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Dodge City in Ford County, Kansas — The American Midwest (Upper Plains)
 

Dodge City, a railroad town

 
 
Dodge City, a railroad town Marker image. Click for full size.
By William Fischer, Jr., November 10, 2012
1. Dodge City, a railroad town Marker
Inscription.

For decades, Dodge City's existence was tied to the railroad. When the first train arrived on the newly-laid Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad tracks in September 1872, stacks of buffalo hides were already waiting to be transported to eastern tanneries.

Dodge quickly became the buffalo capital of the world as hunters, as well as hide and meat buyers, flocked to the Kansas prairie. An estimated three million buffalo roamed the Plains in 1870 and it was believed that natural increase would continue to supply the market.

In 1872 I organized my own outfit and went south from Ft. Dodge to shoot buffaloes for their hides. I had two big. 50 [caliber] Sharps rifles with telescopic sights, using a shell three and one-half inches long, with 110 grains of powder. Those guns would kill a buffalo as far away as you could see it, if the bullet hit the right spot....The time I made my biggest kill I fired 91 shots and killed 79 buffaloes and we figured that they all lay within an area of about two acres of ground.
- George W. Reighard, buffalo hunter

From 1872 to 1874, more than 850,000 hides were shipped out of Dodge City. In 1873 alone more than a million and a half pounds of buffalo meat, including ten railroad carloads of tongues, were transported to the East. The hunting pressure increased until
Dodge City, a railroad town Marker image. Click for full size.
By William Fischer, Jr., November 10, 2012
2. Dodge City, a railroad town Marker
Looking SE across Wyatt Earp Blvd toward former ATSF Depot in background
the great buffalo herds could no longer sustain themselves. By 1879 the southern herd was depleted; the northern herd disappeared by 1883. The buffalo, and all that depended upon them, were gone from the Great Plains.

As shipments of buffalo products diminished, cattle became Dodge City's primary commodity moved by rail. With eastern markets literally hungry for beef, Texas ranchers drove their herds of longhorns north to Kansas where rail lines offered economical shipping rates. A branch of the Chisholm Trail, and later the Western Trail, met the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad in Dodge City.

The first Texas herds reached here in 1875. The next year several hundred thousand cattle passed through town, most of which were shipped by rail. Other herds were driven on north to be fattened on nutritious buffalo grass before going to market. During the next four years, more than a million cattle passed through Dodge - the "Cowboy Capital" and "Queen of the Cowtowns." Rowdy trail hands celebrating the end of dusty, tiresome cattle drives brought the town worldwide fame. But the cattle era lasted only ten years before a tick-borne disease carried by the longhorns forced the Kansas Legislature to bar Texas herds from entering the state.

At the same time, the region's agricultural industry began to develop, aided by access to new markets served by the railroad.
Image on Dodge City, a railroad town Marker image. Click for full size.
By Unknown, circa 1900
3. Image on Dodge City, a railroad town Marker
[Caption reads] The Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad completed construction of a new passenger depot in early 1898. Along with railroad offices, it housed a Fred Harvey hotel and dining room. A later addition added a second floor and baggage room to the west end of the building. Restoration and remodeling of the building was completed in 2003.
Throughout much of Dodge City's first century, the railroad was one of the largest employers and a powerful political force.

The importance of the Santa Fe railroad to Dodge City [is evident]....L.L. Copeland, treasurer of the Santa Fe system, announced that for the month of October the Santa Fe employed at Dodge City 808 men and the payroll here for the month was $108,000.
- Dodge City Daily Globe, October 1923

In 1897 the Santa Fe started construction on a new passenger depot. A new brick freight depot was built in 1913. The passenger depot housed a Harvey House hotel and newsstand, plus the well-known El Vaquero restaurant. Railroad offices occupied the other end of the large structure. The hotel and newsstand eventually closed, but the restaurant remained open until 1948. Before the creation of Amtrak in 1971, Dodge City was served by numerous passenger trains. The Santa Fe's premier trains - including the Chief, Super Chief and El Capitan - made daily stops, often carrying well-known politicians, celebrities, and other VIPs. Freight traffic continued to be important, with much of the region's grain crops shipped by rail.

As changes in technology reduced the number of employees needed for the safe operation of trains, the railroad moved personnel out of the passenger depot and into smaller quarters. In 1996 the company transferred
Image on Dodge City, a railroad town Marker image. Click for full size.
By Unknown, circa 1922/1936
4. Image on Dodge City, a railroad town Marker
[Caption reads] The railroad continued to gain importance in the development of Dodge City with the construction of a roundhouse, a rail yard, and repair shops. The division headquarters was maintained here for many years. The Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad was a key employer in the community for nearly a century.
ownership of the depot to the community. Restoration of the historic structure began in 2000. It now stands as a symbol of the importance of railroad shipping and travel in the development of Dodge City and the surrounding region.

Photographs and other images courtesy of the Kansas State Historical Society, Boot Hill Museum, and the Kansas Heritage Center.
 
Location. 37° 45.178′ N, 100° 1.022′ W. Marker is in Dodge City, Kansas, in Ford County. Marker is at the intersection of Central Avenue and Front Street, on the left when traveling north on Central Avenue. Click for map. Marker is in this post office area: Dodge City KS 67801, United States of America.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. "Doc" Holliday (here, next to this marker); The 100th Meridian, Where East Meets West (a few steps from this marker); Wyatt Earp (within shouting distance of this marker); "Big Nose Kate" (about 300 feet away, measured in a direct line); Charles Rath (about 600 feet away); Wild and woolly Front Street (about 600 feet away); Dodge City, full of excitement (about 600 feet away); Longhorn cattle arrive (about 600 feet away). Click for a list of all markers in Dodge City.
 
Also see . . .
1. Dodge City, Kansas, History. (Submitted on May 12, 2013, by William Fischer, Jr. of Scranton, Pennsylvania.)
Image on Dodge City, a railroad town Marker image. Click for full size.
By Unknown, circa 1878
5. Image on Dodge City, a railroad town Marker
[Caption reads] Charles Rath, shown sitting on top of a rick of hides in his hide yard, was a buffalo hunter and merchant who bought and sold millions of buffalo hides in the early 1870s. His hide yard often contained as many as 50,000 green and dried buffalo hides at a time.

2. Santa Fe Railway Historical and Modeling Society. (Submitted on May 12, 2013, by William Fischer, Jr. of Scranton, Pennsylvania.)
 
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Image on Dodge City, a railroad town Marker image. Click for full size.
By Atsf, circa 1870s
6. Image on Dodge City, a railroad town Marker
[Caption reads] The Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad circulated brightly-colored posters to encourage freight and passenger business, and to advance the idea that the railroad had opened up the West for settlement.
 
 
Credits. This page originally submitted on , by William Fischer, Jr. of Scranton, Pennsylvania. This page has been viewed 778 times since then and 6 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6. submitted on , by William Fischer, Jr. of Scranton, Pennsylvania. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016.
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