The Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railroad – Through Architecture!

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For decades, the SWC has been home to dozens—nay hundreds!—of architectural renderings of structures along the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railway. And now many of these have been digitized and placed online for your viewing and/or researching pleasure. Take for example the plans, above, for a hotel in Albuquerque, New Mexico, drafted in 1953.

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A little background: chartered in 1859 as the Atchison and Topeka Railroad Company by Cyrus K. Holliday, the organization’s rail lines eventually extended to Los Angeles, California, by 1887, after breaking ground in Texas in 1881. The Gulf, Colorado, and Santa Fe Railway was added in 1886 to obtain a connection to the Gulf of Mexico. Construction of new buildings along the line proceeded well into the 20th century, such as the Dodge City car icing house, above, constructed in 1929.

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By 1888 the Texas Panhandle was well-integrated in the railroad’s service lines. The historic Round House in Slaton, Texas (above) is a Lubbock-area testament to its influence. The organization was renamed the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railroad (ATSF) Company in 1893 when its lines became part of the Santa Fe Railroad system. The company remained active in land colonization, town-site development, and transportation throughout its history.

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Our ATSF records don’t just consist of plans for dormitories on the rim of the Grand Canyon, such as the one above. They also contain early 20th century correspondence between local businesses and various local, state, and regional divisions of the ATSF, most prominently those in Abilene, Lubbock, and San Angelo, Texas. Other correspondence and financial documents cover various subjects and hail from small, scattered towns throughout the ATSF’s area. And, as with any railroad collection, we have reams of timetables, train order slips, annual reports, and other such goodies.

So if you’re interested in seeing more ATSF materials, head over to our digitized plans or look over the collections’ finding aids. Then give us a call, and we’ll get them into your hands!

Head West!

At the turn of the century (the 20th century, that is), many corporations, investors, and capitalists wanted to share a little something wonderful with you: THE AMERICAN WEST. Anywhere west of the Mississippi River was a latter-day Eden, and for a few cents on the acre you could own a piece of this unique prize. Only a fool would pass on thousands of square miles of: Bountiful harvests! Spacious ranches! Amazing weather! And plentiful railroads!

California Is the Place You Want to Be!


Jerome Madden, Land Agent for the Southern Pacific Railroad (S.P.R.R.) Company, knew everything about California in 1890. His mission was to share that knowledge with you. In his publications, nary an acre of land nor the crops that flourished there were left unexamined (the orchards alone could conjure a man’s fortune!) No comparison to other regions was left unexplored, either. How did California compare to Europe? Madden knew this much: “the superiority of the climate of California over that of Italy has been mentioned by many noted travelers.” Why, even the London Spectator described California’s weather as “the nearest (to) perfection in the world,” comparable only to Tasmania!


Now that Mr. Madden had potential buyers’ attention, it was time to tell them how to find to this coastal paradise. Fortunately, there were only three railroads headed west (that bore the S.P.R.R.’s seal of quality, at any rate), keeping the move to California as simple as possible. Pick one, and profit!

Colorado, Here We Come!


California wasn’t the only paradise on earth in the United States, at least according to the Union Pacific Railroad. South Platte Valley, Colorado boasted soil vastly superior in depth and content to that of the “Eastern and Middle West States,” which was fortunate because there was cash money in that soil…in the form of sugar beets! “It is the belief of experts that the production of sugar beets will become the leading business of inhabitants of this valley” due to its “bright sunshine” and light summer rains. There were other financial opportunities in the area, to be sure, but for the discerning emigrant, beets were Coloradan gold.


Not to be outdone by competitors such as the S.P.R.R. whose helpful directions were undoubtedly inspiring Americans to move west by the gross, the Union Pacific line’s publications shared their extensive travel information. The Union Pacific Overland Route was, after all, “the only direct line to all principal points West.”

Hurry On Out to Sunny Texas!


The Caswell Brothers knew what the savvy homesteader really wanted: tillable land on the cheap! And, if you were feeling particularly cowboyish, there had a little ranch land to sell, too. But wait! Why not live in the city instead? After all, Fort Worth had boomed from a modest hamlet of 11,000 people with no railroad access in 1876 to a whopping 30,000 souls in 1880, every one of whom could boast that they now enjoyed eleven railroads leading out of town!


Texas held more temptations than just the railroad-clogged metropolis of Fort Worth. After all, weren’t folks tired of the incessant blizzards plaguing them in, presumably, every other part of the United States? Look no further than Texas for sweet relief! This image, helpfully provided by the Caswell Brothers in their promotional material, shows the truth of the matter. The shivering masses turn their eyes to the Lone Star and its abundant crops, cattle, and cowtowns. Why, who wouldn’t point their wagon toward sunny Texas immediately?

The Southwest Collection is full of a variety of curiosities such as these promotional land pamphlets, many of which can be found in digital format here. Our Reference Department would be happy to help you find any others if you, the interested researcher, would like to see them.


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Webster’s Dictionary defines railroads as “a permanent road having a line of rails fixed to ties and laid on a roadbed and providing a track for cars or equipment drawn by locomotives or propelled by self-contained motors.” That definition is very boring. U.S. railroads have a rich, interesting history. Built through backbreaking labor over the course of decades, they were an essential element of 19th century commerce, whether via transportation or the sale of land. Travelers had few other options for crossing the continent, and no other method proved anywhere near as timely as railroads. The SWC is fortunate to have many documents created by railroad corporations and affiliated individuals that reveal intriguing portions of that industry’s history.

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The digitized images above come from a publication entitled The Great South-west: an illustrated monthly, published by the Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad. The first image from volume 7, issue number 3 dates from 1879 and depicts the cover of the Great South-west, most of which is a description of the many sights observable on a train ride through their territory. The second image is of a timetable sheet designed to assist passengers in planning their trips and, of course, making it to the station on time. The rest of this issue can be found here.

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“For fine lands and cheap-priced lands, the State of Texas can, perhaps, beat the world,” reads the first line of volume 8, issue number 1 (just above). Much of the content in this 1881 issue, which can be found in its entirety here, concerns the sale of land along the railroad route. Land sales were often as important a method of income for railroad developers as the actual movement of freight. Real estate opportunities existed along all rail lines, the massive size of which can be seen in the image below, which traces the route of the Missouri-Pacific (MoPac) Railway.

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These images are but two among hundreds of similar materials at the SWC. Two full collections of records from the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railway (1905-1973 and 1910-1986) document that company’s activities for nearly a century. The Texas and Pacific Coal Company Records, 1889-1979 as well as the Fort Worth and Denver Railway Company Photograph Collection represent another large portion of our railroad holdings. Lastly, the Robert Wright Armstrong Papers, 1868-1975 contains correspondence, photographs, financial and legal material, and other items pertaining to Armstrong’s business, political, and personal activities as a railroad executive. Taken altogether, these collections provide a wealth of opportunities for interested researchers.

The entirety of the publications discussed above, as well as many other digitized collections, may be found here. Our Reference Department will happily provide access to our physical holdings as well.