Las Animas Junction, CO to Ellinor, KS

The high plains of Colorado are largely arid, useful only for livestock grazing and dry farming. Further east, in western Kansas, farmers can handle both more livestock and less hardy crops, but irrigation is still required for the cropland, at least. Somewhere between the 95th and the 100th meridian, as the plains climb so slowly from the 400 ft. altitude of the Missouri River at Kansas City to the 5000 or 6000 ft. altitude at the base of the Rocky Mountains in Colorado, an isoclime is passed at which the land becomes perceptibly drier, less able to handle crops without irrigation (and better able to handle wheat rather than corn), and can handle cattle better than sheep for livestock farming. Today, this isoclime tends to mark the western boundary of widespread settlement of the plains. From eastern Colorado eastward, every town has at least one large grain silo standing next to the tracks. The appearance of these tends to differ with age (time of building), but not by location. It is the appearance of the countryside itself that shows the difference in the rainfall levels, and thus the crop and livestock types.

From Las Animas Junction (MP 533.6), the line, now Track Warrant Control (TWC) ABS, and remaining single track with speed limits of 79-60, continues down the Arkansas River valley, with a dirt road alongside to the south, through Intermediate Signals at Keller, where it turns east-northeast to run along the south side of the John Martin Reservoir (which required a diversion of the Santa Fe line from its previous route just north of the present line but at a lower level that is now flooded), past a dirt road grade crossing, and then turns east-southeast on an embankment alongside the reservoir past Intermediate Signals at Hilton (MP 527.4), bridging over an arm of the reservoir (which looks like a narrow canal, in April 2006), passing two sets of Intermediate Signals and turning east, across a dirt road grade crossing and past the 4,000 ft. siding on the north side at Cadda (MP 521.5). The line runs on an embankment, past Intermediate Signals, a dirt road grade crossing, more embankment and then a rock cutting, through the arid high plains with many gullies and trees only along watercourses, past a bridge over a gulley, a dirt road grade crossing with a dirt road alongside to the south, Intermediate Signals at Able (MP 516.3), a dirt road grade crossing, Intermediate Signals, a dirt road grade crossing, a grade crossing, Intermediate Signals at Prowers (MP 510.4), where the line diversion for the reservoir ends, a dirt road alongside to the south, a former dirt road grade crossing (now closed), Intermediate Signals at Beta (MP 506.2), a dirt road grade crossing, the town of Lamar on both sides, three grade crossings, the Lamar depot is on the south side of the tracks, with stuffed-and-mounted ATSF 2-6-2 1819 on the south side of the depot, there is a grade crossing, and the 7.500 ft. siding on the north side at Lamar (MP 502.3), where  the speed limit is 55 mph for a short distance, there is a grain elevator on the north side, extra track on the north side, a grade crossing within the siding, a bridge over a stream, and a connection north across the river to Wilson Junction once left at a wye on the east side of town. US 50 is now on the south side of the line again.

There is a bridge over a stream, a detector at MP 499.0, with the speed limit back to 79-60, a grade crossing, a bridge over an irrigation channel, a bridge over an apparent river, two grade crossings, a dirt road grade crossing, Intermediate Signals at Clucas (MP 496.9), two dirt road grade crossings, a bridge over a river, two dirt road grade crossings, a grade crossing, Intermediate Signals at Grote (MP 491.4), where the line curves east-southeast, US 50 alongside to the south, a dirt road grade crossing, Intermediate Signals at Koen, two dirt road grade crossings, Intermediate Signals, a grade crossing, the 4,000 ft. siding at Granada, where the town is on the south side along US 50, Intermediate Signals, a road bridge overhead (US 50) and grain elevator and spur on the south side at Barton (MP 481.5), where the speed limit drops to 75-60 as the line turns east-northeast to cross the Arkansas River on a deck girder bridge and resumes both its easterly course, now paralleling the river on its north side, and the 79-60 speed limits. There is a bridge over a dirt road, Intermediate Signals at Amity (MP 479.2), a dirt road grade crossing, two bridges, a dirt road grade crossing, a grade crossing, the 3,700 ft. siding at Holly (MP 474.9), where the town is on the north side, and an elevator and spurs on the south side, and a branch that had run parallel to, but north of, the main line all the way from west of La Junta, once trailed in from the northwest, and the Colorado-Kansas border.

