September 5, 2011

The Iron Horse Comes to Town

written by Rosa Morgan

September 5, 1872 was a day the two brothers would never forget. They stood side by side watching history unfold before them, and yet each was experiencing feelings markedly contrary to the other.

With his hands balled into fists and his jaw clenched, Simon stared down the monster bearing down on them. It had cut a swath across the land, like a gaping wound that would never heal. Families were uprooted from ancestral homes and livelihoods lost due to its conquest. The cyclops' one eye shown ominously through the day's fading light, and its black vaporous smoke filled the air. The very ground beneath their feet rumbled with its approaching bellow, and when it's piercing whistle blew, he felt heartsick, for the peace of his homeland was forever gone.

Frederick hooked his thumbs into his suspenders, his chest was puffed up with pride, and the glint in his eyes reflected his deep satisfaction. His whole life had been devoted to developing steam engine locomotives. His interest was sparked as a boy when he read about the first American built locomotive, the Baltimore and Ohio's Tom Thumb. It was an engineering triumph, even though it had lost the impromptu race against that damnable horse and carriage. There would be no belts slipping off pulleys on this day.

Huffing and puffing with iron scraping shrilly, the The Santa Fe's train rumbled to a stop into Dodge City's newly built depot.
The band struck up and the crowds surged forward, each wanting to touch the magnificent beast. Frederick knew all too well of his brother's prejudices, but he'd hoped seeing its arrival would alter his opinion. "Isn't she magnificent? The rail and its Iron Horse is our future. We'll have efficient commerce, expansion of the West, burgeoning cities, cattle from Texas and coal from Colorado!"

Simon studied the politicians climbing the engine with their waving flags and the railroad men with their pockets bulging with profits. Congress had granted the railroad companies land all across Kansas and they in turn sold it cheaply to farmers, who would then need the train to transport their goods. He turned to his brother, "Mark Twain was woefully right when he said, 'A railroad is like a lie, you have to keep building it to make it stand."

1917 State Fair Staged Train Collision

Union Pacific

1 comment:

  1. Very interesting. If I didn't know any better, congress giving land to the railroads so they could turn around and sell it cheaply to farmers sounds a bit like socialism.