The Missouri Pacific and Union Pacific Railroads have played an integral part in building Osawatomie’s cultural and economic life since engineer John Cook blew the first whistle on the first Missouri Pacific locomotive to enter Osawatomie on a rail line from Holden, Mo., in 1879. Osawatomie became a division point for the Missouri Pacific Railroad in 1880 by offering Commodore C.K. Garrison of the Missouri Pacific Railroad the land for the rail yard and division offices and an assurance of a steady supply of water for $1.00.
The Missouri Pacific Railroad transformed Osawatomie from a sleepy agricultural community to a bustling railroad town, and the town grew and prospered as the Missouri Pacific Railroad expanded its operations in Osawatomie. President Theodore Roosevelt traveled to Osawatomie in a private car on a Missouri Pacific train on August 30, 1910, and gave his famous New Nationalism Speech. The Missouri Pacific Railroad was instrumental in bringing 30,000 people to Osawatomie to hear President Roosevelt’s speech by promoting special trains to Osawatomie.
The Missouri Pacific Railroad expanded its operations in Osawatomie, and the railroad played a major part in making Osawatomie a vital part of the war effort during World War II. The Missouri Pacific rail yard worked day and night to transport war materials and troops during World War II, and in 1942 had 17 tracks with the capability of making and switching 50 or 60 freight and passenger trains a day.
The Missouri Pacific Railroad and the Union Pacific Railroad merged in 1982. The positive effect of the railroad on Osawatomie’s economy and culture continued. The many railroad employees who have lived and worked out of Osawatomie have been a boon to the town’s economic and cultural development. Railroad employees provided support for local businesses in the past and do so in the present. Culturally, Missouri Pacific and Union Pacific employees have served, and continue to serve, Osawatomie in the town’s churches, civic organizations and in local government.
The Missouri Pacific Railroad and the Union Pacific Railroad also have been generous benefactors to the community’s cultural life. The Missouri Pacific Railroad helped to establish the town’s first library in 1890, and the Union Pacific recently donated to a current expansion of the Osawatomie Public Library.
Osawatomie is truly a Union Pacific Train Town. Many of the town’s citizens are either Missouri Pacific or Union Pacific retirees or employees, and the Union Pacific Railroad is one of the main employers in Osawatomie. Osawatomie and the railroads have a rich history and heritage, and a strong relationship today.