Rail Roads of Cowley County


Moving Train Engine to Wilson Park

Traveler Staff Reporter


Like many others who grew up here, Arkansas City High School senior Elisha Reeves played on the old steam locomotive in Wilson Park when she was a little girl.
     "Of course, I played on it," Reeves said today of Santa Fe engine No. 2542, which is enshrined in the park. "The train park was the best park there was."
     Generations of Arkansas City residents have enjoyed the old train engine, which has become one of the major tourist sites of the city.
     It was 50 years ago this year, in April 1955, when the train engine was moved. Obviously, Reeves has no memories of that, but she learned as a youngster that her great-grandfather, the late George Frank Emo, helped move the engine.
     Moving the Santa Fe steam engine was quite a mammoth task, according to an eyewitness and Traveler files.
     Greg Kelley, an Ark City native and business owner, said he remembers when the engine moved down the streets of Ark City.
     "It was a big event for kids to run out and crawl all over the train as it moved," Kelley, the owner of First Intermark, said today.
     According to Traveler files, the Locomotive was moved west down Birch Avenue several blocks to the Park. Birch Avenue is the north boundary of the park and fronts South Central Kansas Regional Medical Center.
     It got stuck as crews, under the direction of Jimmie Andrews of A. C. Construction Inc., tried to turn The 100-ton engine from a north-south rail siding west onto Birch Avenue.
     Crews were finally able to turn the engine the right direction and Moved it slowly down Birch Avenue according to Traveler files. It took a few days to reach the park.
     "Sections of the track will be laid in front of the engine, all the way from D Street to the park," said a front-page story on April 20, 1955. "One section will go down, the train will be moved up, and the section from which it came will be taken up and put at the front.
But Kelley disputes the official story of the move. He said he remembers waiting at his boyhood home at the comer of Poplar and A Street as railroad workers moved the engine, slowly south on A Street toward the park.
     "I remember waiting in the house for the whistle to blow," he said. "When they blew the whistle in front of our house, my friends "and I crawled all over it to ride. It took forever to go one track length."
     Whichever direction the engine was moved, it did reach its destination and has been there ever since. Initially the city wanted to put a fence around it. But neighborhood children staged a protest on the steps of the steam engine. Eventually officials decided to let it stand without barriers for kids to play on.
     "People were worried about kids falling off of it," said J. G. Goff, a retired Santa Fe engineer. "But the city put in some safety measures and they keep it up nice. The kids enjoy it."
     Robert Collins traces the origins of the steam engine in his book, "Ghost Railroads of Kansas."
     Collins writes that the locomotive originally served the Kansas City, Mexico & Orient railroad, which had a major presence in Wichita. The Orient's main locomotive and car shops were located along Harry Street and featured heavy-duty machinery needed during the steam age.
     Locomotives of the KCM&O had a reputation for being well maintained. No. 208, which is pictured in Collins' book undergoing repairs in 1927, later was renumbered to 2542 and in 1955 it was donated for display in Arkansas City.



Dexter Ks.


Can you name any of the Arkansas City crew??







XXX 6th 1909      WINFIELD, KS

This was taken off the above picture


James A. Selan

Santa Fe Railroad Employee

 1905 - 1956



 Joline (Selan) Iverson

 August 20 2007


Jo Burke - Brakeman,   James (Jim) Selan Conductor by his Waycar,    Unknown



Santa Fe Railroad - James and Swan Selan


 Around 1900, two young men living in Omskoldsvik, Sweden  decided to come to America to seek their fortune.

     The first one to immigrate to America was the older brother, Sven Selander. I never found out how he arrived and how he stayed in Arkansas City, Kansas, but he did stay and began working for the Santa Fe Railroad.

    Jonas Alfred Selander, d.o.b. November 14, 1887, the younger of the two, came over around 1905. He passed through ElIis Island and since Swan had dropped the d e r from his name then Jonas Alfred Selander became James Alfred Selan (or Jim). The two brothers had never been close but Jim did come to Arkansas City where his brother Swan was living and working.

     Jim had heard that the villains in America were men, wore black, and had black mustaches. So here he came a young man not able to speak one word of English. Jim began getting off of the train with his accordion under one arm and carrying a small straw valise with all his worldly possessions inside with the other hand. Here came the baggage man to help him get off. Yes he was a man, dressed in a black uniform and also had a black mustache. Jim thought he was trying to steal his accordion and his valise and began shoving the baggage man. Jim also began to cry as he did not understand a word of English that was being said to him.

