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Early Transportation

posted Apr 13, 2017, 7:55 AM by James Nennemann
By Lona Lewis

When Fremont County was being settled, trains were a huge influence in where settlements began.  Riverton was just one of the towns that flourished because they were successful in getting the train to go through their community.  Most towns in the County at the turn of the 20th century had a depot.  Randolph, today, has an original depot building that is a fine museum. Visitors can observe the ticket window and waiting room for passengers.

Speaking only for myself, the significance of ticket taking never sunk in until I began to hear stories about using the train. There was a reason why communities each had a depot.  Traveling around the County was not jumping into the car and getting on Highway 2.  Emily Lewis Bengtson tells stories of she and her sister, Mary Ann, going into Riverton, getting on the train and going to Hamburg to visit for a weekend. They were teenagers in the 1930’s and this gave them freedom. They could leave in the morning on Saturday and return on Sunday afternoon.  Sometimes their folks would get on the train Sunday morning and come down to eat Sunday dinner. Then all four would return home that evening. The cost 5 cents each.

In the 1930’s Salesmen would take the train from Hastings and arrive in Sidney.  A taxi picked them up and took them to the Hotel.  The next morning after making their rounds, then would board the train to go back north. They probably took the same train back because Sidney had a turntable since it was the end of the line.

All corners of Fremont County and everything in between could be reached by trains.  Passenger trains ran into the 1950’s.  The depot in Sidney closed in 1966. The only difference being by the time they ceased running the cost was 10 cents.
Trains were vital to the farmers.  There are stories in every community of trains taking garden produce north to Omaha and South to St Joseph.    Livestock also left the County via train to feed the big cities.

When the trains came back south they brought goods for the stores. One of the more interesting stories was the delivery of a car to McPaul.  The car belonged to C.B. McPaul who lived in Thurman. In 1901 he bought a new car which the train brought to McPaul. He could not get it into forward gear so he backed the car the three miles to Thurman.

Today those of us living in Fremont County still see trains. The difference being they are many cars -mostly box cars or coal cars.  Perhaps the strangest sight is the day trains carry airplane fuselages through the County.  Gone are the passenger trains and the taxis.  
Buses were also very prolific during the early days in Fremont county. They came up from Kanas City and St. Joseph. And would take passengers up to Omaha. A rider could go up from Fremont County in the morning, spend the day shopping and return in the evening. The buses also ran to Shenandoah and Nebraska City. This was before the days that airplanes took over as a main source of transportation.