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Railroad Wars

Railroad Wars
The Royal Gorge in 1886 Colorado. Competition to build a line through the Royal Gorge resulted in a railroad war in the late 1870s.
Location United States

Railroad Wars are very common in American history. Although they were usually little more than legal disputes inside a courtroom, they sometimes turned into armed conflicts. There has been competition between railroad companies since the beginning of railroading in the United States, but violent confrontations were most common in the final quarter of the 19th century, particularly in the Old West.


  • Wars 1
    • Placer County Railroad War 1.1
    • Colorado Railroad War 1.2
    • Enid-Pond Creek Railroad War 1.3
    • Deschutes Railroad War 1.4
  • See also 2
  • References 3


Placer County Railroad War

One of the first railroad wars in Old West history was the Placer County Railroad War in [1]

In order to stop the destruction of the road by the Sacramento Valley company, Central Pacific convinced a local [1]

In response, the [1][2]

Colorado Railroad War

The Colorado Railroad War, also known as the Royal Gorge Railroad War, was fought in the late 1870s between the [3][4][5]

Now both railroads were competing to put track along the narrow [3]

Enid-Pond Creek Railroad War

The [6]

The problems began when the Department of the Interior set about opening the [6]

A [6]

To restore order, men of the [6]

Deschutes Railroad War

The Deschutes Railroad War began in 1908 when two competing railroad companies, the Deschutes Railroad and the Oregon Trunk Railway, started racing to build a line from the mouth of the Deschutes River across central Oregon. The Deschutes Railroad, a Union Pacific subsidiary, was owned by Edward H. Harriman and the Oregon Trunk was owned by James J. Hill.[7][8]

Harriman was the first to begin construction and, after surveying the area, he decided that the eastern side of the river would be the best route. Soon after, Hill began building his own line on the western side. Later on, however, in the Deschutes River Canyon, the two roads actually ran side-by-side or shared the same rails and terminals. Over the following years, there were multiple legal disputes to decide which company should have sole access to the canyon, but railroad workers went even further. Competing construction crews would often blow up the other side's supplies by igniting their black powder stores. They also dumped boulders onto camps below and engaged in small gunfights. Casualties remained light though and by 1912 the two railroads were operating on mostly separate lines, thus removing the cause for hostility.[7]

See also


  1. ^ a b c "The Placer County Railroad War". G. J. Graves. Retrieved June 17, 2012. 
  2. ^ "Auburn Chamber of Commerce: Historical Overview". Retrieved June 17, 2012. 
  3. ^ a b "JSTOR: American Quarterly, Vol. 15, No. 2 (Summer, 1963 ), pp. 221-221, 2008-05-14". 
  4. ^ " Colorado Railroad War". Retrieved June 17, 2012. 
  5. ^ "Canon City Escort Notes: Railroads" (PDF). Retrieved June 17, 2012. 
  6. ^ a b c d "Enid-Pond Creek Railroad War". Retrieved June 17, 2012. 
  7. ^ a b " Miller to Metolius". Retrieved June 17, 2012. 
  8. ^ "Sherman County: A History of Oregon Sheriffs 1841 to 1991: The Railroad Wars". Retrieved June 17, 2012. 
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