In Kansas, the jointed-track line crosses a bridge over drainage and turns east-southeast, with the river alongside to the south, past Intermediate Signals, two bridges over tributaries, a dirt road grade crossing, elevators and spurs on the north side and extra track on the south side at Coolidge (MP 468.8), a dirt road grade crossing, a detector at MP 466.1, a bridge over a tributary, a dirt road grade crossing, a bridge overhead, two dirt road grade crossings, Intermediate Signals at Medway (MP 461.4), a bridge over drainage, a dirt road grade crossing, a bridge over drainage, two dirt road grade crossings, Intermediate Signals, two dirt road grade crossings, a 10,000 ft. siding on the south side at Syracuse (MP 453.9), where there are elevators on the south side, a grade crossing, a spur to elevators on the south side, the town to the north, a grade crossing within the siding, four dirt road grade crossings, a bridge over drainage, Mayline, a bridge over drainage, US 50 alongside to the north, and elevators and spurs on the south side at Kendall (MP 442.2).

There is a 6,850 ft. siding on the south side at Sutton (MP 437.3), a bridge over irrigation, a detector at MP 435.2, a bridge over a dirt road, open rangeland with beef cattle, a dirt road grade crossing, a bridge over an arroyo, and Hartland, where the line turns northeast, there is a grade crossing, the town is to the north, there is a large elevator with spurs and extra track on the south side, a grade crossing in the town that is now on both sides, grain elevators on the south side, and extra tracks on the south side at Lakin (MP 424.3), where there is a dirt road grade crossing. The line turns east-northeast past dry-farming fields and rangeland on the south side, a detector at MP 418.1, a dirt road grade crossing, an elevator on the north side, the 4,050 ft. siding on the north side with extra tracks on the south side at Deerfield (MP 417.0), where there is a grade crossing in the town and US 50 alongside to the south.

The line turns east-southeast past a bridge over US 50, rangeland on the south side, Intermediate Signals at MP 411.1/2, Iowa Beef Processors (a factory across the highway on the north side with lots of truck traffic but no apparent rail connection in April, 2006), extra track on the south side at Holcomb (MP 409.0), Sunflower Electric, where a spur to Sunflower Electric Power's Holcomb Station heads south, Garden City Western's yard on the north side, a power plant on the north side, former ATSF branches from Wolf and Scott City, now operated by Garden City Western (the latter as far as Shallow Water only), trail in from the north, a grade crossing, extra track on the north side, Garden City (MP 402.4), where the speed limits is 45-45 through town, the brick depot is on the north side of the line with its parking lot west of the depot, there is a 7,835 ft. siding with elevators on both the north and south sides of the line, and a grade crossing.

As the 79-60 speed limits resume, US 83 bridges overhead, there is an elevator on the north side with its own switching locomotive, extra track on the north side, a dirt road grade crossing,  and a detector at MP 397.7. The line turns southeast past a facility on the south side with many trucks coming and going at MP 394, extra track and elevators on the south side and a grade crossing at Marshfield, and dry-farming fields (with irrigation circles) on both sides, and east-southeast past Intermediate Signals at Pierceville and the 7,750 ft. siding on the south at Charleston (MP 384.0), with a grade crossing within the siding and a grain elevator with a spur on the south side, southeast past a detector at MP 380.2 and Ingalls, where the town is on the south side, there is a grade crossing and an elevator on the north side with a spur trailing in, a dirt road grade crossing, a dirt road alongside to the south, east past the 6,250 ft. siding at Cimarron (MP 371.2), where there are two grade crossings within the siding, a grain elevator on the south side, and two more grade crossings within the siding, and east-southeast past Howell, where US 50 is alongside to the north, and a detector at MP 355.4.

There are large grazing fields alongside to the south, intermingled with fields that are irrigated by large movable sprinklers (for dry farming), Sears (MP 354.7), where Double Track, TWC, ABS starts (with a speed limit of 40 mph on the south track), and the line turns east, past a wye with tracks heading south across the river to CRIP Junction, to Dodge City (MP 352.5), where the speed limit is 30-20 in town, there is a grade crossing, grain elevators to the south with spurs from the south between them that curve east and trail in, a grade crossing, yard tracks alongside to the south west of the depot, and the large brick depot on the south side of the line. There is a yard on the north side of the tracks, east of the depot, as far as Dodge City Junction (MP 350.1), where the line turns north-northeast, and temporarily leaves the Arkansas River behind, and the speed limit rises to 75-65 on the north tracks and 40 mph on the south track. The line then turns east and then northeast to the end of Double Track at Wright (MP 344.7), where the speed limit rises to 79-55.

