Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway, A.T.&S.F. (1859-1896) – More often simply referred to as the “Santa Fe Railroad,” this organization was first chartered by the State of Kansas in February 1859 and called the Atchison-Topeka Railroad. Four years later, “Santa Fe” was added to the name, but ironically, the railroad’s main line never reached there as the terrain was too difficult to lay the tracks. As the railroad was first being built, many of the tracks were laid directly over the wagon ruts of the Santa Fe Trail, and in 1871, when the line was extended to Newton, Kansas, the railroad assured its success by becoming a major cattle shipper.
Later, it would also extend to Wichita and Dodge City, making those settlements into instant “cowtowns.” The Santa Fe’s first tracks reached the Kansas/Colorado state line in 1873 and connected to Pueblo, Colorado in 1876. As the railroad continued to expand, it increased its profitability by selling farmland from the land grants they had been awarded by Congress. Becoming one of the first major freight operators, the company remained a success until it ceased operations on December 31, 1996, when it merged with the Burlington Northern Railroad to form the Burlington Northern and Santa Fe Railway.