Congress sanctioned a change to the state's rail development, the
Kansas City Branch was to follow the Smoky Hill River to Denver,
rather than meet the A&PP on the Republican. The Atchison &
Pike's Peak original purpose was gone. In hopes to keep it's dreams
alive admidst the westward struggle to Denver, the railroad officially
changed it's name to the Central Branch Union Pacific Railroad and
pressed for further subsidies. It would be some time before the
open prairies were populated by enough homesteaders to encourage
the road to grow. And the new frontier railroad would grow, as newly
formed counties and towns were built from the sod the company had
income to pay for its expansion.
The newly named Central Branch Railroad reached it's 60th mile by
January 22, 1867 and built to Waterville by late that year. By November
1867, workmen were finishing the grading on the first 100 miles.
Soon the iron horse's whistle would be heard in Washington County
which lay at the end of the line. Despite pleas to Congress that
they had frustrated their mission by the 1867 route change, no more
federal funds were to go to the railroad after it completed laying
it's 100th mile, which occured in January 1868 at the Little Blue
River. The lack of aid, drought and the Panic of 1873 stalled the
lines progress. It would be some time before the open prairies were
populated by enough homesteaders to encourage the road to grow.
And the new frontier railroad would grow, as newly formed counties
and towns were built from the sod the company had income to pay
for its expansion.
At the same time the Central Branch trains now were running to Frankfort,
with passenger trains leaving Atchison every day except Sundays
at 7:00 a.m. and arriving at Frankfort at 1:00 p.m. The returning
passenger left Frankfort at 1:30 p.m. and reached Atchison at 6:30
p.m. The distance to Frankfort was 78.5 miles, and freight trains
left Atchison at 7:00 p.m. and arrived in Frankfort at 1:00 a.m.,
on the return trip leaving Frankfort at 1:30 a.m. and reaching Atchison
at 6:30 a.m.
Atchison was promoting several railroads that fall with dreams of
becoming a major rail center on the Plains. Just announced was that
the contract for the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe line had been
signed. There was talk of the Atchison and Nebraska City Road as
well. Already the Central Branch had made it's impact upon the town
with new farms were springing up alongside the rails, in every direction.
The piers of the railroad bridge over the Blue River were completed
and the first locomotive reached Irving on December 22, 1867.
By the new year the Central Branch Union Pacific was looking to
the future. The railway now ran west from the city of Atchison through
the fertile country to the Republican Valley, turning to the northwest,
and intersecting the Pacific Railroad (predecessor of the Missouri
Pacific) at or near the 100th meridian. Ninety miles of the road
were completed and in running order. The Central Branch's officials
still hoped to build northwest and join the Union Pacific in Nebraska.
The Central Branch's prospects looked good, but the actual extension
of the railroad wouldn't be easy. Much of the territory was still
During the 1870's, the Central Branch Union Pacific owned six engines,
numbers 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6. Number 6 was the switch engine. In
rolling stock the road owned only four passenger coaches -- two
at the Atchison end to run west, and two at the Waterville end to
make the trip to Atchison. To alleviate the lack of equipment two
flatcars were converted into make-shift passenger cars with benches,
staked sides and a roof covered with tree branches. Five hundred
Sunday school children rode the train in these cars.
In 1872, another push to extend the railroad fell through. It wouldn't
be until 1878 before the line actually reached Beloit, and 1879
before it was built to the forks of the Solomon. During the decade
of the 1870's the country west of Waterville filled up with settlers
and many small, new towns were built.
wasn't until the late 1870s under yet another name change, now as
the Central Branch Railroad, that the original rendezvous point
of the fertile Republican Valley was reached in 1877. From the new
town of Downs the road divided and ran along both tributaries. No
other railroad had pushed so deeply into northwest Kansas.
battle brewed, and the Central Branch helped organize the local
Atchison, Republican Valley & Pacific on May 24th, 1879. The
plan was to create a route northwest along the Republican, and intersect
the Union Pacific Railroad at or near the 100th meridian. The Central
Branch officials hoped to join the Union Pacific at Willow Island,
Nebraska. Prospects looked good, but the actual extension of the
railroad wouldn't be easy. The local officials stepped down in favor
of the Central Branche's own as actual construction began, with
the promise the line would be down in Scandia by the end of 1878.
The first passenger train pulled into Scandia on December 31st,
with two hours to spare.
business began to boom as shippers and passengers crowded along
with a rapid population increase. The wagons of grain that once
rumbled through enroute to Concordia now could be marketed here.
Scandia prospered, and so did the Central Branch. The road was a
valuable asset and in a controversial exchange of stock with the
notrious Jay Gould, the Union Pacific aquired the Central Branch.
The UP in turn leased the line to the Missouri Pacific.
The line continued to prosper and would next cross Washington and
Republic counties in Kansas, and enter Nebraska in Jefferson County.
All in all, a prime homestead area of 6,400,000 acres of choice
agricultural and stock lands were accessible by the extension.
the Central Branch didn't develop quite as planned, it's rails eventually
pushed northwest into Nebraska to serve the towns of Superior, Hastings
and the town of Prosser, which became the northwesternmost terminus
point on the Missouri Pacific system.
the late 1930's, the line was cut back 15 miles to Hastings. As
WWII unfolded and the country braced itself to fight the war, the
railroad commision suggested MoPac should cut off service to the
small town of Prosser due to wartime priorities. Hastings then became
the end of the line. At the same time, the Naval Munitions Depot
was built at Hasting, resulting in the severing and abandonment
of the Chicago & Northwestern line there. The abandoned depot and
small yards eventually were assumed by the local MoPac.
the CB&Q and UP gave access east and west, but MoPac provided
the the only southeastern rail transport for completed munitions
from the naval depot. As the only feed to the southeast from the
Naval Munitions Depot , the Prosser division florished, becoming
known as the "Million Dollar Railroad" because of the munitions
components (such as shell casings) that flowed to Hastings upon