Modern history

Major Events in Building the Southwestern Transcontinental System

AT&SF—Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad

D&RG—Denver and Rio Grande Railway

SP—Southern Pacific Railroad

1853   

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers leads railroad surveys of the West. Gadsden Purchase ensures U.S. control of 32nd parallel route.

1858   

Butterfield Overland Mail begins.

1860   

Cyrus K. Holliday and others incorporate AT&SF.

1862    

Congress passes Pacific Railroad Act.

1864   

Amendments to Pacific Railroad Act increase land grants.

1865   

Civil War ends; railroad construction renews with a flurry.

1866   

Union Pacific reaches the 100th meridian, in mid-Nebraska. Congress approves land grants for still-trackless SP.

1867   

William Jackson Palmer surveys 35th parallel for Kansas Pacific.

1868   

AT&SF begins construction southwest from Topeka, Kansas.

1869   

Completion of first transcontinental railroad at Promontory, Utah.

1870   

Denver Pacific reaches Denver from Cheyenne, Wyoming. Kansas Pacific completes line to Denver at Comanche Crossing. Collis P. Huntington consolidates Bay Area railroads into SP. William Jackson Palmer incorporates D&RG.

1872   

AT&SF reaches Colorado-Kansas line, earning Kansas land grant.

1873   

Panic of 1873 slows all railroad construction.

1874   

AT&SF gains access to Kansas City, Missouri.

1876   

SP completes Tehachapi Loop. SP completes San Fernando Tunnel, on San Francisco-to-L.A. line.

1877   

SP reaches Colorado River at Yuma and forces crossing.

1878   

AT&SF seizes Raton Pass and blocks D&RG advance south. D&RG and AT&SF contest Royal Gorge and route to Leadville, Colorado. Fred Harvey opens restaurant and sleeping rooms, Florence, Kansas.

1879   

Raton Pass Tunnel opens to AT&SF traffic.

1880   

“Treaty of Boston” resolves “Royal Gorge war.” SP reaches Tucson, Arizona. AT&SF reaches Albuquerque, New Mexico. John Evans sells Denver, South Park and Pacific to Jay Gould.

1881   

AT&SF makes connection with SP at Deming, New Mexico. Tom Scott sells Texas and Pacific to Jay Gould. D&RG crosses Marshall Pass and reaches Gunnison, Colorado. AT&SF and Texas and Pacific join rails at Sierra Blanca, Texas.

1882   

Denver, South Park and Pacific completes Alpine Tunnel. AT&SF completes Cañon Diablo bridge; first train to Flagstaff, Arizona.

1883   

SP Sunset Route completed, San Francisco to New Orleans. Atlantic and Pacific (AT&SF) meets the SP at Needles, California. D&RG completes line to Ogden through Colorado. California Southern connects San Diego and San Bernardino.

1884   

Georgetown Loop completed by Jay Gould.

1885   

California Southern builds line over Cajon Pass.

1887   

AT&SF joins the Gulf, Colorado and Santa Fe to its system. AT&SF builds its own line from Kansas City to Chicago. AT&SF completes its own line into Los Angeles.

1889   

William Barstow Strong leaves presidency of AT&SF.

1890   

Reporter Nellie Bly races from San Francisco to Chicago via SP and AT&SF.

1892   

AT&SF inaugurates California Limited, Chicago to Los Angeles.

1893   

Panic of 1893 forces many railroads into receivership. 1895 Edward Payson Ripley becomes president of AT&SF.

1897   

SP and AT&SF swap the Sonora and Mojave lines. First section of double track laid on AT&SF in Kansas.

1898   

AT&SF acquires the San Francisco and San Joaquin.

1900   

E. H. Harriman acquires control of SP from Huntington estate.

1901   

George Gould acquires control of D&RG.

1905   

El Tovar Hotel and Hopi House open to rave reviews at Grand Canyon. Walter “Death Valley Scotty” Scott rockets from Los Angeles to Chicago.

1908   

AT&SF completes Belen Cutoff, final link in Los Angeles–Chicago straightaway.

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