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Remembering the Atlantic Northern & Southern Railroad

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By The Express

When the Union Pacific and Central Pacific met at Promontory Point, Utah, in May of 1869, the ceremonial last spike was gold and about 3,000 people were on hand. When the Atlantic Northern & Southern was completed near Grant the last spike was silver, and about 3,000 people were on hand. From our newspaper’s edition of December 30, 1910:

The last spike connecting the rails of the Atlantic Northern & Southern railway between Atlantic and Villisca was driven Tuesday afternoon with appropriate ceremonies. Several thousands of people witnessed the event. The meeting of the tracks from the north and those from the south was about a mile south of the town of Grant and the people of that town made great preparations for celebrating the event and for entertaining the workmen engaged in the task, which was a Herculean one considering the distance covered. The speed with which the track was laid is almost unsurpassed in the history of railroad construction.

From George T. Cary, the druggist at Grant, and from the Villisca Review, this paper was enabled by telephone to obtain the principal facts pertaining to the event.

On Christmas night the ladies of Douglas township served a Christmas feast in the Masonic hall in Grant to the workmen of the gang coming south from Atlantic, the rails having reached Grant that evening. There were 152 persons served at the banquet. At 12:15 Tuesday afternoon the two crews of tracklayers met. They completed their work with the exception of putting in the last rail. Word had been sent to President Rattenborg, at Atlantic, and he was expected at any moment to direct the laying of the last rail and driving of the final spike.

Mr. Rattenborg, his family and officials of the road arrived in automobiles about 3 o’clock and President Rattenborg produced a silver spike and applied it to a tie which lay under the last rail. He gave it several blows to fasten it in its resting place and then turned the hammer over to Mrs. Rattenborg, who also applied a blow. Then followed other members of the family and other officers and directors of the company, each having the honor of welding a link in a chain which brings to that region commercial advantages and business privileges too long withheld.

Following the driving of the spike President Rattenborg made an address, recounting the history of the enterprise.

There were between 2500 and 3000 people gathered to witness the ceremonies and all joined in singing “America,” the singing being led by Miss Nellie Smith, daughter of S.E. Smith, who is director of the company residing in Grant.

The Atlantic Northern and Southern was short-lived. The government wasn’t doing bailouts back then and the little railroad died from a lack of business. Originally the train made two Atlantic to Villisca round trips daily, but without enough freight or passengers to pay expenses this was reduced to one. That didn’t work either, and the AN&S was shut down.

We don’t know what happened to the silver spike.