Historic Railroad Map of the Western United States - 1883

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Map showing the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad System with its connections.

The Atchison & Topeka Railroad was chartered in 1859. The railroad received a generous land grant in the 1860's from the government in order to build and help open up Kansas lands for settlement.

In 1863, with aims at building south to New Mexico the railroad’s name was changed to the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe. Reaching the Colorado state line in 1873, the railroad was an early enabler for easy passage west from Kansas City to countless regions with its acquired connecting lines. Although the line never reached Santa Fe, it did open a branch division in New Mexico in 1880, which offered connecting lines into Santa Fe. The railroad specialized in freight service and was a popular conveyance for cattle and harvested wheat.

A bitter battle between the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe 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 a narrow gorge along Colorado’s Arkansas River, in areas that couldn’t accommodate both 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 the Academy Award in 1945 for best original song.

This relief map was published in 1883 by G.W. & C.B. Colton & Co. It locates cities, towns, bodies of water, mountains, and the railroad system of 1883 with emphasis on the main line. Displayed is the United States west of the Mississippi River and a portion of Mexico.

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