There is a detector at MP 341.0, a 7,768 ft. siding at Spearville (MP 336.1), and the line turns east-northeast past Bellefont, a 5,282 ft. siding at Offerle (MP 324.7), Ardell, and a detector at MP 321.2. The line jogs northeast through the 8,600 ft. siding at Kinsley (MP 316.7/302.4), where the speed limit drops to 75-55 and then 55 mph (still?) where a line to Hodges once headed south and a line to Larned once headed northeast, before 79-55 resumes. The line crosses the Arkansas River heading due east, and passes Lewis, a 10,370 ft. siding at Belpre (MP 284.9), where a line from Trousdale to Larned once crossed at grade, Macksville, a detector at MP 275.5, and Dilwyn, where it angles east-northeast, a 10,284 ft. siding at St. John (MP 266.0), with a short-distance speed limit of 55 mph before 79-55 resumes, where it resumes generally easterly travel, UP Xing (MP 257.2), with a 50 mph speed limit (still?), where a line from Larned to Turon once crossed at grade, Stafford,  a 10,300 ft. siding at Zenith (MP 251.1), a detector at MP 247.9, Sylvia, Plevna, a 10,166 ft. siding at Abbyville (MP 235.1), and Partridge, where the line turns northeast, with the UP (ex-CRI&P "Cotton Rock") alongside it to the southeast, past a detector at MP 221.4, Whiteside, and CP 2206 (MP 220.6). and bridging over the Arkansas River (for the last time), with a speed limit of 60-55, to a flat crossing with the former ATSF line to Kingman (now just a stub from the Kansas & Oklahoma) at West Hutch (MP 219.2), where the speed limit is 40 mph, and CTC starts, and a flat crossing with the Kansas & Oklahoma (former Missouri Pacific) line between Wichita and Sterling at UP Xing (also MP 219.2).

The line turns east at CH Junction (MP 218.3), a wye with the Kansas & Oklahoma (former Santa Fe) line northeast to Great Bend, where the speed limit is 40-30, and passes the 29,903 ft. siding at Hutchinson (MP 218.0), where the speed limit is 30 mph and there is an Amtrak depot, SSW Xing (MP 216.5), with a 40 mph speed limit, where the UP (ex-CRI&P "Cotton Rock") crosses at grade, after which 79-55 mph running resumes, Way (MP 214.1), where the yard and siding end, Kent, BN Xing (MP 204.1), where the former Frisco line northwest from Wichita once crossed at grade, with a short 50 mph speed limit (still?), the 10,452 ft. siding at Burrton (MP 203.7), Paxton, a 6,124 ft. siding at Halstead (MP 194.6), and a detector at MP 192.0.

Two Main Tracks, CTC, start at SC Junction (MP 190.0), where a BNSF line from Wichita trails in from the south and the line turns northeast, the line passes through crossovers at West Sand Creek (MP 187.7), where the speed limit falls to 55-50, crossovers at Sand Creek (MP 186.7), a small yard at Rail Mill (MP 186.1), First Street (MP 185.6), where Three Main Tracks start, and Newton (MP 185.1), where there is an Amtrak depot. The 3MT reduce to single track, CTC, at UP Xing (MP 184.6), where the speed limit is 20 mph and the former MP line from El Dorado to McPherson crosses at grade, after which the speed limit rises to 79-65, past a detector at MP 180.9, and the 8,419 ft. siding at Walton (MP 178.3). The line turns east past Braddock, turns northeast past Peabody Siding (west end of the 10,487 ft. siding, where the speed limit falls to 65-45), UP Xing (MP 168.6), where the speed limit is 45 mph and the UP's former CRI&P line from Wichita to Herington crosses at grade, and Peabody (MP 168.3), where the siding ends, the line turns east and 79-65 running resumes.

The line turns northeast through Honner, where the speed limit is briefly 70-65 before resuming 79-65, and passes a detector at MP 159.0 before reaching the 8,079 ft. siding at Florence (MP 156.9), where lines once left south to El Dorado and northwest to Marion. The line turns east, east-northeast past Cedar Point, and northeast past the 8,583 ft. siding at Clements (MP 144.8), and Elmdale. At Neva (MP 135.8), where the speed limit is 75-65, the line turns east as the line from Jacobs trails in from the northwest, past a detector at MP 134.0, where the speed limit falls briefly from the resumed 79-65 to 70-50, the 11,762 ft. siding at Strong City (MP 131.7), where a line to Cottonwood Falls and Bazar once headed south, and Ellinor (MP 124.7), where the BNSF Freight Transcon from El Dorado and beyond trails in from the south-southwest.

On Train 3, westbound, dawn breaks in the vicinity of Dodge City, Kansas (or further west). For the traveler, this means that the break between the mid-Western farming styles seen in Illinois, Missouri, and eastern Kansas, and the high plains farming styles, takes place overnight. The result is a distinctly visible change between the evening and morning scenery.