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St. Joseph & Grand Island Railway

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This page was last updated on August 1, 2012.

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The following comes from Ehernberger and Gschwind's Smoke Above The Plains:


Menoken, Kansas to Grand Island, Nebraska

Affording a vital connection with the Union Pacific's Nebraska Division and the main artery of the railroad system, the Fourth Sub-Division consists of 251.8 miles of trackage from Menoken, Kansas, 4.9 miles west of Topeka, to Grand Island, Nebraska via Upland and Marysville, Kansas and Hastings, Nebraska. At the latter point the sub-division joins the Hastings Branch or "Gibbon Cutoff" of the Nebraska Division, affording a direct route to the west and northwest over the U. P. main line. Most through freight between Kansas City and points west is moved over this route.

This sub-division actually consists of two distinct segments of line. The first consists of the 70-mile segment from Menoken to Upland which was formerly known as the Topeka Branch, and was constructed by the Topeka & Northwestern Railroad. In 1906 the T. & N. W. laid the rails from Menoken to Onaga, a distance of 37.1 miles and in 1910 completed the remaining 32.9 miles to Upland. The second portion of this sub-division, comprising 181.9 miles between Upland and Grand Island is composed of approximately the western two-thirds of the former St. Joseph & Grand Island Railway. The St. Joseph & Denver City Railroad constructed 157.5 miles from Upland to Hastings in 1872 and in 1879 the remaining 24.4 miles to Grand Island were completed by the Hastings & Grand Island Railroad. The line climbs very gradually as it continues northwestward, from 899 feet above sea level at Menoken to 1864 feet at Grand Island.

Sub-division points included Marysville and Hastings as well as Grand Island. Engine houses which served power on this line in addition to the facility at Topeka included the 16-stall roundhouse at Marysville and the 8-stall structure at Hastings. At Grand Island, on the Nebraska Division, the 38-stall roundhouse served Kansas Division power which found its way into that terminal during the glory years of steam. A turntable at Hanover, Kansas, 14.9 miles west of Marysville also saw service for many years turning helper engines which were used over Hanover Hill, and served as a reminder of early years when Hanover, rather than Marysville, was a sub-division point. Centralized Traffic Control governs train movements over the 227.4 miles between Menoken and Hastings.


St. Joseph, Missouri to Upland, Kansas

Extending westward for 107.8 miles from St. Joseph, Missouri to Upland, Kansas, the St. Joseph Branch constitutes approximately the eastern one-third of the venerated St. Joseph & Grand Island Railway. From St. Joseph to Troy, Kansas, Union Pacific trains have trackage rights over 13.9 miles of the Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific Railroad. The 93.9-mile section from Troy to Upland was constructed by the St. Joseph & Denver City Railroad, predecessor of the St. J. 8c G. I., in 1872. Steam power operating out of the eastern terminal of the branch was serviced in the 24-stall roundhouse of the St. Joseph Terminal Railroad.

The 7.2-mile Highland Branch, constructed by the St. Joseph & Grand Island in 1908, diverged from the St. Joseph Branch at Stout, Kansas, 22 miles west of St. Joseph, and extended northward to Highland, Kansas. This branch was abandoned in 1952.

The St. Joseph & Grand Island Railway was the 107-mile line across northeastern Kansas, from St. Joseph (Kansas City), Missouri to Upland, Kansas (five miles east of Marysville). After the January 1936 system consolidation, the line was operated by UP as the St. Joseph Branch, after UP gained control in 1897. (See Ehernberger and Gschwind's "Union Pacific Steam, Eastern District", page 143.)

Marysville, Kansas (mile post 148.07 on the Kansas Division mainline) northwest to Hastings, Nebraska (mile post 261.84 on the Kansas Division mainline) was built in 1872 by St. Joseph & Denver City Railroad. (Union Pacific Eastern District Condensed Profile dated January 1, 1981)

The St. Joseph & Denver City completed from Marysville to Fairbury, Nebraska (145 miles) on March 15, 1872, and completed to Hastings, Nebraska (245 miles) in October 1872. (from "First Steam West of The Big Muddy")

Completed between Hastings and Grand Island (21 miles) in 1879 by the separate Hastings & Grand Island Railroad, after Union Pacific took control of St.J.&G.I.

