, or
I'll run over some Director."
Said the Central, "I'm Pacific,
But, when riled, I'm quite terrific.
Yet to-day we shall not quarrel,
Just to show these folks their moral,
How two Engines - in their vision -
Once have met without collision."
That is what the Engines said,
Unreported and unread;
Spoken slightly through the nose,
With a whistle at the close.

     By September, 1867, the great highway had become progressive enough to announce that "on and after next Sunday" all trains, passenger and freight, would run on Sundays the same as week days. On the 20th of May, 1868, it was announced through the Herald that passenger fares had been reduced from 10 cents to 71/2 cents a mile. By this change the fare to Cheyenne, which had been $51.50, became $38.50.
     Among the earliest local officials of the Union Pacific R. R. after its formal inauguration were: Webster Snyder, general superintendent, soon followed by Samuel B. Reed, and later by C. G. Hammond; H. M. Hoxie, assistant superintendent; J. H. Congdon, general manager; S. H. H. Clark, general freight agent; Thomas L. Kimball, general passenger and ticket agent; T. E. Sickles, chief engineer; and William Huff, master mechanic. The latter was succeeded by Robert McConnell, April 1, 1867.


     Since the first train came into Grand Island on July 8, 1866, and service was established on a regular basis, the number of emplyhees living and working here has steadily increased, until the "railroad" population of Grand Island, and the proportionate number of business people required to supply its needs, would make a good sized little town if entirely segregated from Grand Island's other elements of population.
     It has been thought that a review of those in charge of the various phases of the railroad's management of affairs at Grand Island and on this part of the Omaha division of the Nebraska district would bring to the mind of those who have lived here for many years many familiar names. The liberal sprinkling of some of these names through the various chapters in this work treating upon the churches, lodges, schools, city government, and e\commercial progress of the communtiy will indicate that many of these "Union Pacific" officials and emplyes have been broadminded, public spirited men, who when their duties to the railroad and their families were discharged, still acknowledged some duty to their community.


     The systemof dividing the responsibilities of the administration of affairs in the operating department of the railroad generally falls in two classes: The Burlington (C. B. & Q.) uses the "District and Division" system. By that is meant, at the head of the operating department of the railroad stands a vice-president in charge of operation and the general manager, whose control extends, of course, over more than the operating department. In each district, generally comprosing abut the amount of railroad that system has in a particular state, is the general superintendent. The territory in his district, over which a division superintendent exercises authority. The Union Pacific used the "Division and District" system, whereby the next authority under the general manager, who exercises authority over the entire system, stands the superintendent at the "division." He has under him at various points "trainmasters" who exercise control over a given divisional territory.
     The trainmaster, on most railroads, exercises authority over only the operation and government of train crews; upon the Union Pacific he exercises that duty, but is practically an assistant superintendent when the occasion demands. Each superintendent of the district has under him at each division point a master mechanic in charge of engine crews and shopes, a district foreman in direct charge of shops and mechanical departments.
     The headquarters of the superintendent of the Nebraska Division are at Omaha. Those men who have served in the capacity of superintendent of the Nebraska division, and thereby had control of railroad operations in and out of Grand Island, have been E. Dickinson, W. A. Duell, R. W. Baxter, J. M. Barr, R. Blickensderfer, P. J. Nichols, R. W. Baxter, Charles Ware, W. R. Cahill, W. M. Jeffers, G. O. Brophy, J. P. Carey.
     Mr. Ware afterwards served as general manager of the system; Mr. Jeffers is the present general manager, and under the railroad administration of the federal government is federal director for the Union Pacific system over the contraol and operation of the road. Mr. Brophy is now superintendent at Kansas City, Missouri. Mr. Carey, the present superintendent, visits Grand Island frequently, and through the kindness of his office, the roster of the various officials, employees and ex-employees, appearing inthis part of this chapter was mainly compiled and furnished.
     The trainmasters who have had charge at Grandc Island have been W. H. Ferris, C. C. Cornell, Austin Taylor, F. D. Schermerhorn, J. H. Stephens, G. F. Harless, N. A. Williams, J. V. Anderson, and C. A. Weir the present trainmaster.


