Over the years Anderson County has had six railroads crisscrossing the county. The towns of Central City and Garnett were both wanting the first railroad. The route across the flat lands of Anderson County would have been a much easier route to take than across the bluffs of the Pottawatomie Creek. However, it is rumored an engineer gave someone in the company planning the railroad route $700 and the railroad went through Garnett. This action spelled the demise of Central City.
The first train arrived in Garnett March 9, 1870, on the Leavenworth, Lawrence and Galveston Railroad. The train was met with great expectations and excitement. On arrival it unloaded freight and about three hundred excursionists and the Lawrence Band. Several speeches were given at the train station and following at the Brunswick Hall, dinner was served to all attendees. To keep the day free of drunkenness and other problems all of the whiskey halls were closed. In the evening a grand ball was held with the Lawrence Band providing the music. It was quite the gala affair and was enjoyed by all.
Originally the railroad was to be routed through the town of Fairview on what is now Highway 59 just west of Scipio. The railroad company had a Chinese work crew working on digging a cut through a steep grade for the railroad bed. However, it was discovered the engines could not pull the grade and it was abandoned. Henry Roeckers, a local amateur archeologist, did metal detecting at the grade site and discovered a Chinese coin. The railroad bed was directed further to the valley to the east and went through the little town of Scipio and the town of Fairview died. Other towns south of Garnett the railroad went through are Welda and Divide, what is known today as Colony.
The Kansas, Nebraska and Dakota Railroad started in Topeka and went to Ft. Scott. The original tracks were laid in 1886, entering the county in the northwest corner to the first town of Amiot, through Harris, Glenloch, Garnett, Bush City and Selma. It left the county east of Selma on to Ft. Scott. Politicians living along the railroad could go to Topeka in the morning and return home in the evening. The K N & D RR operated until 1934 when the tracks were pulled up. The old bridge abutments can still be seen on North Fork Pottawatomie Creek, Cedar Creek and South Fork Pottawatomie Creek. The railroad bed is visible near the ethanol plant in Garnett.
The Missouri, Kansas and Texas Railroad entered Kansas just northeast of Selma. It went through Selma and Kincaid and exited the county southwest of Kincaid. Locally it was known as the "Katie". This railroad still exists but is now owned by Union Pacific.
In 1886 anyone could obtain a charter to build a railroad by asking for it and paying one dollar. Many railroad charters were handed out during this time. One such railroad was the Colony, Neosho Falls and Western Railroad. It was a branch off of the Leavenworth, Lawrence and Galveston Railroad running diagonally toward Madison, Kansas. It did not last very long, and the tracks were pulled up. Evidence of the railroad is very visible from Highway 59 on the south side of Colony where you can see the cut through the low hills and the railroad bed existing today.
Map showing Leavenworth, Lawrence and Galveston RR route through Anderson County.