How the Santa Fe Railroad Modified America Perpetually | Historical past

When the railroad tycoon Leland Stanford slammed residence the fabled golden spike at Promontory Level, Utah, in Might 1869, to hitch the Central Pacific to the Union Pacific and full the nation’s first transcontinental railroad, the information electrified the nation. A single phrase dispatched by telegram to the newspapers—“DONE!”—set off brass bands and bell-ringing throughout the US. The brand new enterprise, the Pacific Railway, was a heroic achievement, but it surely was hardly an instantaneous industrial success, partially as a result of it was by no means actually meant to be: President Abraham Lincoln approved the enterprise again in 1862 primarily to unite East and West within the hope of constructing a stronger Union as soon as the Civil Warfare was over.

But on that rating, too, it fell brief, leaving the job of unifying the nation to the second transcontinental, the Santa Fe, began in Kansas in 1863. Whereas the Pacific Railway relied closely on federal grants, the Santa Fe raised most of its funds privately. It reached the Pacific in 1887—and helped flip the US right into a single financial powerhouse, linking the industrialized East, the Midwestern heartland and the agricultural glories of the West Coast, all joined in a standard market. Nonetheless, for some unusual purpose, the Santa Fe has by no means obtained a fraction of the credit score that has gone to the Pacific Railway.

Created by an act of Congress, the Pacific Railway proved to be the Apollo program of its day, a large publicly funded venture that existed largely to reveal an necessary level: A railroad may certainly make it to San Francisco.

A diesel electric locomotive
A diesel electrical locomotive pulls a prepare of passenger vehicles on the Santa Fe, described by Fortune in 1948 as the highest U.S. railroad.

(Getty Photos)

This was a exceptional accomplishment, however Congress didn’t know what to do with the road as soon as it bought there. Promoters paid little consideration to build up the freight and passenger site visitors wanted to succeed financially. Northern congressmen, in search of to retain the advantages of the road for the Union, ensured that it crossed the continent at Chicago’s latitude; the location uncovered the tracks to blizzards that will halt trains for weeks, and despatched them by way of a few of the West’s extra desolate terrain, effectively away from the majesty of the Rocky Mountains which may have been enticing to vacationers and mining pursuits alike. As well as, the Pacific initially lacked intersecting “feeder” traces, which might have contributed beneficial passengers and freight. And a lot of the cities that sprang up alongside the railway had been of the “hell-on-wheels” selection, infamous for saloons and bordellos, that flourished solely briefly as town-by-town track-laying moved on.

The Santa Fe was totally different. It tried to decide on routes that will generate the site visitors to cowl building prices, and it chosen websites that had been more likely to develop after the rail arrived. The corporate acquired open land at low price—after which offered it at a pleasant markup after the rail line enhanced the land’s worth. Railroad executives selected the city web site, laid out squared-off streets, and infrequently ran their tracks down the center to create a “proper” aspect (with respectable companies) and a “flawed” aspect (with the saloons). It positioned its railroad station within the heart of city. In contrast to the hell-on-wheels cities, Albuquerque and El Paso had been constructed to final.

Pullman cars in Laguna Pueblo, New Mexico
Pullman vehicles in Laguna Pueblo, New Mexico, in 1900. The close by rail station was constructed whereas extending the road from Albuquerque to Gallup.

(Getty Photos)

An organization within the trendy type, the Santa Fe was funded by non-public buyers and run by knowledgeable supervisor, William Barstow Robust, a veteran railroad man with kindly eyes and an Outdated Testomony beard that ran effectively down his chest. An enormous believer in large, he operated by one precept. “A railroad to achieve success should even be a progressive establishment,” he wrote. By progressive he didn’t imply politically. “It can not stand nonetheless….If it fails to advance, it should inevitably go backward and lose floor already occupied.” His reply to each enterprise query was to put down observe, after which lay down some extra.

The Santa Fe was nonetheless beset by challenges. Within the early days, when financing was unsure, it was sluggish to put observe throughout Kansas. When it lastly reached Colorado in 1873, the state was nonetheless so empty—Denver was the one metropolis of any measurement, its inhabitants roughly 5,000—and far of the terrain nonetheless so uncharted, it was arduous to know the place to put tracks. Worse for the Santa Fe, it got here into the state close to the tiny buying and selling heart of Pueblo, 100 miles south of Denver.

The main treatise on this topic in Robust’s day, Arthur Mellen Wellington’s The Financial Idea of the Location of Railways, strongly suggested in opposition to constructing any line that didn’t result in or from a well-populated metropolis. By “effectively populated,” Wellington meant a New York or Boston, and positively not Pueblo. Furthermore, the Santa Fe didn’t have Colorado all to itself. A rival firm, the Denver and Rio Grande, had began in Denver again in 1872 with the concept of following the Rio Grande River to succeed in the Pacific in Mexico. It was presided over by a dashing Civil Warfare hero, the Union Gen. William J. Palmer. Over the following decade, Robust and Palmer engaged in a heady sport of spy versus spy, monitoring one another’s actions, intercepting telegrams and decoding messages, and, at one level, even disguising a surveyor as a Mexican shepherd full with sheep to make topographical measurements in secret. Every sought to say not simply Colorado, however all the Southwest out to California, in addition to Mexico.

vintage movie poster
It was within the 1946 film about fun-loving waitresses at railway-handy Harvey Home eating places that Judy Garland sang “On the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe.”