     Several people and workmen began gathering around because of the commotion. At first they thought he was a German boy. Several of them ran over to the Santa Fe office building which was to the North of the depot to get a gentlemen with the last name of Holm stein. Mr. Holmstein came over to Jim and found out that Jim was Swedish and so was Mr. Holmstein. A friendship began. Mr. Holmstein found Jim a room to rent which included meals but bigger still gave Jim a job at the Santa Fe Material Yard which was at the corner of Mill Road and Chestnut Avenue ($13 a week).

     The Material Yard was a hot and difficult job handling the creosote covered ties and everything it took to maintain the train tracks. Since Jim did not understand English he also did not understand what the noon whistle meant so he would keep working. There were a lot of incidences that were funny to other men but I am also sure that Jim had to bear the brunt of these jokes.

     Jim worked in the Material Yard until he could write and speak English.  At this time he went to the Santa Fe office and talked to Mr. Holmstein about taking tests to be a brakeman which was the operating part of the railroad. WW I was brewing in Europe and the railroad knew that it would spill over to the United States. Mr. Holmstein said that there had to be people to run the railroad while a lot of the men went into the service. Jim then studied the manual, took the test and passed to become a brakeman.  Jim stayed here as did his brother, Swan, and worked operating the trains during WW I.

     Jim was a brakeman for many years and then moved on up to be a conductor. Swan was made an engineer. He had been a fireman. Men who have worked on trains that just happened to have both brothers on it said Swan always told Jim that he was "the boss because he drove the train".

     In October of 1930, Jim married Alyce LaMotte Barnett, and so Jim became my stepfather. (I was five years old.) He was very good to  me and the only Dad I ever knew. He and my mother, Alyce Barnett, met at the Harvey House which was in the old depot. She had been widowed at twenty and with me a baby of eight months old. Alyce had looked for work and finally found a job at the Harvey House.  I assume as a Harvey Girl because of her uniform. This was in 1926. The unmarried Harvey girls lived upstairs over the depot and no one was allowed upstairs in their quarters, but mother lived at home with me and her parents.

     Jim did not talk a lot but I do recollect hearing him tell about walking on top of the freight train while it was moving. He fell off and only received scrapes and bruises. I also would hear him talk about his lantern. There were so many signals that they could almost talk with their lanterns. This was good as they didn't have radios or any kind of intercom system from the way car (caboose) to the engine like they do today.

     There were many stories some I can't remember now but there was one that I have always enjoyed. It was early 20's or late 1900's when the Lindsborg College Choir was going to Oklahoma City to sing the Messiah. Jim was the conductor and went back to the choir's car. In Swedish the choir was griping about Jim being back in their car and Jim listened. Finally, he grinned at them and in Swedish explained his duties. The choir was very surprised. They had a good laugh and gave him a ticket to the concert.

     Another story my mother liked was when Jim was conductor on a special cattle train during the cattle rush (I might say now that Jim liked freight trains much better than passenger trains. He said it was too hard to get the people rounded up to punch their tickets.).  Jim went back near one of the cattle cars and there sat a man that looked like a bum. Jim was nice to him and it turned out that all of their cattle were owned by this "bum" and it was his practice to ride from South Texas up to the Flint Hills with the cattle. Every year after that we would receive 50 lbs, or a large gunny sack, of pecans picked from his trees. They were fresh and my mother enjoyed baking with them.

     By the way, at this time with the old steam engine there was quite a crew on the freight trains. There was the engineer, fireman, brakeman, rear brakeman and conductor. The rear brakeman and conductor were almost always in the way car or caboose. In the late 30's and 40's during WW II on top of the number of crewmen there was also a fifty car limit for each train. So there were many, many crews and many, trains that were running out of Arkansas City. This was also a very busy time with extra boxcars waiting on the sidetracks. There was the wheat rush, cattle rush and many work trains besides other freight trains. To my recollection there were probably four passenger trains going each direction each direction through Arkansas City. There were also a lot of different jobs that the Santa Fe offered such as car men, switch engineers, and all kinds of workmen right in the depot (Incidentally, my husband's father was a car man with the Great Northern Railroad in St. Paul, Minnesota).