     The Union Pacific built the largest and best shops, outside of the main shops at Omaha, which operates on its line. The shops and yards used here cover probably between fifty and a hundred acres.
     The main shop buildings, three in number, are magnificient structures of stone, built in 1880 and 1881 at a cost of something like $350,000. The construction of locomotives is carried on in the shops at Omaha, but every sort of repair and replacement work needed is done at the Grand Island shops. Many years ago the company built a round house here that could accommodate about forty-five engines. In recent years a much larger round house has been constructed. Besides the shops, numerous other buildings are required for for mechanical purposes; a big storehouse for storage and distribution of all supplies for offices, cars and engines; oil houses; car shops, housed in separate building from the engine repair shops. The whole mechanical department embraces a very substantial group of buildings at the east end of the city.
     The master mechanices in charge of the Nebraska division since the completion of Grand Island shops have been J. P. Hovey, J. H. Manning, M. K. Barnum, George Thompson, J. A. Turtle, G. H. Likert, W. T. Beery, Wm. Irvine.
     The district foremen in direct and local charge at Grand Island, have been: B. C. Howard, M. H. Wilkins, W. E. Whie, H. J. Osborne, F. L. Regan, R. M. Cole, F. W. Shultz, R. McCabe, P. J. Norton, the present district foreman.
     Blake C. Howard was very active in many affairs of the community. M. H. Wilkins and F. L. Regan have both retired from active railroad service and identified themselves with the business interests of the town.
     The car foremen in charge at Grand Island have been: J. Reneff, H. R. Makely, and D. E. Ryder.
     The blacksmith foremen have been: John H. Houck and Wm. Newlands.
     The boilermaker foremen have been: Gavin H. Geddes, now in business, connected with Geddes & Co.; John Davenport, J. W. Thomas, William Finder, and William Fleisher.


