Branch Union Pacific Railway (CBUP)
The Central Branch Union Pacific (later Central Branch of the Missouri Pacific) Railroad covered north central Kansas, pushed northwest into Nebraska in hopes of connecting to the Union Pacific RR and moved west toward Denver. In fact, this line never made it to Denver, nor connected directly to the UPRR, but rather became closely associated and finally a part of the Missouri Pacific through it's connection at Atchison, Kansas.
The Union Pacific was to head west and open a passage to the West and California. It was a natural choice for other roads to capitalize on this goal by striving to be the first to make key connections to this route. With hopes of building one of the four proposed branches of the UPRR, Atchison raised it's flag in 1859 with the colorfully named Atchison & Pike's Peak railroad.This branch was to build to the republican River and meet the proposed Kansas City branch which would head for the UP along the 100th meridian at Fort Kearny, Nebraska.
August 6, 2012 the UP's move west from Omaha, the ceremonial first rails of the A&PP were laid, heading west from Atchison, Kansas. The A&PP was no longer a mere paper railroad. Progress was hindered by the fact the road yet lacked a locomotive, but by March 29th, 1866 Locomotive #3 arrived from Missouri. July 9th, 1866 saw the first mixed train run to the end of track.
But Congress sanctioned
a change to the state's rail development, the Kansas City Branch was
to follow the Smoky Hill River to Denver, rather than meet the A&PP
on the Republican. The Atchison & Pike's Peak original purpose
was gone. In hopes to keep it's dreams alive admidst the westward
struggle to Denver, the railroad officially changed it's name to the
Central Branch Union Pacific Railroad and pressed for further subsidies.
It would be some time before the open prairies were populated by enough
homesteaders to encourage the road to grow. And the new frontier railroad
would grow, as newly formed counties and towns were built from the
sod the company had income to pay for its expansion.
At the same time the Central
Branch trains now were running to Frankfort, with passenger trains
leaving Atchison every day except Sundays at 7:00 a.m. and arriving
at Frankfort at 1:00 p.m. The returning passenger left Frankfort at
1:30 p.m. and reached Atchison at 6:30 p.m. The distance to Frankfort
was 78.5 miles, and freight trains left Atchison at 7:00 p.m. and
arrived in Frankfort at 1:00 a.m., on the return trip leaving Frankfort
at 1:30 a.m. and reaching Atchison at 6:30 a.m.
In 1872, another push to extend the railroad fell through. It wouldn't be until 1878 before the line actually reached Beloit, and 1879 before it was built to the forks of the Solomon. During the decade of the 1870's the country west of Waterville filled up with settlers and many small, new towns were built.
It wasn't until the late 1870s under yet another name change, now as the Central Branch Railroad, that the original rendezvous point of the fertile Republican Valley was reached in 1877. From the new town of Downs the road divided and ran along both tributaries. No other railroad had pushed so deeply into northwest Kansas.
Another battle brewed, and the Central Branch helped organize the local Atchison, Republican Valley & Pacific on May 24th, 1879. The plan was to create a route northwest along the Republican, and intersect the Union Pacific Railroad at or near the 100th meridian. The Central Branch officials hoped to join the Union Pacific at Willow Island, Nebraska. Prospects looked good, but the actual extension of the railroad wouldn't be easy. The local officials stepped down in favor of the Central Branche's own as actual construction began, with the promise the line would be down in Scandia by the end of 1878. The first passenger train pulled into Scandia on December 31st, with two hours to spare.
Now business began to boom as shippers and passengers crowded along with a rapid population increase. The wagons of grain that once rumbled through enroute to Concordia now could be marketed here. Scandia prospered, and so did the Central Branch. The road was a valuable asset and in a controversial exchange of stock with the notrious Jay Gould, the Union Pacific aquired the Central Branch. The UP in turn leased the line to the Missouri Pacific.
The line continued to prosper and would next cross Washington and Republic counties in Kansas, and enter Nebraska in Jefferson County. All in all, a prime homestead area of 6,400,000 acres of choice agricultural and stock lands were accessible by the extension.
Though the Central Branch didn't develop quite as planned, it's rails eventually pushed northwest into Nebraska to serve the towns of Superior, Hastings and the town of Prosser, which became the northwesternmost terminus point on the Missouri Pacific system.
In the late 1930's, the line was cut back 15 miles to Hastings. As WWII unfolded and the country braced itself to fight the war, the railroad commision suggested MoPac should cut off service to the small town of Prosser due to wartime priorities. Hastings then became the end of the line. At the same time, the Naval Munitions Depot was built at Hasting, resulting in the severing and abandonment of the Chicago & Northwestern line there. The abandoned depot and small yards eventually were assumed by the local MoPac.
Both the CB&Q and UP gave access east and west, but MoPac provided the the only southeastern rail transport for completed munitions from the naval depot. As the only feed to the southeast from the Naval Munitions Depot , the Prosser division florished, becoming known as the "Million Dollar Railroad" because of the munitions components (such as shell casings) that flowed to Hastings upon the MoPac.
Today the Prosser line is gone, after being long abandoned. By the time of the UP merger, the "Million Dollar" line was a memory and it once again returned to it's former branchline status. GP15-1 #1675 made the final run from Concordia, Kansas to Hastings on March 1, 1985. The small loco went south back to Kansas, never to return. (source: Missouri Pacific River and Prairie Rails-The MoPac in Nebraska, by Michael Bartels, and RailroadTown.com)
At the time of this update, a detailed history of
the Missouri Pacific's Northern Kansas Division (the old Central Branch
Union Pacific) is under preperation by MPHS member Doug Brush of Downs,
Last Updated: August 6, 2012
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All Rights Reserved.
All material and photos are for personal use only! All rights reserved by the Missouri Pacific Historical Society. These items are copyrighted by the original owners or by the Missouri Pacific Historical Society and may not be reproduced or redistributed in any form without express written permission from the owners.
Copyrighted © 2001 - 2013 Missouri Pacific Historical
Society, Inc. unless otherwise noted.