Railroad History

Railroad History


(Information Courtesy Chisholm Trail Museum, Mr. Frank B. Orb)

There was a great need for a railroad in Sumner County many years before the county finally got one. An 1877 Letter to the Editor from a Guelph, Kansas resident spoke of how well crops were doing, but that a railroad was badly needed as the crops had to be taken to Wichita for sale. Prior to the first railroad, there were many offers by railroad companies, competition between companies, and elections held to pass bonds with which to help the railroad industry fund the projects. Many of these offers failed, either due to a lack of funding and lack of agreement on "which" railroad should come to the county, or a lack of interest.

Finally in 1878, the Santa Fe railroad settled it's plans with the county, and began work on an extension from Wichita, to Mulvane, thru Belle Plaine, to Wellington, and on to Caldwell. This extension was incorporated as the "Cowley, Sumner, and Fort Smith Railway Company". The line was opened into Wellington and on September 8, 1879, the first locomotive reached Wellington and was an occasion of great rejoicing.

The line came into Wellington from the northeast, and ran across the northern part of town, known as the Bowers Addition. From there, it left Wellington on the west side of town on it's way to Caldwell. Bowers Addition was just north of sixteenth street, and had railroad yards, stock yards, depot, water tower, and a hotel.

On October 6, 1882, the railroad was consolidated into the Wichita and Southwestern Railway Company, and was often referred to as the "Old Wichita Southwestern Railway". The line from Mulvane to Wellington was moved east. It still entered into Wellington from the northeast, but was directed southward on the east side of the cemetery. The area in Bowers Addition was vacated. The depot was used as a freight terminal for a while, but was finally taken up in 1891.

In 1901, the Old Wichita Southwestern Railway was sold to Santa Fe. Seven years later, about four miles of line between Cicero and Wellington was moved further east, placing it a mile east of Wellington. This track then became known as the "Second District of Middle Division of the AT&SF Railway Company".

In 1880, two lines were started west from Wellington. One was known as the "Southern Kansas and Western Railway" which was to run from Wellington to Harper, the other was the "Wellington and Western" which was to run from Wellington to Anthony. The former was successfully completed in 1880 and eventually purchased by the AT&SF. It became known as "First District of Panhandle Division of the AT&SF Railway Company". It was further extended to Attica in 1884, and to Kiowa in 1886. This line ran west from Wellington to Mayfield and thru Milan before entering Harper County. An interesting note on this line...In 1908, the track was moved to the north some 300 feet. The old road bed used for the original track is now the elevated road in Woods Park.

The "Wellington and Western" railway reached the Chikaskia River on September 4, 1880. It was purchased by the AT&SF in 1881, and word spread that work would soon begin to further the line westward to Anthony. Instead, the AT&SF closed the line, and it was torn out.

In 1901, the "Cowley, Sumner, and Fort Smith" line running from Wellington to Caldwell was purchased by the Santa Fe.  In the fall of 1918, the tracks were vacated and removed.
Joining the AT&SF Railway Company east of Wellington in 1880 was "The Kansas City, Lawrence, and Galveston Railroad Company. This line came from Independence and Chanute, and eventually became known as "The Kansas City, Lawrence, and Southern Kansas Railway" in 1885 when it consolidated into the "Southern Kansas Railway". It eventually sold to Santa Fe in 1899. This line ran through Oxford and Dalton before reaching Wellington.
"The Chicago, Kansas, and Nebraska Railroad" completed their line south from Herington, Kansas to Caldwell in 1888. The track reached Wellington in 1887, and eventually Caldwell during the winter of early 1888. The line ran parallel with and just west of the "Old Wichita Southwestern Line" running from Wellington to Caldwell. The first train, a mixed passenger/freight train reached Wellington on November 10, 1887. This line became "The Chicago, Rock Island, and Pacific Railway" in 1937, later to be referred to only as "The Rock Island". The Rock Island slough and Rock Island ball fields in Wellington are named so after this railway.

The line later sold to the "MKT" (Missouri, Kansas, and Texas Line), and today it is the Union Pacific, running through Peck, Riverdale, Wellington, Perth, Corbin, and Caldwell.
In 1880, the Sumner County Railway Company was chartered, and built from the "Southern Kansas Railway" southward through Rome, South Haven, and Hunnewell. The line was completed to Hunnewell on June 16, 1880. Points further south were still Indian Territory.

The line was eventually sold to Santa Fe and became the "Hunnewell District of the Panhandle Division". Today, it is owned by the "Southern Kansas and Oklahoma Railway", and runs on into Oklahoma through Braman and into Blackwell.
After the initial railroad industry started in the county, there was a rush to build railroads similar to "Oil Booms". Many railroads were eventually built across the county.

One railroad ran from Argonia northeast to Conway Springs and then into Sedgwick County. Another ran across from Conway Springs to Riverdale to Belle Plaine. One crossed the southern part of the county from Blackstone, to Caldwell, to South Haven, through Portland and Ashton, and on to Geuda Springs. Another ran from Geuda Springs to Oxford to Belle Plaine.

Today, the primary lines of the AT&SF (Santa Fe) are still intact. Consolidated with Burlington Northern, the railway company is now the "BNSF" (Burlington Northern Santa Fe). It's line runs from Mulvane, to Belle Plaine, to Wellington, and thru Mayfield, Milan, and Argonia before entering Harper County. Another branch runs from Mulvane southeastward to Udall and eventually through Winfield.

The Union Pacific runs from Peck, through Riverdale, Wellington, Perth, Corbin, and Caldwell.

The "SKOL" (Southern Kansas and Oklahoma Line) runs from Wellington, to Rome, through South Haven, and on to Hunnewell. The Central Kansas Railway runs from Conway Springs to Wichita