     People who have never been connected with railroad work perhaps do not stop to think of the responsibility resting upon those men who work, either at day or at night, hour after hour, handling the engine that pulls the train they are riding upon, in whose hands the lives of all the passengers upon the train depend in a great measure, or recognize the fact that the conductor who goes up and down the aisle of their car has more to do than to simply punch tickets. To those men who have performed these classes of service for the people of Grand Island, and for the passengers who come in or leave this town constantly, it has been felt ot be giving them their just dues to make mention of those who have served in such capacity for a period of twenty years. Space forbids attempting anything like a complete roster of the men who have served in these various capacities with the Union Pacific and resided at Grand Island, but lists are given herewith, first, conductors, who have had twenty years or more of service, and are still in the service in 1919: A. Bailey, William Leahy, B. A. Johnson, I. Mallory, E. E. Forsythe, M. J. Roche, W. R. Harding, E. A. Hamilton, J. H. Smith, W. R. Sleeper, H. J. Buzza, R. L. Massey, J. H. Breedlove, R. G. C. Jenkins, Fred Peterson, J. E. Murphy6, H. W. Jones, P. E. Fent, Wm. Burke, C. E. Shaffer, Thos. Cahill, P. E. Dunbar, W. F. Fox, A. Taylor, J. B. Forester, T. J. Horan, G. W. Goodrich, S. A. Clapper, G. D. Sage, Wm. Wagner, F. W. Mappes, Sr., Geo. Candish, R. G. McCaslin, J. F. Linnaberry, G. J. Hull, L. C. Hansen, J. B., Murray, G. J. Hall, J. W. Amick, M. C. Mitchell, W. E. Cissna, J. T. Amick, Grant Hadlock, W. H. Brooks, C. F. Hull, Robert Dolen, J. Loretz, E. Inman, E. D. Warren, J. A. Quinn, M. J. Shoemaker, G. J. Hall, B. F. Masters, I. C. VanHousen.
     Conductors who served on the road twenty years of more and have left the service on account of being pensioned, deceased, resigned, etc.: W. W. Keen, R. T. Powers, H. Hopkins, W. H. Madden, T. H. Campbell, J. B. Kirsch, C. B. Spiece, H. E. Musselman, John Ford, T. A. Taylor, F. L. Pblasterer, H. H. Blackburn, J. E. Costello, N. F. Akeyson, W. S. Wilcox, C. J. Tetzler, M. C. Wallace, G. O. Brophy, J. W. Buswell, H. P. Graham, A. J. Smith, R. P. Lumpkins, G. C. Miller, Thos. Ryan, J. P. Kiger, Wm. R. Robertson, F. F. Foster, John Ratcliff.
      It has already been indicated that Mr. Brophy is now superintendent of the Kansas division at Kansas City, and I. W. Buswell is still in service, as gateman, at Union Station, Omaha.
     Engineers now in service and who have had twenty years or more of service: Geo. Loshbaugh, Thos. Newman, H. A. Riley, Wm. H. Bay, Al Branson, Elmer E. Fair, J. D. Taylor, A. A. Campbell, John Glynn, J. A. Campbell, Geo. McQuade, Ira N. Wright, W. P. Shepard, E. P. Rogers, E. S. Pardo, J. H. Lannin, Frank Smith, E. P. Baker, M. L. Kiley, J. W. Coolidge, Cris S. Durr, C. M. Andrews, Wencil Franta, G. H. Miller, John Farley, C. B. Hdgson, Frank Truman, J. I. Smith, J. H. Fonda, A. O'Bryan, Claude V. Callier, Joseph Sorenson, John Minogue, Adam Johnson, J. Morris, F. O. Falk, George Rollins, A. R. Meiklejohn, J. M. Bryant, F. G. Hollenbeck, Chas. M. Highsmith, Johannes Nilsson, Chas. W. Milesen, Frank Prawl, Thos. Griffin, James May, Barclay Jones, Chas. G. Forster, A. P. Wideman, M. H. Gentleman, Michael J. Norris, James Kelley, Corwin F. Jones, W. S. Beach, J. E. Thomas, S. P. Cassell, Geo. A. Austin, M. H. Douglas, W. S. Dolson, C. W. Haskins, W. W. White, T. Burney, S. Schweiger, Frank Bentzer, R. M. Dean, F. H. Barnell, Geo. E. Stearns, H. Clay Hulper, Claude R. Fitch, P. A. Norton, M. Hayes, J. F. Roddy, J. D. Cox, T. G. Thompson, H. N. Getty, L. J. Dean.
     Engineers who served the road twenty years or more, and left the service account being pensioned, deceased, resigned, etc.: Wm. Hollenbeck, Wm. Clawson, J. P. O'Brien, L. W. Rollins, W. E. Johnson, Con Kirk, E. R. Mathis, Jas. McQuade, Matt Parr, Z. T. Sprigg, M. H. Burnham, John P. Dolan, C. J. Fulmer, N. Weeks, S. Ayer, John Dolan, John Unpherson, M. L. VanArsdale, G. G. Boskins, H. C. Blinckensderfer, C. E. Ell, R. Gentleman, C. S. Hambright, Joseph Hay, S. Hindman, L. O. Farrington, S. Hartman, G. E. Lewis, W. C. Reynolds, A. M. Scharman, Wm. Whitlock, J. Weinberger, P. Cunningham, P. Getzcham, H. G. Andrews, A. L. Johnson, S. W. Johnson, Theo. Livingston, G. W. Meyer, Con Morris, C. F. Rollins, C. E. Speed, Wm. Anyan, John Byers, M. Decker, Joseph Fulmer, W. A. Van Noy, A. F. Wilkins, F. Weinbaugh, Wm. Dolan, John Bonner, H. W. Bird, F. J. Doran, F. Goodsell, C. S. Hambright, G. W. Meyer, D. H. Hines, W. S. Fikes, F. Frederickson, O. S. Hostetter, D. O'Brien, J. J. Sullivan, George Vroman, F. D. Winn, P. Nelson.


