SOUTH OMAHA Railroad
How did economic class affect the growth of the railroad industry in Omaha and the class-based segregation of its population?
Moving goods and making communities since the late 1800s.
Research compiled by: Pablo H., Bailey M., Christina C., Teresa H.
The South Omaha Terminal Railway began in 1887. It grew from being 17 miles of track in 1927 to 31 miles by 1978. At that time, the railway was taken over by the Brandon Corporation, which still operates today. The railway had about 85 employees at its peak and it grossed nearly $950,000. The construction of the railroad brought cattle from downtown Omaha to south Omaha stockyards. In the 1970s, the railroad business changed because semi-trucks took a bigger role in cattle transportation. In 1946, the South Omaha Terminal Railway became one of the first to convert completely to diesel engines.
Our group went to investigate the history of the railroads and their connection to the stockyards. While looking for more information at the Douglas County Historical Society about South Omaha’s Terminal Railway, we found a map from 1910 that had the exact location of the railway depot. We went to take a look at it to see it for ourselves, and to compare the map with what the railways look like today. We stopped at 28th Street behind Johnny’s Café, and started to search for the railroads and businesses that our map showed. The depot is now an abandoned lot and many of the businesses are now gone. The residents of south Omaha do not really know about the South Omaha Terminal Railway or the businesses that used to be near it. So my group wanted to make this invisible history visible. The photo in this section was taken by our group which shows the location of where the South Omaha Terminal Railway used to be.
photo taken at 28th and M Streets by the students
The picture shows what the railroads in South Omaha were used for in the past. The trains imported cattle and sheep from other places to the stockyards. After the packing plants started to close, many of the buildings and pens disappeared. Today, the trains import many different types of things to Omaha. For example, they bring coal, apple computer products, even the clothes you might be wearing! This picture documents moving goods because these trains are moving goods but not people, who were moved on different types of trains. The trains that import goods are a cheaper way than trucks to carry a lot of goods. This picture shows the trains that are bringing cattle to the stockyards so that Omaha can have meat to eat.
Postcard is courtesy of Douglas County Historical Society
This pink ticket represents a seat on the train for an individual in order to get to and from places all across the country. This artifact illustrates the “Moving people” subject. The ticket displays a destination, a ticket number , a seat and a car number. It seems as if they are going to Omaha, Nebraska, to arrive at the Burlington train station. The tickets today look a tad bit different, but overall they have not changed much. Tickets still have the general information of the destination and date. The reason trains were used so often up until the 1950s was because they were the fastest source of transportation around the country. Trains today are a safe way to travel and cheaper than a plane ticket, but are far slower than a plane. For example, a train ticket to Denver now would cost $157 for one adult, but would take nine hours to get to the destination. A plane ticket to Denver would be $227, but it would only take one hour to get to the destination.
Ticket is courtesy of the Douglas County Historical Society
Boughn, Pete. “South Omaha Terminal Railway Busiest,” Omaha World-Herald, May 24 a.m., 1959.
Brandon Corporation BRAN #81, https://www.uprr.com/customers/shortline/lines/bran.shtml (accessed July 15, 2013).
Garcilazo, Jeffrey Marcos. Traqueros: Mexican Railroad Workers in the United States, 1870-1930. Denton, TX: University of North Texas Press, 2012
Garza, James A. “The Long History of Mexican Immigration to the Rural Midwest.” Journal of the West 45, no. 4 (Fall 2006): 57-64.
Larsen, Lawrence H. and Barbara J. Cottrell. The Gate City: A History of Omaha, enlarged edition. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1997.
Otis, Harry B. with Donald H. Erickson. E Pluribus Omaha: Immigrants All. Omaha, NE: Lamplighter Press, 2000.
Saunders, Richard. Merging Lines: American Railroads, 1900-1970. DeKalb, IL: Northern Illinois University Press, 2001.