     There were also different divisions back in those days. There was the Eastern, Middle, Oklahoma (that's where Ark City was), and Southern. That shows you what a very large industry the railroad was for Ark City and I have probably forgotten many other men and jobs since it has been so long ago.

     I'll quickly mention in conclusion what being a railroad family meant to me. It was really a good life. We had everything we needed.  The city depended on the railroad because of the Shell Refinery and many other business closings because of the depression.

     My dad loved the railroad and his waycar or caboose was his home away from home. He never stayed in hotels at the other end of the line.  He had food for his needs and they used to kid him and say he had  everything in his caboose but lace curtains.

     There was only one thing wrong with a man who loved his work too much. Our two weeks vacation was spent in Chicago, always. We left on the 15th of August unless Dad was on call. If he was, we had to wait and never, never did we leave early. We would then leave on number 5 or 6 which left about four in the afternoon and arrived in Chicago the next day about 9 in the morning. I think I can remember the smells and the noises and the wonderful fun that we all had on the train.  I always wanted to eat in the dining room but it was very expensive by the standards of the time. So, we had the best ham sandwiches that were sold by a vendor who ,went through the car. It was just a wonderful fun time of my life. I took many, many trips before I was married since Dad worked for the railroad. I went all over the United States on passes both from the Santa Fe and foreign railroads.

     During the best years of my life, Alyce and Jim (Mom and Dad) blessed me with two brothers, James Jr. and Jack. James was seven years younger than I was and Jack was thirteen years younger. They just added more love and fun to my life.

     There are a lot of stories that have been told about the two Swede brothers Jim and Swan. I wish I knew them all. I also wish that everyone had the opportunity to ride trains the way that I did. I could go on and on about the many adventures that the railroad offered to me and to others at that time in history.

     James Alfred (Jim) Selan died in his sleep in October 18th, 1956, after working over 50 years for the Santa Fe Railroad.


3rd from left, 1st row (almost middle) James A. (Jim) Selan
late 1900's - Santa Fe Material Yeard, Chestnut and Mill Road N. E. Corner.



     The year was 1944. I was 16 years old and had just completed my junior year at Winfield High School and was looking for a summer time job. It was the last week in May when I heard that the Santa Fe railroad was trying to hire workers as section hands. I learned that the’ section foreman was a man named Bill Wooldridge who lived in the southwest part of Winfield, so a friend of mine, Garland Prater, and I went to visit him and ask for a job. Bill was a tough-looking, heavy-set, soft-spoken man and, since World War II was still going on, he needed more laborers in his gang and didn’t have many prospects.

     He explained the job like this: begin work at the tool shed beside the Santa Fe tracks south of west Ninth Street at 7 AM Monday through Saturday; one hour off for lunch; on Monday through Friday we quit at 6 PM back at the tool shed. That makes a 10-hour day. On Saturday we quit at 4 PM for an 8-hour day. The pay was 60 cents per hour with time-and-a-half pay for over 8 hours a day. That figured out to be $6.60 a day Monday through Friday and $4.80 on Saturday, for a total of $37.80 a week.

     The work day would begin by loading a keg full of Water and tools from the tool shed onto a flat rail car about 6 feet long to be pulled down the track behind a motor car. The tools were: a big jack: and lever bar used, to raise low spots in the track, a level-board used to gauge the track, pick-tamps and gravel forks, one for each section hand. The work would consist mostly of keeping the track in good shape. It turned out we would also be unloading creosote ties from flat rail cars and spreading gravel.

     Now, 60 cents an hour was good pay in those days,. so when Bill offered the job to Garland and me, we took it and began the work about June 1, 1944.

     Before going to work that first day, my Dad offered this bit of advice-don't work harder or faster than the Mexicans on the gang or they will take offense. I was to learn that there was no way I could out-work them, especially in pick tamping the ties. Each one of the gang could-pick-tamp two ties to-my one; When I’d get behind, they'd call "Hola, borego." Borego means a goat.