     One of the most unusual features of railroad history in Hall County has been the remarkably long terms of service of the few station agents who have been in charge of railroad affairs at Grand Island. John D. Moore, agent in the late 'eighties for the Union Pacific afterwards figured in the banking, financial and business circles of the city materially. His successor, H. L. McMeans, served for practically ten years. The two sons of Mr. McMeans have been bery successful in business matters, A. S. McMeans, the only graduate of Grand Island high school to amass a fortune of several millions of dollars, is one of the three of four stockholsers of the Dodge Brothers Motors Company, the only one outside of the Dodge family circle. Emmor McMeans is connected with Twin Valley Motor Co. of Johnstown, pennsylvania. W. H. Loucks has served as agent for the past twenty years. During the federal administration of railroads, within the last year or so, all freight business of the three railroads here has been consolidated in one office and Mr. Loucks has become agent for the railroad administration in that capacity. D. J. Traill has been ticket and passenger depot agent for the Union Pacific.
     W. B. Thmpson was agent for the Burlington road the first four or five years of its operation through Grand Island, and his successor, Thomas Connor, served in that capacity for practically twenty years, and during the last year or so of the federal administration of the railroads has confined his duties to those of ticket and depot agent for the Burlington.
     Grand Island not having had to undergo the very frequent changes of station agent which most towns experience, has had the benefit of unusually close and congenial relations with ther local railroad management.
     The splendid new passenger station of the Union Pacific was opened at Grand Island, in May, 1918. This depot is the last word in every respect, along depot conveniences.


     The St. Joseph & Grand Island Railroad Company was incorporated October 25, 1873, with F. A. Wieve, E. W. Arnold, W. A. Platt, R. C. Jordon, H. N. Chapman, James Michelson, W. R. McAllister, and William Hagge, members. On December 4, 1873, the question of issuing bonds to aid this company was carried by a majority of 212 in Grand Island. Work was begun by Contractor Andrew Sheridan, May 9, 1874. On May 2, 1874 ground was broken, the ceremony being witnessed by a large concourse of people. H. N. Chapman was marshal with W. A. Deuel and W. H. Platt, assistant marshals. A grand hall was given at Liederkranz Hall. H. P. Handy was credited with being the prime mover in obtaining this road. After it was built through to St. Joseph, this road served a great purpose to Grand Isalnd in giving it another outlet and in furnishing a second line of road for a decade until the arrival of the Burlington road.
     In recent years the management of the St. Joseph and Grand Island has been practically the same as the Union Pacific.


     The great factor in giving Grand Island direct connection and natural advantages in gaining the trade of the Loup Valley to the north has been the network of Union Pacific branches radiating out of Grand Island and St. Paul, twenty-two miles north. The branch from Grand Island to St. Paul, 22.23 miles, was completed and placed in operation in 1880; two years later the line was extended from St. Paul to North Loup, 26.63 miles, and also in 1882 the Scotia to Scotia Junction spur, 1.37 miles was added. In 1886 the line was extended to Ord, 11.91 miles north of North Loup, whee the terminus still remains in 1919. But the Burlington branch through Ord to Burwell opens a territory further north which can conveniently reach Grand Island. The branch from St. Paul to Loup City was built in 1885 and 1886; and from Boelus [to] Nantasket in 1887 and on to Pleasanton in 1890.


