Trains Then and Now

Today we take railroads and rail traffic for granted, at least, where I live we do. Dozens of trains pass through on the north side of our little town each day and no one notices, just part of life. But that was not always the case. When trains first passed through towns and cities much of the community would turn out to cheer and watch the powerful locomotives pulling a handful of cars.  When passenger cars were involved and the train stopped, even if but for a few minutes, it was the best entertainment in town. Funny how times change.
Modern day Coal Train rolling toward the mines to refill
When I was a kid growing up in 1950s Nebraska we still, on occasion, went down to watch the Rock Island Rocket, come in and leave. It was quite a site. The rocket would reach speeds of 70 or so miles per hour, making its Kansas City to Omaha trip in a few hours and that included several stops.
But long before our family, and many others watched and enjoined the trains, someone had to build the first track and what a job it was. 2,400 ties were needed every mile, and when they got out here our supplies of cottonwood, scrub cedar and pine were not good enough for the substantial ties needed. Most of the first ties laid through the west were Pennsylvania Oak. Eventually, enough good hard pine was found in the foothills and mountains to open several tie camps in Wyoming and the west.
At last the foothills and mountains provided Tie timber

Water and food were also a problem to supply as the tracks were built. Meat hunters like Buffalo Bill and others are well documented in history, but there is more to this story also. Building the railroad through an area where the native people did not want it was dangerous. Forts D.A. Russell, Sanders, and Fred Steel were built to house soldiers whose primary purpose would be to protect the workers and the process of building the railroad. In places, half the workers worked, and the other half stood guard duty, a tough build indeed. But they got it done, and today we hardly notice. 
The great herds were in decline but still supplied much of the
 meat for the crews building the railroad west
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