History of Railroads in Adams County, Nebraska
From: Past and Present Adams County, Nebraska
Edited by: Judge William R. Burton
Assisted by David J. Lewis
Published By: S. J. Clarke Publishing Co., Chicago 1916


Adams County now has 150.97 miles of railroad lines belonging to the Union Pacific, Chicago & Northwestern, Missouri Pacific and Chicago, Burlington & Quincy systems and enjoys the advantages afforded by these great transcontinental trade and passenger routes. Not all these roads were built by the systems now owning them, some of them have been acquired by purchase from the original companies.

The Burlington was the first railroad to traverse Adams County. The Burlington & Missouri River Railroad in Nebraska was organized in 1869, though it was not completed through Adams County until the summer of 1872. It was a part of the main line of the Burlington system, but the portion built at this particular period extended from Plattsniouth by way of Lincoln to Kearney Junction. In a communication to the publisher of "The Book of Hastings," under date of November 12, 1906, K Bignell, superintendent of the Lincoln division of the Burlington, wrote: "I ran an engine, hauling construction material for the line west of Hastings, before there was a Louse in Hastings, except one sod house, but I don't remember the date of the first train being put on. I remember my first trip very well because, on arrival at Juniata, where there was a water tank and a station building, I asked the agent if it was Hastings. He replied in the negative, saving Hastings was seven miles east. This was in June, 1872." In the letter of Mrs. A. V. Cole, printed in the chapter on Juniata, the date of the arrival of the first train in Juniata is given as June 8th, 1872.

In May, 1882, the Burlington was completed to Denver, building from Keenest by way of Holdrege. The completion of this line greatly improved the railway facilities afforded by the Burlington in Adams County and had a general stimulating effect. The connection with the Burlington's main line with its southern system, the Red Cloud branch, was built towards the close of 1878. The last spike in the construction of the Aurora branch of the Burlington was driven at 7 o'clock P. M., September 7, 1886, and the first regular train departed for Aurora at 11:05 A. M., September 13. Jolly "Pap" Willis was the conductor in charge. This was the last line constructed by the Burlington in Adams County.

It was the St. Joseph & Denver City Railroad, now with the extension to Grand Island called the St. Joseph & Grand Island Railroad, that brought Hastings into existence. As has been written previously, Juniata was the official town of the Burlington and Hastings was an incident of the building of the St. Joseph & Denver City to the line of the Burlington at the point where Hastings stands. A fitting monument to the indebtedness of Hastings to the St. Joseph & Denver City Railroad, is the name of the city. A man by the name of Hastings was a member of the firm that had the grading of the last section of the road into the city and the name was given to the town in his honor. Train service did not begin on the St. Joseph & Western until the fall of 1872.

A deficiency of funds frustrated the plans of the St. Joseph. & Denver City Railroad Company to extend the line from Hastings to Denver as was the original plan although the road was once graded for a considerable distance toward Kearney, the grade passing near the present location of the Lepin Hotel. About a year after the completing of the road to Hastings a movement was inaugurated in Hastings to complete the road to Grand Island. The prime movers were W. L. Smith, who was connected with the St. Joseph & Denver, and J. J. Wtorswick, an Englishman, who was to finance the project. Associated with these were George H. Pratt, T. E. Farrell, C. K. Lawson and some others. A company of men were also associated in Grand Island for the same purpose, the plan being for the Grand Island men to look after the building of the road in Hall County and the Hastings men in Adams County. Grading was done north up what is now Burlington Avenue and northwards almost to the county line, while from Grand Island a grade was made almost to the Adams County line. 'When the project had proceeded thus far Mr. Worswick departed for England and did not return, and the enterprise was abandoned. If no rails were laid upon the grade for some time afterwards it was used as a track upon which to give trotting horses their practice bouts, and thus it was regarded as not having been wholly useless.

Hastings was the terminus of the St. Joseph & Denver City until 1879 when a connection was formed between the Union Pacific Company and the St. Joseph & Denver Company. The twenty five miles of road were constructed that year and soon thereafter the two companies were consolidated and the road was called the St. Joseph & Grand Island Railroad. Litigation grew out of the joint ownership of this line, minority stockholders complaining that the road was managed in the interest of the Union Pacific regardless of the rights of minority holders. Through a decision of the Supreme Court in 1916 the control of the road passed wholly into the control of the Union Pacific.

The Missouri Pacific Railroad with its western terminus in Prosser affords connection with the Burlington at Superior and the Missouri Pacific's connections in Kansas. It was formerly called the Pacific Railroad. It was built into Hastings in the winter of 1887-8 and extended to Prosser the following spring.

Hastings is the western terminus of the Chicago & Northwestern in Adams County. The original purpose was to build the line through to Denver and the idea is still rumored from time to time.

The Northwestern affords connection with Omaha by way of Fremont. For many years it was called the Fremont, Elkhorn & Missouri Valley Railroad; it has always been, however, a part of the Northwestern.

