Saturday, April 27, 2013


By Kristine Schmucker

You are on your way across town, sitting at the stop light at 5th and Main, and you notice the railroad crossing lights start to flash, the arms come down and you hear the sound of a train whistle. If you have spent any time trying to get from one end of Newton to the other on Main Street, you are familiar with this situation.  You have been "trained!"  Trains are a fact of life in Newton, Kansas.  They are the reason for a town at this location, and throughout Harvey County history, a major employer.

Despite the importance of the railroad to the town and county, when you are stopped by a train at the west 1st Street, Main, and/or Broadway crossing, it can get frustrating.  The train crossings and what to do about them is not a new problem. 

Newton, Main Street Crossing, ca. 1910
Clark Hotel in the background
Courtesy HCHM Photo Archives
In May 1904, Newton city councilmen, members of the Commercial Club, and officials from the Santa Fe Railroad recognized "the importance of having one place at which a sure and safe crossing of the Santa Fe right-of-way at any and all times could be depended upon."

The dangers of the crossing situation in Newton were well known.  Santa Fe officials regarded the crossings at Broadway and Main in Newton "as the most dangerous on their line between Chicago and San Francisco."

In 1904, the city leaders and railroad officials discussed the idea of "a subway under the Santa Fe tracks between the alley back of the Santa Fe offices and some point back of Nicholson's coal office, and the directing of all Main street traffic into this tunnel."  The majority of the businessmen involved in the discussions "were strongly opposed to any solution of the problem that carried with it the closing of the Main street crossing."

Discussions continued and a committee was formed consisting of D.W. Wilcox, C.M. Glover and John C. Nicholson.  They were to work with H.U. Mudge, general manager of the Santa Fe Railroad, to find a solution to this "old question."

Evening Kansan Republican,  3 June 1904
But, a subway was never constructed.

Newton, Main Street Crossing, 1950
Courtesy HCHM Photo Archives

The train crossings at Broadway, Main, and West First continue to block traffic regularly, 
as they have since the early 1900s.

Newton, Main Street Crossing, 1988
Courtesy HCHM Photo Archives

Thanks to Linda Koppes, who discovered the June 3, 1904 clipping.
Evening Kansan Republican, 24 May 1904.
Evening Kansan Republican,  3 June 1904.

1 comment:

  1. My camera in hand after the Homecomming game last October, I took photos while waiting on Main in the rain, lights flashing, crossing guard down, just like old times.