     The Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad Company was chartered by a special act of the Illinois legislature, dated February 12, 1849, under the name of the Aurora Branch Railroad Company. The incorporators were citizens of Aurora, Illinois, and vicinity. this company built from Aurora to a connection with the Galena & Chicago Union Railroad (now Chicago & Northwestern) at Turner Junction, about twelve miles. The tack was laid with wooden rails faced with strap iron and was opened for business September 2, 1850. In 1852 the name was changed to the Chicago & Aurora Railroad Company. About this time capital from Michigan was interested in furthering and saving the enterprise. February 14, 1855, the name of the Chicago & Aurora Railroad Company was changed to Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad Company. The road was extended through Illinois in the next few years. The bridge over the Mississippi at Burlington, Iowa, was opened for traffic on August 13, 1863. On January 1, 1873, the C. B,. & Q. took possession of the Burlington & Missouri Rivr Railroad and branches, which on that date operated the following mileage; Burlington, Iowa, to the east bank of the Missouri River, opposite Plattsmouth, Nebraska, opened January 1, 1870, 280 miles, and numerous branches in Iowa. The Burlington & Missouuri River Company was incorporated in Iowa, January 15, 1852, at first by citizens of Burlington and vicinity. The Burlington & Missouri River Railroad Company in Nebraska, which is the line that interests Grand Island and Hall County, was incorporated May 12, 1860, and the construction of the line from Plattsmouith to Kearney was begun in July of that year; it was completed to Kearney Junction, Nebraska, September 18, 1872. This company was consolidated with the C. B. & Q. R. R. Co. on July 26, 1880, with 836 miles of railroad at that time. Some of its various lines concerning this part of Nebraska were opened, York to Aurora, November 3, 1879, 22 miles; Aurora to Central City, April 4, 1880, 20 miles.
     In 1884 extension was carried on the Burlington lines which opened the Aurora to Grand Island sector of the line, 18 miles, into Grand Island on June 8. This meant considerable to Grand Island because it gave it a third railroad. Since the St. Joseph and Grand Island has become a subsidiary to the Union Pacific, the presence of the Burlington system serves to give Grand Island the service of a second continental system. In 1886 among other branches and extensions completed was the extension of the line from Grand Island to Anselmo, Nebaska, opened September 13, 101 miles.
     In 1882 the west line extended to Alliance, Nebraska, 69 miles, was opened. In 1889 the west line went from Alliance to Cambria, Wyoming and by 1894 reached Billings, Montana, where it made a connection to the coast with the Northern Pacific and Great Northern lines.
     While the Burlington has never been such a factor in the life of this community as the Union Pacific, its presence in giving a through line from Seattle-Billings, to Lincoln, Kansas City, St. Louis and Chicago, has been a wonderful competitive factor and has assisted materially in the upbuilding of Grand Island as a commercial and industrial center. Notwithstanding the Burlington being the main road at Hastings the receipts of its Grand Island station have in recent years regularly equalled or rivaled the Hastings station.
     The Burlington has in recent years built a splendid brick depot and converted its old passenger station into a freight house. Except for the station force, not very many Burlington employes are resident at Grand Island.
     The new Burlington passenger bridge between Phillips and Grand Island, finished in 1918, is a wonderful improvement to this line. Its presence in Hall County gives it added local interest. Construction forces worked on this bridge for about eighteen months, beginning in March, 1917, and finishing the work in October, 1918, after which it took the contractors another three months to complete the approaches, and the bridge was opened for service in January, 1919.
     The new bridge is 1,000 feet long, 120 feet shorter than the old one, which can still be seen much lower and on the left hand side of the train. The new bridge is practically fire proof, the piers being made of 45-feet long Bignell piling sunk under the river on which concrete caps rest. Three sixty-feet long steel girders are placed at each end, making a total opening under the steel girders of 360 feet. The remainder of the bridge is made of twenty-feeg long concrete slabs resting on the piers. The new bridge is twelve feet above the old one and eliminates both grades and curves at this place. It is also believed to be an ice proof structure. By its use all "doubling" of freight trains will be avoided at what was once known as the Phillips hill, but which is now an easy grade.
     An additonal feature of interest in this bridge is that it is the first large job in which the new Bignell piling was successfully demonstrated. This process was patented by Ed. Bignell, who has been the genial division superintendent in charge of the line practically all of the time since it opened. His sucessor is F.R. Mullen, formerly train dispatcher in Lincoln.

Transcribed by Kaylynn Ellis Loveland, July, 2003

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2003 Kaylynn Ellis Loveland