     The section gang consisted of Bill, the foreman; Leo, his nephew, who was given all the easier tasks; and, besides Garland and me, there were 6 Mexicans: Bardomiano, to whom we gave the nick name of Baltimore; Ben Cordoba, who claimed the Spanish bull-fighter, Jesus Cordoba, was his relative; Miguel, Jose, Santiago Pina and Margarita. Ben was the oldest, in his 50's, and lived in a section house near the tool shed. The rest including Leo, were in their 30's. '

     We all got along well together. I had taken Spanish language courses in high school from teachers—Miss Hiatt and Helen Johnson-so I could use my sparse Spanish with them, even though they all spoke some English. One day I brought a Spanish "Weekly Reader" to work and during the lunch hour beside the track, I read to them. None of them could read, so they listened as I read and they laughed at the Spanish jokes. They even taught me a few Spanish words that wouldn't be taught in school, such a "coolita", which refers ' to an unspecified part of the body, Also, sometimes they called Garland a "chango" which means a monkey. And sometimes I called them "boracho" which means drunkard.

     Work was very hard and the weather was very hot. Two things I remember about the first two weeks: first, on June 6th our nation celebrated D-Day; second, wheat harvest was in full swing and it was a bumper crop. There were wheat fields everywhere beside the tracks and the air was full of those tiny wheat bugs. At lunch as we ate our sandwiches in whatever shade we could find we had to be continually brushing away those bugs.

     Here's how we took care of the track. The track Superintendent regularly rode up and down his section of the track, probably about 50 miles and made notes of places that needed raising or other maintenance and gave the info to the appropriate foreman. Bill Wooldridge's section was maybe 10 miles long, extending from the railroad bridge by the cemetery south of Winfield to 8 miles or so north of Winfield. Where the track was low, the jack was placed ooder the rail and that small part of the track was jacked up, usually only a couple of inches, ties and rails together. Manning the jack was usually the job of Leo and Ben. The rest of us would then string out along the raised track, each of us taking about 8 ties, and proceed to pick-tamp. First with the pick side we would clean out a space beneath the tie, then with the hammer-like tamp side we would pound in pieces of rock for a foundation. Then the jack was removed and taken to the next section to be reised. This was back-breaking work. I understand that now they have a machine that will raise the track and pound rocks under the tie.

     The work was relatively safe. We tried to watch out for each other while unloading ties or gravel or pick-tamping. The main thing was watching out for freight trains as we worked on the track. If we were near an electronic signal, the signal arm would point straight up if all was clear. It pointed at a 45 degree angle if a train was on the way, and pointed straight out when the train arrived. Sometimes we were not in sight of the signal arm. One day as we traveled down the track pulling the flat tool car behind us, we approached a wide blind curve. Bill stopped the motor car and sent Leo on ahead by foot about a hundred yards to look around the curve. As Leo got to the bend, he began hollering and waving his arms, and here came the freight train barreling and whistling around the curve. There were seven of us around the motor car and tool car. Immediately four of my co-workers lifted the motor car off the track one end at a time. That left three of us to get the tool car, loaded with the jack, water barrel, pry bars and other tools, weighing probably about 200 pounds, off the track. Two lifted one end off the track and I, somehow by myself, lifted off the other end and set it on safe ground. Less than 3 seconds later the engine came whistling by. We all heaved a sigh of relief and my friends expressed wonder that I had lifted that heavy weight. I wondered myself, later.

     The Summer of 1944 drew to a close. Garland Prater turned 18 years old late in August and was drafted into the Anny. I had turned 17 in July and my senior year in Winfield High began in early September. About then, the track Superintendent, making his rounds, called me aside. He said that he had heard that Frank Boyer, a long-time and much respected foreman in the Moline, Kansas, area was my Grandfather. This was true. He asked if I would be interested in a career with Santa Fe when I finished high school. I told him that college came first, then I would consider it.

     Bill Wooldridge allowed me to work Saturdays during that winter of 1944-1945. One Saturday, a cold winter day, we were eating our lunches around a blazing wood fire that Leo and Ben had set while the rest of us pick-tamped. The Mexicans were eating their tortillas and tamales and popping the little chile peppers in their mouths and chewing them with gusto. Miguel said to me, "Hey, Ricardo, you want one of these chilies?" Of course I did. I had been watching them eat the chilies for weeks and was ready to try one. I took his offering, popped it into my mouth and chewed hard. It took about 5 seconds to realize that I had never before (or since as it so happened) had anything so fiery and burning in my mouth. Mother usually packed my lunch with a thermos of milk so I dived into my lunch bucket for the cooling drink. But—horrors! That day, since it was a cold Saturday, the thermos contained hot tea, which I spit out. The water barrel was 30 yards away by the tool car and I was off for it while my friends sat there laughing. My mouth burned the rest of the afternoon.