(Getty Photos)

In the middle of their competitors, they got here into direct battle at quite a lot of locations. Within the Royal Gorge outdoors of Pueblo, they fought maybe the largest railroad warfare in U.S. historical past, as every man sought unique entry to one of many richest silver mines within the west, at Leadville. Both sides raised a military of ragtag troopers to scare the opposite off, and practically as many legal professionals. The warfare ran two years, and didn’t finish till Jay Gould, the godlike robber baron who dominated the railroad trade, personally pressed for a “treaty” that will grant Leadville to the Rio Grande and the open territory to the south to the Santa Fe. With either side bleeding cash, and each threatened by Gould’s potential to drive them out of enterprise, they agreed.

That regarded like a bitter defeat for the Santa Fe—till the Rio Grande’s silver was quickly exhausted, whereas the land of the Southwest elevated in worth as soon as it was reached by rail. On the identical time Robust was constructing west from Kansas, he was additionally constructing east, reaching Chicago in 1886, making it the westward gateway to the locations the Santa Fe was including. Probably the most fascinating of those was Los Angeles, which the Santa Fe reached in 1887. Because it occurred, one other line was already in Los Angeles by then: the Southern Pacific, an outgrowth of the sooner Central Pacific, which ran its personal line to Chicago by way of its hub in San Francisco. The Santa Fe’s arrival sparked a frenzied fee competitors with the Southern Pacific, either side making an attempt to undercut the opposite, that finally dropped the worth of a $125 ticket from Chicago to Los Angeles right down to a single, solitary greenback.

Passengers flooded to Los Angeles, boosting the inhabitants of the once-sleepy city from roughly 11,000 in 1880 to not less than 50,000 by 1890. The pace of this development set a Los Angeles document that has by no means been equaled, and dozens of different close by cities comparable to Pasadena, San Bernardino and Riverside shot up with it. A brand-new phrase appeared to seize the actual property explosion—“Growth!”—often with exclamation mark hooked up.

The Santa Fe’s arrival created Southern California as a coveted vacation spot for Easterners and Midwesterners, and marked the fruits of the well-known injunction to “Go west!” Fevered promoters marketed larger Los Angeles as paradise, and it just about was: a spot of everlasting sunshine, studded with unique palm bushes and brilliant with roses year-round. It was an Eden from which navel oranges might be shipped within the Santa Fe’s ventilated or refrigerated boxcars to please Individuals in every single place. “The Santa Fe made Southern California,” says Richard White, a railroad historian. “And Southern California made the Santa Fe.”






The primary Santa Fe depot, in Ponca Metropolis, Oklahoma.

(BNSF Railway)

A Harvey Home in Guthrie, Oklahoma.

(BNSF Railway)

The Santa Fe station in Oklahoma Metropolis, Oklahoma, 1954.

(BNSF Railway)

U.S. troopers guarding trains in Oklahoma.

(BNSF Railway)

The railroad’s success had different penalties. It helped to double Chicago’s inhabitants within the Eighteen Eighties, making it the nation’s lumberyard and stockyard within the course of. Chicago’s central location impressed a gross sales innovation, the Montgomery Ward & Co. mail-order catalog, based in 1872, which delivered by prepare items from wherever on to clients in every single place, skipping retail shops and permitting Individuals to get in on the newest big-city fashions. After the Santa Fe arrived in Chicago, the catalog fattened as much as greater than 240 pages, providing an astounding 10,000 objects.

With the road at full steam between two burgeoning cities, the Santa Fe gave rise to a different innovation that will turn out to be a fixture of the American panorama: the chain restaurant. In partnership with New York restaurateur Fred Harvey, high-end Harvey Home eateries appeared each hundred miles wherever the Santa Fe ran, serving one million meals a month early within the subsequent century.

The Santa Fe performed a seminal position within the success of the film enterprise, itself a power that formed the nationwide character. After a New Jersey filmmaker, David Horsley, arrived in Hollywood to make westerns within the year-round sunshine early within the new century, D.W. Griffith and Cecil B. DeMille adopted, making Los Angeles the dream manufacturing unit for the nation.

As for Robust himself, the actual dreammaker, he was pressured to resign from the Santa Fe in 1889—his formidable track-laying had outpaced the corporate’s revenues. Though raised within the Midwest, Robust retired in Los Angeles, settling in a modest bungalow. In declining well being, he died there on August 3, 1914, at age 77. His obituary within the Los Angeles Instances talked about little about Robust’s railroad profession, noting as an alternative that he had a “forceful handshake” that instructed a “gratuitous humanity.”

Almost all had been despatched to jail or killed. However not earlier than they pulled off a few of the greatest prepare robberies ever
By Teddy Brokaw

The Nice Rondout Prepare Theft • 1924

( Professional Information)

Take: $3M in jewellery, money, bonds

In 2021 cash: $46.85M 

Date: June 12, 1924

Culprits: The Newton Bros., Brent Glasscock, William Fahy (conspirator)

Location: Rondout, Illinois 

The flowery plan concerned a corrupt postal inspector, selfmade tear gasoline, disguises and 4 stolen Cadillacs. However the scheme unraveled. One outlaw shot one other, making it doable for the police to trace them down.



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