Kansas Pacific Railway

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This page was last updated on August 17, 2015.

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Constructed as Union Pacific Railway, Eastern Division; changed to Kansas Pacific Railway in March 1869; operation Kansas City to Denver commenced in September 1870.

Operated as Kansas Pacific Railway from March 1869 to January 1880, when the company was sold to Union Pacific Railway.

Kansas Pacific Railway was initially organized as the Leavenworth, Pawnee & Western Railroad on February 1, 1855. No construction was completed by this company but it received a charter from the U. S. Congress on July 1, 1862. To show larger plans, in June 1863 the company was renamed to the Union Pacific Railway, Eastern Division.

Construction started at a point very close to Kansas City in early September 1863. The road's initial goal was to reach the 100th Meridan, a point in Kansas close to today's town of Voda, 330 miles west of Kansas City. In July 1866 the road's promoters convinced Congress to let them continue on to Denver, then north to a connection with Union Pacific, or a connection with Central Pacific if that road reached Cheyenne before Union Pacific. After its start in 1863, and over the next five years, construction was completed west from Kansas City, past the 100th Meridan mark for another 76 miles, reaching Sheridan (later known as Lisbon, near today's McAllaster, Kansas) on August 22, 1868, where construction stalled again until late 1869.

The Union Pacific Railway, Eastern Division name was changed to a much simpler Kansas Pacific Railway on March 3, 1869, and westward construction resumed in October 1869. To get the road completed sooner, construction started east from Denver in March 1870 at a connection with the soon-to-be completed Denver Pacific, and the two crews met at a point called Comanche Crossing, Kansas Territory, on August 15, 1870. Operation between Kansas City and Denver began on September 1, 1870.

As an illustration of varying source material, the following comes from "Crofutt's New Overland Tourist and Pacific Coast Guide," 1882, page 49:

The Kansas Pacific Railway Company, formerly the "Leavenworth, Pawnee and Western", was incorporated by Act of Congress July 1, 1862, to construct a railroad and telegraph line from the Missouri River, at the mouth of the Kansas, to connect with the Pacific Railroad of Missouri, to the 100th meridian of longitude, upon the same terms and conditions as provided for the construction of the Pacific Railroad across the continent, and to meet and connect at the meridian above named.

The route proposed was from the mouth of the Kansas River to the junction of the Republican Fork, at Fort Riley; thence up the Republican, over the 'divide' and Platte River and connect with the Union Pacific near Kearny Stations.

Work commenced on the "K.P." at Wyandotte, Kansas, September 1, 1863.

By Act of Congress of July 2, 1864, the company acquired additional rights; and again, by amendment of the original Act, approved July 3, 1866, was authorized to change their route and build westward--on the 39th parallel--from Fort Riley up the Smoky Hill River to Denver, in Colorado; thence to a junction with the Union Pacific at or near Cheyenne, Wyoming.

The road was completed to Denver in 1870, and in 1872, by the purchase of a controlling interest in the Denver Pacific, reached Cheyenne; and again, by a sale in 1879, passed to the management of Union Pacific parties, where it still remains.


February 1, 1855
Organized as Leavenworth, Pawnee & Western; chartered by Act of Congress on July 1, 1862 (no construction completed)

June 6, 1863
Name changed to Union Pacific Railway Eastern Division

Union Pacific Eastern Division

June 6, 1863
Leavenworth, Pawnee & Western changed to Union Pacific Railway Eastern Division

September 7, 1863
Groundbreaking ceremony in Wyandotte (Kansas City), Kansas

Original charter was to build to 100th Meridan and a connection with Union Pacific

November-December 1863
UPED received its first locomotive, named "Wyandotte", built by Rogers, number 1119

UPED received its second locomotive, named "Delaware", built by Norris, purchased secondhand

November 28, 1864
First excursion train, Wyandotte, Kansas to Lawrence, Kansas, 38 miles. (Deseret News, January 4, 1865)

December 1864
UPED received its third locomotive, named "Pottowattamie", from commission merchant M. K. Jessup Company which in turn purchased the locomotive from Union Pacific; built as one of Union Pacific's first locomotives as "Lt. General Grant" in 1864 by Danforth, Cooke, number 383

July 3, 1866
Charter changed by an amendment to the original Congressional charter of 1862, to change destination from 100th Meridan, to build its route westward along 39th Parallel from Fort Riley to Denver, via Smoky Hill River; then north to a connection with Union Pacific at Cheyenne.

