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     On the 31st of July, 1879, there were in operation in the State of Nebraska one thousand, four hundred and seventy-nine miles of railway, all of which has been constructed since the spring of 1865. Although not in reality one of the railways of the State, the Chicago & Northwestern was the first line from the East to salute the people of Omaha with the screech of the engine whistle, the first train on that road entering the city on Sunday, January 17th, 1867. The Missouri River was crossed on a pile bridge, which, for several years, was used during the winter months for crossing the river, it being removed during the months of navigation, and a ferryboat employed in its place, to transfer passengers and freight. The second road to reach the State was the St. Joe & Council Bluffs line, now known as the Kansas City, St. Joe & Council Bluffs road. The Burlington & Missouri, or the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy, was completed to the city of Omaha in 1868. The first road built on Nebraska soil was the eastern portion of the Union Pacific, the first fifty miles of which was completed on the first day of January, 1866. The Omaha & Northwestern was built to Herman, a distance of forty miles, in October, 1871, and during the same




year the Omaha & Southwestern was completed to the Platte River. But as each of these lines, as also all other lines in operation in the State, will be reviewed at length in another portion of this Chapter, the reader's attention is now called to the



     That popular and important transportation route which spans that fertile portion of the great west lying between the Missouri River and the Rocky Mountains, connecting with the Central Pacific midway between Omaha and the Pacific coast, was the first railway enterprise commenced in Nebraska; and while its early history abounds with incidents of deep interest to the people of the State, to the general reader a careful and impartial review of its present and prospective advantages to the State, as also to the whole country, will prove of much greater value.

     Although the project of building a railway to the Pacific Coast was agitated in railroad circles and among prominent men of the nation, as far back as 1846, the enterprise assumed nothing like a definite shape until 1853, when a commission was appointed by the government to investigate the practicability of the undertaking, and after discharging the duties of the appointment, by reporting favorably, Congress, in 1862, passed an act authorizing the construction of a trunk line from the one hundredth meridian, a point some two hundred miles west of Omaha, to San Francisco. The act provided for a trunk line and two branches, the one to start from some central point on the western boundary of Iowa, the second from Sioux City, in the same State, and the third from the western boundary of Missouri, all to connect at the point of location, on the one hundredth meridian. In 1863, however, the Act was modified, by changing the Sioux City and Missouri branches, and empowering the President of the United States to designate the point where the eastern terminal should be located. On the 17th of November, 1863, after a careful consideration of the subject, President Lincoln decided the question as follows:

     "At a point on the western boundary of Iowa, opposite section ten, in township fifteen, north of range thirteen, east of the sixth principal meridian in the Territory of Nebraska,"



     The Act authorizing the construction of the road, provided that the branch reaching the one hundredth meridian first, should build the remainder of the line west. The Act also authorized a land donation of 13,875,200 acres to be located on each side of the line. Subsequent legislation also provided a subsidy to aid in building the line, to the extent of $16,000 per mile between the Missouri River and the base of the Rocky Mountains; $48,000 per mile for one hundred and fifty miles across the Rocky Mountains; $32,000 per mile for the distance between the Rocky and Sierra Nevada Range, and $48,000 per mile for one hundred and fifty miles over the Sierra Nevadas.

     The stimulating effect of such a liberal offer on the part of the General Government, resulted in the organization of a company for carrying out the stupendous enterprise, and on the afternoon of December 3d, 1863, amid great enthusiasm, and in the presence of a large gathering of people from Omaha and Council Bluffs, the great undertaking was formally dedicated, as it were, by "breaking gound [sic]" on the west bank of the river near the old telegraph crossing, with all the pomp and ceremony that the importance of the event demanded.

     After invoking a divine blessing for the success of the enterprise, Governor Saunders stepped forward, grasped a spade, and amid the thunder of artillery and the deafening cheers of the enthusiastic assembly, removed the first spadefull of earth. Such was the birth scene of the greatest and, in many respects, the most important railway project ever conceived by man. Ground having been formally broken, the interesting ceremony closed with addresses of a most eloquent and enthusiastic character, from Governor Saunders, George Francis Train, Mayor Kennedy, A. J. Poppleton, Dr. C. C. Monell, A. V. Larimer and others.

     Early in the spring of 1864 the work of grading the road bed commenced, on a line running due west from the City of Omaha, which line, after having expended on it nearly or quite one hundred thousand dollars, proving too heavy to allow a completion to the one hundredth meridian, in time to comply with the terms of the charter, was abandoned.