     I worked Saturdays until mid April when I got word that the U.S. Navy was calling me and several of my high school senior friends into service. They had promised to not call us until graduation late in May, but they needed us to whip the Germans and Japanese into submission.

     Thus ended my work as a Santa Fe section hand. I truly believe that the hard work that summer strengthened my body and has helped keep me agile in these later years.

     As for my Mexican friends, after my Naval service I would occasionally see one on the street or in the domino parlor by the old Regent theatre. He would say, "Hola, Ricardo, tu borego. And I’d say, "Hola, Miguel, tu boracho." And we'd both laugh.

  Richard T. Jones  
  111 Whitworth Ave.  
  Ponca City, OK 74601  

Land line (580) 762-1875 in Ponca City

  Cell Phone (580) 716-0059 while away  
Engineer keeps memory
of trains alive
Traveler Staff Writer
Wayne Rector is shown here in May 1979 in the cab of an Amtrak train - No. 6 --
at Oklahoma City Passenger rail service from Arkansas City

     Becoming the engineer of a passenger train was a top job on the old Santa Fe here. It required years of seniority and hard work.
     Wayne Rector, a lifelong Arkansas Citizen, achieved that position in the mid 1960s Alter working for the railroad for more than 20 years. He retired in 1981, after nearly 40 years of work and two years after passenger rail service through Arkansas City ceased.
     "We were running at full capacity when they pulled the Amtrak from here in 1979," Rector said Friday.
     That didn't matter, he added. By then, Amtrak had become a political football. Politicians from the East used their muscle to get Amtrak to change the Lone Star Route - as the north-south route through Ark City was known then. It was rerouted east of here and then down to Texas.
     Ark City was an important rail town throughout most of the twentieth century.
     "Passenger train travel probably reached its peak during World War II," Rector said. "Following the war it still was an important mode of transportation during the 1950s and 1960s. During that time, Arkansas City had four passenger trains each way (northbound and southbound, between Chicago and Houston) plus a motor car . . ."
     Also known as "The Doodle Bug," the motorcar route went south to Newkirk, Stillwater and Shawnee, then back to Ark City. The train consisted of an engine, mail compartment and passenger car.
     A lot of mail was carried along with passengers on trains, said Johnny Goff, Rector's fireman on the trains. The postal service's decision to quit using rail for mail delivery was a significant factor in the demise of passenger rail service here, he added.
     Goff and Rector recalled some "close calls" near collisions with trucks or cars trying to beat the train at railroad crossings. However, no one was injured on their runs.
     "Johnny and I had one sad situation when we were coming north one evening about 10 minutes after we had left Guthrie (Okla.)," Rector said. "It was dusk, and there was a flashing red light at a crossing we were approaching at 80 miles per hour.
     "Then we saw something ahead a fire truck and fireman, both on either side of the track - both clear of the track. The fireman was on one side aiming a hose aimed at a fire in a dead tree. As we passed the crossing, the train chopped the hose in two and the fireman lost the water stream."
     Several "near misses" were reported by the Santa Fe team in a stretch from Edmund to Norman, Okla., where concrete ready-mix trucks were operated around rail crossings.
"We hit one truck one day after we blew the whistle but the truck driver didn't stop," Rector said. "The collision knocked him back (away from the track)."
     Rector said he got out of the locomotive cab and approached the truck driver. "Are you the driver?" he asked and the shaken man nodded. "Well, let me shake the hand of a man who the Good Lord has just saved his life." The truck driver extended his hand.
     Many drivers who try to beat trains at crossings don't realize that it takes about three-quarters of a mile for a train to stop, Rector added.
     Rewarding memories of operating a passenger train include seeing people wave from the side of the road as the train goes by, he said. Some of these folks were local residents of an area who would come each day to wave at the train.
     "Two or three friends would correspond with us because they were regulars who waited for the train," Rector said.
     Passenger service probably reached its peak during World War II, around the time Rector was hired by the Santa Fe, he said. Rector had graduated from Ark City High School in 1938 and then from Ark City Junior College (now Cowley College) in 1940.
     Rector married Elizabeth Burrell on July 27, 1941.
     "I was working in my dad's feed store, making $21 a week," he recalled. "When I made deliveries in the Sleeth Addition, I would check in briefly with Ralph Scott at the old
Santa Fe Round House to see if they had a job opening. He would shake his head no."
     By then, the War was heating up. "I had already registered for the draft," Rector said. "One Saturday night as we were about to close the feed store, I got a call from Ralph Scott asking if I still wanted the job. I said yes."
     He started off as a laborer in the Santa Fe Round House, which was a big operation then. It was a huge service area and back shop for maintenance of steam locomotives.
     "I changed from round house to road seniority and became a fireman on a steam-engine locomotive in April 1942," he said" I was a freight engineer quite a while too."
     At that time, there were about 100 men working in road service and another 100 working in yard service in the Ark City area, he said. They included engineers and firemen.
     Rector's railroad career was interrupted when he was called up for Army service. He served three and a half years overseas during the war, working with the 363rd Engineers in road maintenance. The road from Iran to Northern Russia was used as a supply route for Russia, a U.S. ally in the war.
     Early in their railroad careers, Rector and Goff worked on steam
Engine trains. In the late 1940s and early 1950s, diesel engines started to be put in service, Goff said.
     Rector was the engineer on the first Amtrak train operated out of Ark City, and he brought in the last one before the service was discontinued.
     Commenting on the possibility of passenger rail service to be reestablished here, he said.
     "Airlines kind of took over. And they keep under funding Amtrak. But you never know."