The branch of the Burlington in the southern part of Adams County, at the building of which Holstein, Roseland, Pauline and Leroy came into existence, was built in 1887, though not by the Burlington. It was the result of the acquiring of the St. Joseph & Denver City by the Union Pacific interests. The St. Joseph & Grand Island Railroad lies rather across the stream of commerce and travel than with it. It was to act as feeder for the St. Joseph & Grand Island that the line in the south part of Adams County was built by the Union Pacific. Its original name was the Kansas City & Omaha, better remembered as the K. C. & O. This line of feeders began to be constructed in 1885, building first from Fairfield to York through Sutton and later extending from York to Stromsburg. The line through Adams County was built from Fairfield to Alma.

The original plan for this road too was to extend to Denver. but a total of 190 miles was all that was finished. The road was bonded to the amount of $1,000 per mile and its earnings became insufficient to pay the interest. About 1890 its condition as a business enterprise became so hopeless that it was sold at auction and bought by the Burlington, of which, since that time, it has been a part.

John M. Ragan of Hastings was at this period general attorney for the St. Joseph & Grand Island and had charge of the acquiring of right of way for the feeders. Pauline was named in honor of Mr. Ragan's wife, Pauline S. Ragan, and Leroy in honor of Leroy Stone, son of C. L. Stone, of Hastings. It was the poor crops incident to a period of shortage of rain that caused the downfall of the Kansas City & Omaha.

The Hastings & Northwestern is the newest line in Adams County. It constitutes the "Gibbon cutoff," and extends from Hastings to Gibbon. The Hastings & Northwestern is a Union Pacific road. Regular service was established between Hastings and Gibbon during the first few days of June. This cutoff is twenty eight miles long and was constructed with great rapidity; negotiations for right of way were not begun until the fall of 1912 and the rails were laid by April 1, 1913.

The new station on Third Street is located within 100 feet of the original location of the station of the St. Joseph & Denver City. The passenger station of the St. Joseph & Grand Island which was located south of the Burlington tracks, between Denver and Hastings avenues, was removed to East Twelfth Street after the present station came into use and is now used as a freight and yard office. The Third Street station was erected at a cost of $60,000. The railroad has bought the property lying between Minnesota Avenue and their tracks from Second Street to Seventh Street.

The East Side Boulevard was opened on property purchased by the City of Hastings in 1912. In granting the right to the Hastings & Northwestern Railroad the city council closed Third, Fourth, Sixth, Tenth and Eleventh streets at their point of intersection with Wabash Avenue and the East Side Boulevard was opened to relieve the condition thus produced.

The first station agent of the St. Joseph & Denver City was John J. Wemple. A. A. Sweet followed, and then came Sam Heacox, who was the predecessor of Mr. Conoughy. J. J. Conough has been the agent since September 5, 1885.

The Burlington station in Hastings was located on Bellevue Avenue from 1873 to 1902. At the time that the first station was located, in 1873, there was a lively rivalry among the residents. The Hastings Townsite Company exerted all its efforts to have the station located within the boundaries of the original town, while John G. Moore, whose holding lay immediately west, endeavored to influence the railroad to place the station in the vicinity of his land. To clinch his argument Mr. Moore donated thirteen acres of land and some building lots to the railroad, with the result that the station was built in the west end. The first station was destroyed by fire in 1879, and a new one built. For several years a lunch room was maintained near the station.

The present Burlington station was completed in 1902 at a cost of about $75,000. When the location was changed from Bellevue Avenue to St. Joseph, the west side objected as strenuously as had the east side in 1873. They argued that the location had been determined upon for a consideration and that the railroad had no moral right to change. Julius C. Swartz has been the station agent at the Burlington continuously since 1884, returning that year from a period in Denver. Before going to the latter place he was in Hastings for some time.

For the aid of the construction of railroads in Adams County $211,000 in bonds were voted. Of this sum $6,000 were township bonds voted by Ayr and Little Blue for the aid of the Kansas City & Omaha. Upon the same date, March 26, 1887, the Kansas City & Omaha bonds were defeated in Roseland and Cottonwood townships. For the aid of the Pacific Railroad, now the Missouri Pacific, Adams County voted $125,000 and the City of Hastings $20,000. For the aid of the Chicago & Northwestern, Hastings voted $60,000. All these bonds have been paid and the county has no bonded indebtedness. The assessed valuation of railroads and car companies in Adams County in 1916 was $1,277,960, making a total valuation of $6,389,800.

Adams County towns are located as follows, with respect to railroads: On the main line of the Burlington-Hastings, Juniata, Kenesaw. On the St. Joseph & Grand Island-Hastings and Hansen. On the Chicago & Northwestern-Hastings. On the Missouri Pacific-Prosser, Juniata, Hastings, Pauline. On Red Cloud branch of the Burlington ____ Ayr. On the Burlington's south county line Holstein, Roseland, Leroy, Pauline. On the Hastings & Northwestern-Hastings, Newmarch, Gayland. Charles Moritz, of Prosser, operates the elevators at Newmarch and Gayland.

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