     One might suppose that such a disastrous beginning would have disheartened the projectors. Such was not the case, however,



as all echoed the words of "Jacob Faithful," "Better luck, next time." Two new lines were immediately surveyed, the first running in a northwesterly course from Omaha, while the second started from a point at or near Bellevue, on the Missouri River, and ran a northwesterly course. This last line, owing to some of its beautiful windings, was called the "Ox Bow," yet its apparent innocence of ever having been subjected to the surveyor's art, and the violent opposition it encountered from the people of Omaha, who had their fears aroused at the danger to Omaha of locating, the eastern terminus of the line at Bellevue, did not prevent its being chosen by the company. The people of Omaha, however, were equal to the emergency, and by a donation of $250,000 secured the coveted prize, which, in 1876 was wrested from them, through a decision of the United States Supreme Court, which awarded the eastern terminal of the line to Iowa, in accordance to the location made by President Lincoln.

     The "Ox Bow" route having been harmoniously adopted, grading was pushed forward with great vigor, while track laying followed as fast as the road bed was finished. Every twenty miles completed was inspected by commissioners appointed for that purpose, and on the 1st day of January, 1866, the first fifty miles was completed and in operation. The line was extended during the year 1866, two hundred and sixty miles, and in 1867 an additional two hundred and forty miles was built, while from January 1st, 1868, to May 10th, 1869, the remainder of the line --five hundred and fifty-five miles -- was completed and in operation.

     Thus it will be seen that the great work was finished in just three years, six months and ten days from the time it was commenced. Some of the most rapid track laying in railway history was done on this line, the average being often as high as five miles per day. The ties used on the road between Omaha and the Platte Valley were chiefly from the Missouri River bottoms, and were mostly cottonwood. They were, however, subjected to the "charring" process, which rendered them very durable. The ties and timber for the remainder of the line were of hardwood, and were procured chiefly from Michigan and other distant sections of country, and the cost was often as high as $2.50 per tie, when delivered at Omaha.



     There being no rail communication between Omaha and Des Moines, at that time, nearly all of the material used in building the Union Pacific road, had to be transported either up the Missouri River by steamers, or from Des Moines by teams, a distance of one hundred and fifty miles. Even the seventy horsepower engine employed in the railroad shops at Omaha, was hauled on wagons from Des Moines. And in this connection it may be stated that the Company commenced building their extensive machine shops during the latter part of 1864, and they were fully completed during the fall of 1865. These shops include a dozen or more of large, substantial brick buildings, and their importance to Omaha will be readily appreciated when it is stated that they furnish employment to some eight hundred persons. Besides which the Company, in its various other departments at Omaha, employ some five hundred men.

     The books of the Company show that there was used in the construction of the Union Pacific road, 300,000 tons of rail; 1,700,000 fish plates, 6,800,000 bolts, 23,505,500 spikes, and 6,126,375 ties. Within the past three or four years the road bed has been well ballasted, hence, at the present time it will compare favorably with the better class of roads at the East.

     As before stated, the line was completed to Ogden, on the 10th of May, 1869, the event being observed in Omaha by a grand celebration. It was a general gala-day for everybody, and from early dawn until late at night enthusiasm ruled the hour. The city was dressed in an old-fashioned Fourth of July costume; flags, banners, festoons, and mottos decorated the town from end to end. Telegraphic communication was had with Promontory, where the "golden spike" which united the two great ribs of steel, was being driven into that highly finished tie of laurel wood, with a silver hammer; and when the last blow was given to that spike of precious metal, the instrument on Capitol Hill said, "IT IS FINISHED!" and one hundred guns in thunder tones echoed the glad news., "IT IS FINISHED!" Yes, the stupendous work of uniting the two great oceans of this Continent with bands of steel was finished, and the glad tidings was not confined to Omaha, but was wafted o'er hill and dale, to city, village and hamlet, throughout the Union.

     The afternoon of the 10th of May, after the reception of the



news that the last spike had been driven, was devoted to processions, street parades, speech making and a general hour of rejoicing. Even the shades of evening did not check the enthusiasm, for as the twilight deepened into darkness, the city was most brilliantly illuminated, while the liberal display of pyrotechnics lent the scene a beauty and grandeur never before witnessed in the West.

Sketch or Picture


     The iron bridge spanning the Missouri River at Omaha was not commenced until the early part of 1869, or about the time the Union Pacific road was completed, although an Act had been passed by Congress in 1866, authorizing the work at or near Omaha. When the question was finally taken under consideration, a division of opinion arose as to the most advantageous point of crossing the river. A majority of the Company favored a crossing at "Child's Mill," some four miles below Omaha. Here was a new danger to the interests of the city, to ward off which, and secure the bridge, a second quarter of a million dollars was donated towards its construction by the city. This last donation was made in consideration that the main transfer depots, machine shops and general offices of the Company should be located at Omaha.

      In September, 1868, the Boomer Bridge Company, of Chicago, secured the contract of building the bridge for $1,089,500, the time of its completion to be November 10th 1869. They were



greatly delayed in the work, however, and did not get the first cylinder ready for sinking until March, 1869; and in July of that year their contract with the U. P. Company was annulled, the latter Company taking hold of the work and completing the bridge on the 25th of March, 1873.