Union Pacific's use of the portion between Grand Island and Hastings was reduced in 1914 when UP completed the Gibbon Cutoff between its mainline at Gibbon and Hastings. The Grand Island to Hastings portion was abandoned in the 1990s, except for five miles of the line south from Grand Island that remains in place today to serve a coal fired power plant.

The portion between Hastings and Marysville (145 miles) became part of UP's Marysville Subdivision, and today serves as a connection for unit coal trains between Wyoming and Kansas City.

The portion between Marysville and St. Joseph (107 miles) was sold by UP to Northeast Kansas & Missouri Railroad (NEKM), a subsidiary of Railtex. NEKM operations began on February 26, 1990.

NEKM sold its interest back to UP on April 15, 1999 for $3.2 million. The purchase would help UP as a potential construction project to relieve congestion on the Marysville Subdivision.

UP retained the portion between Marysville and Hiawatha (60 miles) as a spur line, used mostly for car storage. At Hiawatha, the line connects with UP's former Missouri Pacific mainline between Omaha and Kansas City. The 45-mile portion between Hiawatha and Elwood (just 1-3/4 mile west of St. Joseph) was abandoned and removed. The portion between Elwood and St. Joseph includes the swing bridge over the Missouri River and a few industries in the area west of St. Joseph.


February 17, 1857
Palmetto and Roseport Railroad was organized

To build a railroad from Roseport, Kansas, opposite St. Joseph, Missouri to Palmetto Kansas. The road to be built was intended as an extension of the Hannibal & St. Joseph Railroad.

Construction started on Palmetto and Roseport Railroad

First rail laid; first in the state of Kansas; completed to Wathena, 5 miles

May 12, 1862
Palmetto and Roseport Railroad name changed to St. Joseph & Denver City Railroad, with plans to build to Fort Kearney in Nebraska

August 11, 1866
St. Joseph and Denver City Railroad was consolidated with Northern Kansas Railroad

May 1869
St. Joseph and Denver City Railroad completed 14 miles to Troy, Kansas.

July 25, 1871
Construction was begun on a bridge over the Missouri River at St. Joseph.

December 1872
St. Joseph & Denver City Railroad was completed to Hastings, Nebraska, a distance of 227 miles.

Missouri River bridge completed.

June 18, 1875
St. Joseph & Denver City Railroad entered receivership; Kansas lines reorganized in September 1876 as St. Joseph and Pacific Railroad; Nebraska lines reorganized in September 1876 as Kansas and Nebraska Railway.

April 21, 1877
St. Joseph and Western Railroad was organized as a consolidation of St. Joseph and Pacific Railroad in Kansas, and Kansas and Nebraska Railway in Nebraska.

May 9, 1879
Hastings and Grand Island Railroad was organized

St. Joseph & Western took ownership of the Missouri River bridge

Union Pacific gained control of the St. Joseph and Western, but operated it as a separate company

February 18, 1880
Hastings & Grand Island Railroad was sold to St. Joseph & Western Railroad

January 1884
St. Joseph & Western entered receivership; Kansas lines reorganized in June 1885 as St. Joseph and Marysville Railroad; Nebraska lines reorganized in June 1885 as Grand Island and Marysville Railroad

June 22, 1885
St. Joseph and Grand Island Railroad was organized to purchase the assets of the St. Joseph & Western Railroad.

Fully controlled by Union Pacific through majority stock ownership.

St. Joseph & Grand Island locomotives were assigned numbers in the June 1885 renumbering of all locomotives, freight cars and passenger cars of all Union Pacific-controlled railroads, but there is no evidence that any of the locomotives were actually renumbered. This was likely because UP did not own all of StJ&GI stock, and other shareholders objected to the renumbering.

Union Pacific and St. Joseph & Grand Island built a joint depot in Marysville. (UP 1922 annual report, courtesy of Jim Ehernberger)

January 5, 1887
St. Joseph & Grand Island Railroad and AT&SF form the jointly owned St. Joseph Terminal Railroad; a new freight house was built by the terminal company in 1890.

