Wichita Railway History

Brief Historical notes on Wichita's Railways

On May 16, 1872, the first train arrived in Wichita on a dark and stormy night. No photographer was on hand to record the historic event. However, weeks later, a photo was taken where a stockyard facility was located near Kellogg street. The photo showed a diamond-stacked wood-burning locomotive. Wichita may almost have been left out of the development of railways in the state, but, J. R. Mead, a Wichita founder, wrote to Mr. T. J. Peters of the Santa Fe and learned the terms of getting a railway into Wichita. He helped organize a bond issue election. On June 22, 1871, the Wichita and Southwestern Railroad Company was incorporated. The citizens of Sedgwick County voted to accept the bond issue on August 11, 1871, and a few short months later, Wichita had its line from Newton at a cost of $200,000 in bonds. Herds of cattle used to be driven right down Douglas avenue to the stockyards which, at that time, were located around Kellogg avenue.

After the arrival of the Santa Fe in 1872, business was stimulated to ask for more railway service. The Frisco arrived in 1880 as the St. Louis, Kansas and Wichita. The first Missouri Pacific train arrived on July 4, 1883, on the subsidiary line, St. Louis, Fort Scott & Wichita. The City gave them the right of way for 12 blocks on Wichita street.

The people of Wichita campaigned to have the railway companies build an elevated overpass on East Douglas. Meanwhile, the city celebrated the new Union Station on East Douglas, built at a cost of $2,500,000, with a torch light parade on March 7, 1913. The Kansas City, Mexico and Orient railway was sold for a little over $6 Million. The KCM&O built railway shops in west Wichita (along Orient boulevard) in 1925. Later, the Santa Fe purchased the line southwestward from Wichita. The shops were always called the "Orient" shops until their dismantling.

Prior to the construction of the Douglas street overpass, a tower man was on duty 24 hours a day to guard the crossing at street level. President Woodrow Wilson was scheduled to make a speech in Wichita on September 26, 1919, but was too ill to leave the train when it arrived. The Wichita Union Station would have been the site of the speaking engagement.

Only within recent years has the Missouri Pacific line finally been abandoned. We were on the last train to travel there, from Wichita to Durand, Ks and return when a Union Pacific passenger train was chartered to run an excursion in October, 1994. A group of four Wichita Business men organized a separate independent company to build a railway line in the 1880's. It was taken into the Missouri Pacific soon. The original Mopac depot was located north of Douglas between Wichita street and Waco street. The Missouri Pacific built a new depot which was opened in 1901. It stood for years until torn down for construction of the Garvey Center, a business and hotel complex, in the 1960's.

The Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific became Wichita's 4th railroad when it reached Wichita on July 12, 1887 and continued on to Pond Creek, Oklahoma, which it reached the following year.

The Arkansas Valley Interurban operated out of Wichita to Newton and Hutchinson beginning some time after 1910, with the Hutchinson line opening in 1915.