     The bridge is composed entirely of iron, and is two thousand seven hundred and fifty feet in length, fifty feet above high water mark, and consists of eleven spans of two hundred and fifty feet each. The superstructure is supported by one stone masonry abutment and eleven piers, each pier being formed of two iron pneumatic tubes, eight feet six inches in diameter, and sunk in sections of ten feet each to the solid rock in the bed of the river, then filled with stone and cement. The least time in which a column was sunk to bed rock from the commencement of the process was seven days. The greatest depth below low water mark reached by any column at bed rock was eighty-two feet. About five hundred men were constantly employed in the construction of the bridge, and ten steam engines were used in hoisting material, driving piles, etc. The bridge is approached from the Iowa side by a grade about one and a half miles long, thirty-five feet rise to the mile, and on the Nebraska side there is a trestle work, now filled in with earth, about fifty feet in height and seven hundred feet long. The Company claims that the bridge cost $2,500,000.

     At an early hour on the morning of August 25th, 1877, two spans at the eastern terminus of this great bridge were carried away by a tornado and entirely destroyed. As the tornado struck the bridge it lifted the massive superstructure from the piers, strewing the span which had rested on the Iowa shore along the embankment, while the other was carried into the deep water of the river. The piers were uninjured. A temporary Howe truss bridge was erected immediately after the catastrophe, and before the close of 1877 the iron spans were replaced.

     The Union Pacific railroad, in 1879, owned and operated the following lines:

Union Pacific, main line, from Omaha to Ogden



Omaha & Republican Valley road, from Valley to






Utah Northern, from Ogden to Beaver Canon



Colorado Division, from Cheyenne to Denver



Colorado Division Narrow Guage [sic], from Golden to

     Central City



Colorado Division Narrow Gauge, from Forks of

Clear Creek to Georgetown



St. Joseph & Denver City, from St. Joseph to Grand






Their contemplated lines include the following:

Jackson to Norfolk (now building)



Jackson to Osceola



Jackson to Albion



Grand Island to St. Paul



Valparaiso. Neb., to Marysville, Kansas







Grand Total



     A branch of the Union Pacific, extending from Valley Station, on the Union Pacific, to Osceola, the County Seat of Polk County, eighty-five miles, was commenced in 1876 and completed to its present terminal point in 1871. It traverses Saunders, Butler and Polk Counties, Wahoo, David City and Osceola being the chief towns on its line. It enters Saunders County at the northeast corner and leaves it at or near the extreme southwest corner, from whence it bends quite abruptly to the north until David City is reached, when it again turns to the southwest to Osceola, describing in its course the letter S. It is a most important transportation route for that section of the State, and when completed further up the Republican Valley it will assume still greater importance.


is another branch of the Union Pacific road. This branch has a three feet gauge, extends from Ogden to Beaver Cannon, Idaho, 274 miles, and is being pushed rapidly northward. Its objective terminal point to the north is Helena, Montana. Although traversing a thinly populated portion of the West, its net earnings during the past three or four years has been from $60,000 to $220,000.


(Commonly known as the Colorado Central Railway), another limb



of the mammoth Union Pacific body, extends from Cheyenne, Wyoming, to Denver, Colorado, a distance of 138 miles. This is. a most important transportation route to the mineral portions of the country to the South and west, and is as profitable in a financial aspect as it is convenient to travel and commerce.

     The Narrow Gauge, from Golden to Central City, a distance of twenty-three miles, also the Narrow Gauge from the forks of Clear Creek to Georgetown, twenty-four miles, are also branches of the Union Pacific. This is the most direct route to Leadville, and for the past six months its traffic in both travel and freight has been very large.


Extending from St. Joseph, Missouri, to Grand Island, Nebraska, came under the control of the Union Pacific in the Spring of 1879, and is now their prominent outlet to St. Louis, and other points to the southeast.

     The St. Joseph and Denver road was chartered by the legislature of Kansas, February 17th, 1857, by the title of the Marysville, Palmetto & Roseport Railroad Company, with authority to build a line from either of the above named places to a connection with the Hannibal & St. Joseph Railroad, at or near Roseport. The corporate name was changed to St. Joseph & Denver City Railroad, April 17th, 1862. The authority to build a road from the Nebraska State line to Fort Kearney was obtained under the general law of Nebraska, on the 11th of August, 1866. The Northern Kansas Railroad Company was consolidated with this Company, and the right to lands granted by Act of Congress, July 23d, 1866, of one million, seven hundred thousand acres, was thereby obtained. The capital stock was also increased to $10,000,000. Subscriptions from municipal corporations to the amount of $1,025,000, and from individuals to the extent of $1,400 were secured in aid of building the road. On these subscriptions, work was commenced, and eighty miles of the line was completed and in operation in October, 1870, at a cost of about $1,500,000. In 1871 the line was extended forty-eight miles, and on the following year it was completed to Hastings, its western terminus, when it passed into the hands of the Union Pacific, who extended it to Grand Island on their line of road during the summer of 1879. The total

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