Historic Railroad Map of Kansas - 1886

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Map showing the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad and its auxiliary roads in the State of Kansas.

The Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad was a very important railroad system in its day. Chartered in 1859 as the Atchison & Topeka Railroad, the railroad received a generous land grant in the 1860's, from the government, in order to build and help open Kansas lands up for settlement. With aims at continuing south to New Mexico the railroad’s name was changed to the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe in 1863. Reaching the Colorado state line in 1873, the railroad enabled early travelers easy passage west from Kansas City to countless regions, with its acquired connecting lines. Although the line never reached Santa Fe, it did open its New Mexico Division in 1880 which offered connecting lines to Santa Fe.

Along its Kansas routes the company set up land offices at selected sites to sell its unused land parcels. This became an economic stronghold for the railroad. Specializing in freight service, the line was a popular conveyance for cattle and harvested wheat.

A bitter battle between the A, T & SF and Rio Grande railroads known as the Royal Gorge War ended in 1879. It was decided on April 21 of that year, by way of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling, that the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad should acquire the primary rights for building a line through the narrow gorge, along Colorado’s Arkansas River, in areas that couldn’t accommodate multiple lines. The ruling came after two years of vicious sabotage acts and harsh armed standoffs between the two railroads. In the ruling the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe was to discontinue its quest to reach Denver and the valuable gold regions of Leadville, Colorado, and the Rio Grande wouldn’t extend its line to Santa Fe.

The railroad was honored in 1944 by song writers Harry Warren and Johnny Mercer as they wrote their tune “On the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe” for the hit movie “The Harvey Girls”. The song, sung in the film by Judy Garland, won an Academy Award the following year for best original song.

This map published in 1886 by G.W. & C.B. Colton & Co. shows drainage, cities and towns, township and county boundaries, and the Kansas railroad network of 1886 with emphasis on the main line.


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