October 1, 1867
Union Pacific Eastern Division completed to Ellsworth, Kansas Territory, 224 miles from Wyandotte and Kansas City. (From the pamphlet "Letter of John D. Perry, President of the Union Pacific Railway, Eastern Division, January 2, 1868," available from Google Books)

October 14, 1867
UPED competed to Hays, Kansas Territory, 260 miles from Wyandotte and Kansas City. (From the pamphlet "Letter of John D. Perry, President of the Union Pacific Railway, Eastern Division, January 2, 1868," available from Google Books)

August 22, 1868
Westward construction was completed to Sheridan, Kansas, located at mile post 406, about one-half mile east of today's UP passing siding known as McAllaster, Kansas. (construction stalled at Sheridan until late 1869)

At the time of a letter written on January 2, 1868 to Congress asking for funds to complete the road, the president of UPED stated that the railroad was completed to Pond Creek, near Fort Wallace, Kansas Territory, which is 13 miles west of McAllaster. (From the pamphlet "Letter of John D. Perry, President of the Union Pacific Railway, Eastern Division, January 2, 1868," available from Google Books)

Using UP's engineering profile map of the Kansas Division, dated January 1986, the point where construction ended in 1868, and where construction resumed in 1870, is shown at Mile Post 405.77, 2.6 miles east of the siding at McAllaster, at Mile Post 408.37.

The following comes from a web page titled "A Tale of the Ghost Town of Sheridan":

This ghost town was officially "Phil Sheridan", named for the Civil War general who reportedly dined at the site (and lent his name to the county to our east). It sprang into existence July 25, 1868 when it became the end of the Kansas Pacific Railroad line, and lasted much longer than the average such boomtown owing to the KPRR running out of funds for building further west. Thus it was a place of action for over two years, until funds and a plan to continue on to Denver made it just a historical footnote.

Located near the two buttes by McAllaster on US40 in Wallace County, Sheridan was home to every sort of seedy character and misdeed imaginable during its hectic lifespan. Its two streets, either side of the tracks, were home to over 2000 living in tents, and 40 sod shanties in the early days. With the passage of months, more permanent buildings housed railroad offices, hotels, bars and brothels. The Santa Fe stage and Butterfield Overland Dispatch provided transport and communication to the west, until the railroad was finally extended. (https://www.carrollsweb.com/bfrahm/sheridan.htm; link broken)

The following comes from the work of James L. Ehernberger and Francis G. Gschwind, published as "Smoke Above The Plains" in 1965, and compiled as part of "Union Pacific Steam, Eastern District" in 1975.

Numerous legendary figures of the Great American West have left their indelible imprints in the annals of Kansas Division territory. At the long-vanished town of Sheridan, Kansas, near present-day Wallace, the dynamic William F. Cody won his immortal soubriquet of "Buffalo Bill" - probably the most glamorous name of the western saga. Sheridan was then the terminus of the K. P. and Cody had been employed by the road to provide buffalo meat for the construction gangs. However it remained for a buffalo shooting match with another skilled hunter, Billy Comstock, to provide Cody with his deathless epithet. Cody won impressively and the legend of Buffalo Bill was born.

March 3, 1869
Name changed to Kansas Pacific Railway

Kansas Pacific Railway

March 3, 1869
Union Pacific Railway Eastern Division changed to Kansas Pacific Railway

October 1869
Westward construction resumed from Sheridan, Kansas.

March 1870
Eastward construction started in Denver, from a connection with Denver Pacific (DP was completed between Cheyenne and Denver in June 1870)

(Read more about the Denver Pacific)

August 15, 1870
Westward construction and eastward construction met at Comanche Crossing, Kansas Territory.

Comanche Crossing, Kansas Territory, was later changed to become Strasburg, Colorado, where the railroad line crossed Comanche Creek at Mile Post 602.15, 602 miles west of Kansas City, and 38 miles east of Denver.

September 1, 1870
Formal operation began between Kansas City and Denver

October 3, 1870
Completed to downtown Denver's passenger depot

March 7, 1879
Jay Gould and his associates agreed to purchase controlling interest in the Kansas Pacific Railway, which had been in receivership since November 1876. (New York Times, March 7, 1879) The control took the form of Gould making a deal with the road's bondholders to settle all their claims and guarantee payment on the bonds. (New York Times, March 9, 1879) This action came after Union Pacific and Kansas Pacific had tried several times since 1875 when Gould had controlled UP, to reach agreeable terms for rate and traffic sharing.

January 24, 1880
Merged with Union Pacific Railroad and Denver Pacific Railway to form the new Union Pacific Railway.


Kansas Pacific Locomotive Roster

Union Pacific Eastern Division Locomotive Roster


Union Pacific Railroad. Corporate History of Union Pacific Railroad Company, As of June 30, 1919; in compliance with ICC Valuation Order No. 20, page 122

Colorado Railroads, by Tiv Wilkins, courtesy of Norm Metcalf

Crofutt's New Overland Tourist and Pacific Coast Guide, 1882, courtesy of Jim Hill

More Information

Denver Pacific Railway