St. Joseph Terminal Railroad also owned the St. Joseph shops from February 1, 1888 until July 1, 1900.

Union Pacific organized the Kansas City & Omaha Railroad, and operated it as part of what was called the "St. Joseph & Grand Island Division." The KC&O locomotives were not renumbered into UP's system, and all locomotives later received Burlington & Missouri River and CB&Q road numbers.

October 13, 1893
St. Joseph & Grand Island Railroad entered receivership along with Union Pacific; Kansas lines reorganized in December 1896 as St. Joseph, Hanover & Western Railway; Nebraska lines reorganized in December 1896 as Grand Island, Hastings & Southeastern Railroad

February 22, 1897
St. Joseph and Grand Island Railway was incorporated (after being organized on February 16, 1897) as a consolidation of St. Joseph, Hanover & Western Railway (in Kansas), and Grand Island, Hastings & Southeastern Railroad (in Nebraska).

"For a time Harriman seemed content to let the St. Joseph & Grand Island drift away as well. In December 1896 the road's reorganization committee bought the road at foreclosure sale and declared their intention of running it as an independent line. By 1900 it had arranged trackage rights into Kansas City and begun to show a modest profit. Satisfied that the branch had potential and bothered by rumors that the Rock Island wanted to buy it, Harriman made his move in 1902. Without warning, his representatives turned up at the St. Joseph stockholders' meeting with enough stock to oust the current directors and install their own men. The new board promptly stopped paying a dividend on preferred stock and embarked on a program of improvements under Berry's watchful eye. Harriman kept personal control of the road until 1906, when he sold his holdings to the Union Pacific." (Union Pacific, The Rebirth, by Maury Klein, page 71)

Union Pacific completed a new cutoff between Gibbon and Hastings, to shorten the route for through traffic between the West and Kansas City. UP trains used part of the StJ&GI between Hastings and Upland, near Marysville.

February 23, 1923
St. Joseph & Grand Island Railway owned by UP, incorporated as successor to St. Joseph & Grand Island Railroad.

Automatic block signals were installed on Union Pacific's line between Gibbon, Nebraska, and Menoken, Kansas, including that portion of St. Joseph & Grand Island between Upland and Hastings; the purpose being to affect a "bridge line" for the movement of through traffic between Gibbon and Kansas City. (UP 1931 annual report, courtesy of Jim Ehernberger)

January 1, 1936
Union Pacific leased the St. Joseph & Grand Island Railway for operation., along with the Los Angeles & Salt Lake Railroad, the Oregon-Washington Railway & Navigation Company, and the Oregon Short Line Railroad. ("Union Pacific Unification", ICC Finance Docket 9422, dated July 26, 1935, in 207 ICC 543.)

"LEASE OF PROPERTIES OF SUBSIDIARY RAILROAD COMPANIES --- For many years the properties of the Union Pacific Railroad Company and those of the Oregon Short Line Railroad Company, Oregon-Washington Railroad & Navigation Company, Los Angeles & Salt Lake Railroad Company and The St. Joseph and Grand Island Railway Company have been operated under one control and management but the operations of the properties of each company were for its account and it was necessary to keep accounts and statistics and make separate reports to regulatory commissions and others for each company. Effective January 1, 1936, the properties of the other companies were leased to and are being operated by the Union Pacific Railroad This made possible the centralization at Omaha of all accounting and treasury work in connection with the railroad operations and the discontinuance of the separate Accounting and Treasury Departments which had been maintained by the lessor companies at Salt Lake City, Portland, Los Angeles and St. Joseph, with a resultant saving in expense (after the first year) estimated at $472,000 annually." (Union Pacific Annual Report for 1936)

(Click here for more information about Union Pacific's lease in 1936 of its OSL, OWRR&N and LA&SL subsidiaries, including St. Joseph & Grand Island)

Union Pacific began the operation of a motor car to replace the daily passenger train between St. Joseph and Grand Island.

The operation of the motor car was discontinued, making StJ&GI a freight-only railroad.