Historical Marker Placed at Former Railroad Depot Site

A historical marker has been placed at the former location of the Arnold depot, detailing the history of the railroad coming to Arnold. A project of Arnold Rotary, Berni Crow is in charge of compiling the information for the signs. The depot marker reads as follows:

Kearney & Black Hills Railroad and Depot – 1912 Early in the 1900’s, optimism was in the air along the South Loup with people discussing the possibility of Arnold being lighted by gas soon, and the possibility of an electric railroad being powered by water from the South Loup. An engineer from Denver was even hired to oversee the entire railroad project. An early 1889 county newspaper said, “John Finch, C.T. Holiday and Jacob Miller, all of Arnold, are interested in the organization of an electric railroad from Broken Bow to North Platte…” Both proposals were a bust. It was almost sixty years before Arnold finally saw the results of “rural electrification”. And the hope for a train faded too in 1905. However, with the persistence of a “fast talking little railroad promoter” named S. G. Durant, the building of a railroad from Callaway to Arnold was achieved in one year. Having a railroad, at that time, was key to a community’s survival. Supplies such as coal, lumber, wire, tools, machinery, and other farm/ranch necessities were shipped easier by rail. Heavily loaded wagons were used prior to the arrival of the trains, and a faster means of getting supplies was in demand. (Wagon loads drawn by four horses took a “day to get there” and “a day to return”.) ~It is said that the faces of Arnold patrons were very familiar in Merna. Supplies were plentiful there, due to the Burlington railroad line passing through regularly. The Union Pacific Line ran east/west along the Platte River. Both railroads had branches, and the one running from Kearney to Callaway was called the Kearney and Black Hills (K&BH).~ Originally, the plan was to run the line from Kearney to Gandy (Logan County Seat) via Arnold and Callaway eventually making its way to the Black Hills. However, in 1890, the line stopped at Callaway. The survey company that had surveyed the line to Gandy, had pre-emptive rights to the location, but it was set to expire on a certain day in February of 1911. Durant slyly managed to convince people that they would not lose an opportunity for acquiring a railroad, by supporting his ideas. He urged them to buy subscriptions that would provide funds and guarantee that a Railroad would be built within a year. On February 11, at the stroke of midnight the pre-emptive rights expired, and Durant sent his own surveyors out to the beginning of the line heading west from Callaway. Meanwhile, Union Pacific folks had garnered support on their side by assuring small towns between, such as Milldale and Finchville, that they would have a station when the line was built. Union Pacific was surprised to learn that Durant’s ‘midnight crew’ had taken over those pre-emptive rights. When the dust settled, the Railroad Commission in Lincoln, ordered a station to be built in Arnold, and a spur at Gandy. This resolution allowed the completion of the extension to Arnold, which finally, after so many years, heard the first locomotive whistle on March 27 1912, Durant received credit for bringing the trains to Arnold even though charges of fraud were brought against him; the charges were eventually dropped. Earlier in 1911, with a Railroad finally in sight, Arnold had become a bustling village with landowners platting additions to the village, such as Gordon’s Addition, Gunter’s Addition, Mill’s Addition, and the Railroad Addition. People were buying up lots to build their new homes on, with 20 lots sold the very first day. Harold Bedford realized this bustling town needed a newspaper, so in July of 1911, he established the first newspaper since 1893, naming it the “Arnold Sentinel”. Bedford’s Souvenir Edition of the Railroad Celebration, set to occur on June 14, 1912, was a prize souvenir for those who chased one. ~This souvenir edition is still sought after yet today, and I’m very lucky to own a copy, thanks to John Hardin!~ Yes, the trains finally came in 1912. The village of Arnold began to see many strangers in town who were surveying prospective business possibilities. Western Grain Company, based in Kearney had completed an elevator east of the depot, and when fire destroyed it, Lexington Mill and Elevator wasted no time replacing it. Gould Land and Cattle Company added another elevator and a store house. Both these buildings were used by Forrest (Frosty) Ferguson’s Farmers and Feeders Elevator. (Only one Elevator remains standing, unused and surrounded by a host of grain bins.) Some estimates indicated that there were 6000 visitors in Arnold on Railroad Day June 14, 1912 to celebrate the coming of the trains. ~Perhaps the day March 27, 1912 was an equally important date in Arnold’s Railroad history. On that day, the first locomotive pulling a “work train” had arrived and engineer “Smokey” Winn closed down the throttle and stopped the train almost exactly where the Arnold Depot would eventually stand. Winn, then asked the onlookers to step back and he blew the whistle. Rides were also given on this day; many had never seen a train before. School was even dismissed and children were given a short ride.~ By the time the June celebration rolled around, the depot was nearly finished. O. L. Maybury was the first agent and his office was in a railroad car. Other agents included Ballinger, Brinkmeyer, Lee Mihane, Charlie Buck and V.D. Agers. Lee Mihane had first come in 1922 when there were only five employees; he left his railroad job and then came back when Charlie Buck retired. Charlie Buck had come in 1916 and stayed for 36 years. During Buck’s tenure, he tried to show U.P. that the K&BH Line was worth keeping reporting that, “$1600 worth of freight, the largest one day shipment, was made in 1916”. The U. P. had been trying since 1920 to cut back service. Lee Mihane took over in 1952, retiring in 1968, In 1970, Stapleton and Arnold’s depots closed. V.D. Agers was the last agent in Arnold. Both of these small villages had a grain elevator and were built to lure ‘the addition of the railway’.

~Railroad trivia: Mrs. Archie Reed’s team became frightened by the train’s whistle perhaps earning the title “the first runaway” caused by a train. Also, the first railroad related death occurred in 1941; 17 year old Leonard Rhoades was killed when he drove into the path of a freight Emery Messersmith, working at his gas station, heard the train whistle and witnessed the accident which happened a block north of Finch Drug. Several buildings, that no longer exist, were built along the tracks at Finchville (Swain Finch Ranch) and Milldale (Charles Zeorb/Pandorf Farm), and other small villages nearby. Arnold’s railroad line was discontinued in 1985, having peaked during the years 1978-1980. Records show that 32 loaded freight cars were shipped out one day in April of 1980. Freight rates began to make it unfeasible to use the “rails”, forcing the 1985 closure. I remember riding the train from Callaway with my sister and others to Lincoln as a preschooler. This school group was organized and coordinated by adult escorts who took us to see the “Ice Capades”. That was my first train ride, Circa 1957!~ (Some information for this marker was taken from the book, “One Hundred Years on the South Loup” by Norene Hall Mills. Written and prepared by Berni Crow 7/7/20

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