Travel the Trail: Map Timeline 1866 - 1873
1866 - 1867
Union Pacific Eastern Division (UPED) Railroad construction began west from the Kansas City area in 1863. When the rails reached Junction City in June 1866, westbound Santa Fe Trail travelers took the train to Junction City; then headed west along the Butterfield Overland Despatch route to Fort Ellsworth; then southwest on a connecting road to Fort Zarah; where they resumed the main trail. Long distance Santa Fe Trail traffic east of Fort Zarah slowed to a trickle. Trail length from Junction City to Santa Fe = 699 miles: 76 miles from Junction City to Fort Ellsworth, 40 miles from Fort Ellsworth to Fort Zarah, and 583 miles from Fort Zarah to Santa Fe.
The UPED reached Fort Harker (near Fort Ellsworth) in June 1867. For the next several months, most Santa Fe-bound travelers began their trail trips at this point. Trail length from Fort Harker to Santa Fe = 623 miles: 40 miles (feeder route) from Fort Harker to Fort Zarah and 583 miles (main route) from Fort Zarah to Santa Fe.
1867 - 1868
The UPED reached Hays City (near Fort Hays) in October 1867, after which wagons and stage coaches used this point to begin their westward trips. Most long distance trail traffic stopped east of Fort Dodge. Trail length from Hays to Santa Fe = 568 miles: 75 miles (feeder route) from Hays to Fort Dodge and 493 miles (main route) from Fort Dodge to Santa Fe.
1868 - 1870
UPED tracks reached the town of Phil Sheridan (soon renamed Sheridan) in June 1868, and then westbound freight headed southwest over a wagon road to (new) Fort Lyon, on the main trail. The Cimarron Route was abandoned after June 1868, and most long distance Mountain Route traffic ceased east of Fort Lyon. Trail length from Sheridan to Santa Fe = 428 miles: 120 miles (feeder route) from Sheridan to Fort Lyon and 308 miles (main route) from Fort Lyon to Santa Fe.
1870 - 1873
The Kansas Pacific (formerly UPED) reached Kit Carson, Colorado in March 1870. The primary connecting route between there and the main Santa Fe Trail was a 66-mile freight route that went southwest to the site of Bent's Old Fort. Trail length from Kit Carson to Santa Fe = 358 miles (via the freight route): 66 miles (feeder route) from Kit Carson to the old fort site and 292 miles (main route) from the fort site to Santa Fe.
A new railroad (the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe), also building west from eastern Kansas, began to compete for Santa Fe Trail traffic in July 1873 when it reached (old) Granada, in eastern Colorado. Most trail traffic began running over the Granada-Fort Union wagon road, although some traffic continued through Trinidad. Trail length from Granada to Santa Fe = 323 miles: 224 miles on the connecting road and 99 miles along the main trail right of way.