Dear Griff;

     I am very glad to be able to show you our town and this part of our old United States of America.  I am not sure how you arrived but I am assuming that you came in one of the seven ways that are open to all visitors.  Namely by train, bus, airplane, or by foot.  I trust that you did not come by the latter method. 

     Assuming that you came by train I will show you our four R. R. stations and you can tell me which one that you came in by. 

     Below is the station of the Atchison Topeka and St. Fe. Railroad.

     To those of who live here it is known as St. Fe. Depot.  The little brick building in the fore ground is the office of the

American Railway Express Company.


Now lets jump across town to Chestnut Street and Fifth Street. Here we find the Frisco R. R. Station.


From here let us go south a few blocks and we have the Midland Valley R. R. Station.


Below is another view of the Midland Depot also the West side of the new Era Milling Company's building.  Later I will show you the other side of the same mill.

The mill proper is the native stone building facing the street, Madison Avenue is the thorough fare in the fore ground.  The North end of the Depot is at the extreme right of the foreground.

By the way since this picture was taken two floors was added to the mill and grain tanks like those on the right have filled the space between the mill and tanks of the picture.


The station of the Missouri Pacific R. R. Co. known as the Mor.
Picturesque Santa Fe Station

     Old Harvey House Once was One of City's Leading Dining Rooms
The Picturesque old red brick Santa Fe passenger station which was started in 1886 and completed the following year, has been one of the best known building on the Oklahoma division all these years.
    The station, at one time had In connection the leading dining room in this city, the Fred Harvey eating house. In the large dining room located in the South section of the building now used for safety meeting and other employee gathering many gala parties were held In the late 1880's and early 1900's The eating house was closed several years ago.

Weather vane a feature

     The station building also has noted for the weather vane on top of the structure. which is In the shape of a miniature locomotive and tender. Thousands of persons passing through the city by train In years past have remarked about this attractive feature of the building. It was placed there soon after the building was completed.
     The station, built of red brick replaced the first depot Which was, erected the year the road built into Arkansas City, 1880, which was a small wooden building. No record of the cost of the present building can be found now in the office of the engineering department of the Oklahoma division here, H. B. Harmon, office engineer, said.

Three sections Used

     The station still has two waiting, rooms. One for men and one for women and the ticket office located there. The baggage department also is in the building, occupying the north section.



Burden Depot






Train wreck 2 miles West of Burden



















Depot at Eaton, Kansas - Charlie Havens, Agent -- Taken between Mar.1914 & Dec. 1916


Train stopped at Eaton Depot. - Charlie Havens, Agent


Tisdale Depot and three ladies