|The long delayed 50-mile line from Topeka to Atchison was built early in 1872, with the first train passing over |
this division on May 16th, 1872. This outlet was valuable as it gave the road terminal connections with a number
of important lines, such as the Hannibal & St. Joseph, Rock Island, Chicago Burlington & Quincy and the
Missouri Pacific. A good eastern outlet was thus secured, the Santa Fe was no longer forced to depend solely
upon the Kansas Pacific and could now route its own shipments directly to the trans-Missouri River railroads.
In the early spring of the same year the Newton and Southwestern, the first Santa Fe branch, was built from
Newton to Wichita, Kansas, some 27 miles. This road which was built nominally by private parties friendly to
the Santa Fe, was speedily acquired by that company. General Manager, T. J. Peter, realizing that Wichita then
a village, might some day become a city of importance and that this branch would soon open a good traffic,
strongly urged the directors to take the initiative in building it. Chiefly because of unfavorable business
conditions the Board of Directors declined. Whereupon Mr. Peter raised the money and built the road on his own
responsibility. The directors, now convinced that the branch was valuable, proceeded to buy it from Thomas J.
Peter, who charged a snug profit for his trouble.
There now remained about 285 miles to be constructed from Newton west to the State line. This route for
much of the distance followed the Santa Fe trail along the Valley of the Arkansas, it led through wild and
uninhabited prairies that included wild Indians. Work started from Newton on May 01, 1872, as the line had
been laid out by Engineer Albert A. Robinson, assisted by James D. Burr. Because of the level of the country
grading was comparatively easy. Materials and supplies were brought over the line as needed and fast from the
Missouri river as the line was extended. The track laying and erection of bridges were under the direction of
James Criley, a profane but exceedingly proficient Irishman, who drove the construction hard and fast.
The road was completed to Hutchinson, 33 miles, on June 17th, 1872, to Great Bend, 51 miles, on August 5th;
to Larned, 23 miles, on August 12th; to Dodge City, 60 miles and beyond, on September 11th; and to the State
line, which the government engineers were tardy in locating, on December 28th, 1872, when cars were run over
the entire route from Missouri to Colorado. The land grant was saved with over two months to spare.
By the close of 1872 the Atchison Topeka & Santa Fe railroad had been built across Kansas with a main line
stem of 469 miles from Atchison to Topeka, south to Emporia, southwest through Florence and Newton, around
the big bend of the Arkansas through Great Bend, Larned, Dodge City and then due west along the valley of the
Arkansas to Colorado. There was also a branch, 28 miles in length from Newton to Wichita and with the advance
of the charter line into Colorado in early 1873, the Santa Fe could now proudly state in their report issued
March 31st, 1873, that they had 497 miles of railroad in full operation.