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About The Conservative (Nebraska City, Neb.) 1898-1902 | View Entire Issue (Nov. 21, 1901)
10 Cfee Conservative *
OMAHA AND ITS RAILROADS.
[ Text , of Address Delivered by Major J. R.
Buchanan of the Elkhorn Road Before the
Omaha Commercial Club , October 6 , IflOl ] .
All business is necessarily selfish in
its aim. Investment and labor arc
entitled to fair compensation , and so ,
in the consideration of these ques
tions of business , we do not consider
them from a philanthropic stand
point , but from that of business rela
The man who wants.or nsks , or gets
something for nothing , is a dangerous
and a dishonest man. There is no
business within my knowledge ( and
that knowledge extends over a pretty
wide range and an extended career ) ,
which is so dependent upon the thrift
and prosperity of the people , and of
the community , as that of operating
a railroad , no business that is more
entitled to kindly consideration and
co-operation of the public.
The railroads are the great immi
gration agency which settles and
builds up a new country. They are
absolutely permanent investments.
They cannot , if adverse conditions oc
cur , sell out and close up or move
away , as a man in mercantile life or
& other business can. They must stay ,
and , if necessary , create the condi
tions of thrift upon which they de
I have wished a great many times
that every business man , or at least
every one in ten of the business men
along the lines of the various railroads
was a shareholder in the railroad
which ho patronized. This would
make him a careful adviser , a careful
observer , and it would prove disastrous
to the demagogue
It takes a wise man today to be presi
dent or manager of a railroad. He must
bo alert , to every substantial interest
ft 1 * in the communities where his road ex
ists. No physician is more careful to
keep his fingers upon the pulse of his
fevered patient than is a wise railway
manager or officer to keep his ear to
the ground and his eye on every in
terest which must contribute to the
success of his reader the reverse.
The railroad is the best organized
system for doing business of perhaps
any that exists. Its divergent lines
extend for hundreds or thousands of
miles. Its agents are remote as well
as near by. Hence , it must be managed
under a carefully devised system of
general rules , subject to rig
I id and exacting accountability , and
a new line entering a new
country establishes markets here
and there at convenient points ;
il it introduces into that community a
great organized and disciplined force
f of men who , by habit , are accustomed
to conforming to the restrictions of
law and order , and hence their influ
ence becomes 'a dominant one in the
community , and aids in the establish
ment of a like system of order where
Hence , the influence of the railroad
is not only in the direction of an im
migration agency , of a great business
co-operative society , of a permanent
and fixed status , but it is promotive of
law , order and good government.
Thirty-four Years Ago.
I was in Omaha first in 1867. It was
a village , as I remember it , of , be
tween 3,000 and 4,000.
Theio was one railroad completed
from the east to Council Bluffs , and
one apprehending completion to Kansas
City , and the Union Pacific was run
ning west into the heart of the deserter
There was no bridge across the Mis-
soiiri river , and the only access was
by ferry boat , which , as I remember
it , landed near the foot of Douglas
street , or in that vicinity.
The present Union Pacific head
quarters was the principal , and , I be
lieve , only so-called first-class hotel.
I came through , I think , near 200
miles of virgin prairie in Iowa , where
habitations were few and far apart.
One stretch , I recall , the conductor
told me was twenty miles between
houses. That was on what is now
the Northwestern railway , the first
railway completed to Council Bluffs
and the land along this railway was
rated at $2.50 per acre. In Nebraska ,
it was available for the taking , and
by many regarded as a poor specula
tion at that.
It took a little over twenty-four
hours , as I recall , to come from Chicago
cage to Counail Bluffs , and some of
the way over this new road seemed
like a pretty heavy sea. Now , that
line , and one other , have double track
lines practically from Omaha to Chicago
cage , and have , with three others , as
superb railroads as exists in the United
As the tendency of commerce ( especi
ally until within the last few years )
has always been toward the east , to
the population centers and large
markets , and as these great plains to
the west practically produced but lit
tle traffic , the one above railroad was
not only ample , but courted insolv
ency by coming ; but as it received a
small land grant from the govern
ment , it was hoped it might be sus
# * # * * #
This was only thirty-four years ago
one generation and note the
change ! Now , that Iowa land , which
was selling slowly at $2.50 per acre , to
impossible at less than $65 to $75 , or
oven more , per acre. This Nebraska ,
or American Desert , land is being
sought at $45 to $60 per acre. The
agricultural part of Nebraska is pro-
ducingan average of about 250,000,000
bushels of corn annually , 40,000,000
to 50,000,000 bushels of wheat , and
other grains in proportion. The ap
parently boundless plains farther west ,
then covered with millions of buffalo
and thousands of savage Indians , are
now pasturing hundreds of thousands
of cattle and sheep.
The Rocky Mountain range , then
but little explored , is now yielding
annually in the neighborhood , prob
ably of $85,000,000 of gold , besides
silver , coal , timber and other pro
ducts. They have grown cities and
settled a large population.
The Black Hills , then unknown , or
purely a myth , is now one of the rich
est mining districts in the world , and
the homo of about 100,000 population ,
extensively engaged in mining and
The Pacific ocean was then impos
sible , or nearly so , except via Capo
Horn , and the oriental shipping trade
Then and Now.
Omaha , then a village , is now a
city of rather uncertain population , but
nevertheless a large and prosperous
city , recognized everywhere as the
gateway between the populous east
and the'great west ; and while all com
merce did tend eastward , it is now ,
under modern conditions , pushing
westward to the orient , as well as east
to the Atlantic cost and European
What has wrought this change ?
Consider in your mind a map , with
Omaha in the center , and note radi
ating from this city.
Five great railways , eastward , from
this gateway city to Chicago.
Three railways to the south , con
necting with like pystems to St. Louis ,
Texas , the gulf and the ocean.
Three railways to the north , to St.
Paul , Minneapolis and the Great.
Two railways to the northwest to
the Black Hills , their mining camps
and commercial centers.
Four railways , with direct con
nections from this city to the Golden
Gate shores of California and the
Pacific coast every point of the com
pass pierced , every center reached.
And this city is the gateway through
which all this distribution of people
and commerce passes.
There are fifty-three passenger
trains arriving here every day , bring
ing to this city an average daily
number of passengers of 4,500 people.
There are 4,400 railway employees
of these several railroad companies
who homo here , and who spend their
These employees draw salaries ag
gregating $802,800 per month , or $8-
688,000 per annum. From these fig
ures and' computing in the ordinary
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