Postcards Capture the Romance of the Rails

Discover postcards from the past as we delve into the history of a series of railways stories in a once in a lifetime experience.

Union Pacific Engine 4014, the “Big Boy.” This picture was taken in Hays, Kan., where the train stopped for the night. The overall size of the locomotive was just incredible. This particular one was delivered to Union Pacific in December 1941, if I remember correctly. Twenty-five Big Boys were built, each measuring 132 feet in length and weighing in at 1.2 million tons. These engines were articulated so they could get around the curves. 

A slight breeze drifted by with the sweet smell of fall riding on its back. The rails seemed to glow as the afternoon sun hit them. The wooden boardwalk surrounding the depot was spotted with people, some waiting patiently for the train to deliver family and friends; others waiting for the freight a small farming community needs to survive.

If you stood real still, you could hear the whistle as the train crossed the Beaver River Bridge and make out the plume of iron gray smoke as the steam engine labored up the slight grade outside of town.

Today, we are going to stay right here in Oklahoma. As we continue our visits, it will become clear that I am fascinated with airports, bus stations, truck stops and train stations. In this column, I’m sharing a couple of postcards with pictures of El Reno, Oklahoma.

The first picture shows the Rock Island train depot in El Reno. Like a lot of Oklahoma towns, El Reno was born in the land runs of the late 1800s. The interesting thing about El Reno is that the town was actually born from two different land runs. The land run of 1889 opened up all lands in Oklahoma not assigned to a Native American tribe. The land run of 1892 opened up Cheyenne and Arapaho lands for settlement. As a result, the eastern part of El Reno was established three years before the western part.



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