Memories > Builders of the Santa Fe

Builders of the Santa Fe

Editors Note:  This article is taken from "The Santa Fe Magazine" April 1914 edition.  This was a monthly publication devoted to the interests of the 75,000 employees of the Santa Fe Railway System.
LEWIS KINGMAN - A Man Who Made Good
by Glenn D. Bradley
page 1 of 7
PREFATORY NOTE  - These articles are written expressly for Santa Fe folks.  Most of them will be chatty and informal.  Some will be long and some will be short.  Their chief purpose is to entertain.  Also it has been sought to gather the data concerning many of the men who dared. and  men who gave their lives, to the building of the Santa Fe.
The cooperation of Santa Fe and ex-Santa Fe men has made this series possible.  Yet it has been no easy task.  Many of the real builders are dead and half forgotten.  Some are in feeble retirement, their faculties impaired by ill health and old age.  Others, though aging, are yet active in the service.  Some have withdrawn from railroad work and are in other lines of business.  A few, though retired, are still vigorous and alert.  All are scattered.  Writing this series has involved a great deal of travel, much patient investigation and endless correspondence.
These stories aim to feature the careers of men who were more or less prominent in engineering and land department operations; but a few exceptions have been made.  There is no arbitrary rule to determine just who the builders of the Santa Fe were.  Whatever list of names we may adopt can be extended indefinitely.  Many names will not appear in this series because they already have been written up in the magazine; others will not receive their just recognition because, of our inability to get at the neglected facts of their obscured lives
A CIVIL engineer of great ability was Lewis Kingman.  As a railroad builder in the Southwest he achieved unusual prominence.  He first helped build the Atlantic & Pacific-now the Santa Fe between Albuquerque and Mojave - a line of nine hundred and fifteen miles.  Besides, he built 1,353 miles of the Santa Fe System proper.  As engineer for the Mexican Central he constructed nearly 1,500 miles of road in Mexico.  And not long ago he rounded out a successful and extremely busy life and passed away in the City of Mexico.

Mr. Kingman was a New Englander, having been born in North Bridgewater, Massachusetts (now Brockton, a place famous for its great shoe factories).  The ancestral home where Kingman was born on February 26, 1845, stood near the famous Plymouth Rock where the equally famous Pilgrim fathers landed.  But to Kingman's everlasting credit he never went through life advertising this fact; nor did he waste much time pointing with pride to his rock ribbed New England ancestors, of which he had a splendid assortment. 

Lewis Kingman 1868
As a builder of railroads he did something worthwhile for mankind.
No, blessed with much common sense, pluck, ambition and natural ability, at an early age he struck out for himself and, far from home and family influence, he made good.  He won true success on a grand scale.  As a builder of railroads he did something worthwhile for mankind.  And he built for himself monuments of real greatness that will last forever. To have done all this without drawing upon family antecedents for help is just about the best brand of success that can be won.

Kingman's childhood was common to that of the average Massachusetts farmer boy.  He was carefully reared and went to a district school, where he took his lickings and got what education he could.  In 1862 he decided to take up engineering, which profession he followed until his death about fifty years later.

In those days engineering and other professions were not commonly; studied in universities, as at present.  Having gained some knowledge of mathematics the prospective engineer generally entered the employ of some engineering concern, where he learned - or attempted to learn - the profession by doing practical work.  That was exactly what Lewis Kingman did.  When seventeen-years old, his father arranged for him to study and work with Shedd & Edson, a civil engineering firm in Boston.  Kingman, SR., had to pay the firm one hundred dollars a year for the for the boy's instruction; while the engineers in turn agreed to pay the lad for any work he might be able to do for them.  This education was acquired under a commuter's difficulties, for Lewis boarded at home and travelled over the Old Colony Railroad 20 miles into Boston each morning, and back at night.

With Shedd & Edson, Kingman had some good experience.  Under Mr. Edson he performed his first railroad work, in which snow four feet deep had to be shovelled aside before grading could begin.  The construction of this line - a branch of the Lowell Railroad - also involved building across a marshy bog which involved valuable engineering problems.  While in this service Kingman became acquainted with a number of young engineering students, and among them was C. A. Morse, who also is well known in Santa Fe history.  The friendships of Kingman and Morse proved sincere and lasting.

In the spring of 1864 Morse left Boston for Wilkesbarre, Pa., to engage in railroad work.  A little later he secured a job for Kingman.  But the Pennsylvania venture did not turn out well.  Late that summer Morse was stricken with typhoid and was nursed for a time by Kingman.  Early in the fall Kingman in turn was taken with malaria and finally went home, where he stayed several months.

Early in. 1865 Kingman went back to Pennsylvania, this time to Oil City.  There he got interested in the oil boom, which was then on in full blast.  For about a year he ran a stationary engine and at the same time learned to drill wells.  By 1866 he had saved $500, with which he purchased a one-sixteenth interest in an oil well; he was also paid $4 a day to help bore it.  For a time Kingman prospered in this enterprise.  He made some money and reinvested until he had $2,500 in the oil business.  Then the boom fell flat and in 1868 he left Pennsylvania for the West with three years' experience as an "oil producer" and just $250 in cash as reward for his efforts.

On July 13, 1868, he entered the service of the Atlantic & Pacific Railroad, the headquarters of which were in St. Louis.  His first work was as transitman under Chief Engineer Thomas McKissock in southwestern Missouri, in the Ozark country.  Within a few weeks Kingman was given a 12-mile division of the road to build.  With a large force of graders he at once assumed greater responsibilities than he ever before had experienced.  While the work was in progress the party was joined by a fresh corps of young engineers, and among them were James Dun and John F. Hinckley, who since have acquired fame* as railroadmen.  Each was put on construction and assigned a division to complete.  This road through the Ozarks, where Kingman was engaged about two years, was roughly known as the Eastern Division of the Atlantic & Pacific.  It is now one of the main stems of the Frisco System. 

*James Dun, as many Santa Fe men know, became chief engineer of the Frisco and the Santa Fe systems, respectively.  Hinckley is at present chief engineer of the Frisco. 
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