The Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe railroad reached here from the North on June 13, 1880 and Caldwell joined Baxter Springs, Abilene, Newton, Wichita, Ellsworth and Dodge City in the pages of history as a Kansas cowtown. Hundreds of thousands of Texas longhorn cattle were shipped from here between 1880 and 1886. A host of other railroads built and/or operated through here over the years. Names like Chicago, Caldwell & Rock Island (1886); Geuda Springs, Caldwell & Western (1885); St. Louis-San Francisco ("Frisco" 1886); Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific ("Rock Island" 1891); Oklahoma, Kansas & Texas ("Katy" 1980) and the Union Pacific (1988) could be seen on the locomotives, depots and paychecks.
The railroad brought Caldwell new families, the mail, fertilizer for the farms, parts for the tractors, revenue for the city, cafes and merchants, and more than a small amount of aggravation for drivers at rail crossings. Hobos lived along the right-of-way in cardboard boxes, generations of children laid pennies on the rails and dreamed of far away places, and adults watched in amazement as the "Rocket" or other futuristic locomotive, pulling unknown people and goods, roared through town.
A century later there are fewer Caldwell citizens and fewer trains. But like old friends, each knows that things would have been much different
if not for the other. After so many years even a train approaching whistle is to Caldwell more a sound of greeting than of warning.