Wigwag” is the nickname of a type of railroad grade-crossing warning signal. The name comes from the pendulum-like motion it used to signal an approaching trailn. The center red light illuminated and  with each swing of the “target” a mechanical gong sounded. The design and motion mimickes the swinging of a watchmans’ red lantern, swung in a side-to-side motion, the universal sign-language meaning STOP. The wigwag is in Hugo, Colorado.

“Another road joins us with the states and adds its iron band to the links which unite us with the memories, the glories, the prosperity, the future of the nation. Colorado now joins hands socially, commercially, politically, with the East. We are no longer isolated. We belong to the nation and to the country. The Missouri river is no longer the frontier. Omaha and Leavenworth no longer preside over the great far west. There is a ‘New West,’ growing and prosperous, situated on the eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains, of which Denver is the commercial queen, and for which the Kansas Pacific is now the grand highway.”             Rocky Mountain News, September 4, 1870

The Union Pacific Railway, Eastern Division, began construction west from Wyandotte, present-day Kansas City, Kansas, in September of 1863. The railroad would follow closely sections of the Smoky Hill Trail and would be followed almost exactly by pre-Interstate-70 U.S. Highway 40.

The name of the railroad was changed to the Kansas Pacific Railway Company on March 2, 1869.

Track was laid east from Denver and the joining of the rails took place less than a mile east of Strasburg, Colorado, on August 15, 1870.

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The railroad had a profound effect on the territory it traversed. The railroad:

*   Opened Western Kansas and Eastern Colorado to settlement.

*   Gave birth to the wild-west cattle shipping towns of Abilene and Ellsworth.

*   Shortened the Smoky Hill Trail. Stages left from the railway’s “end of track.”

*   Shortened the Santa Fe Trail. Freight was hauled west to the end of track, then transfered to wagons, which continued southwest to the Santa Fe Trail.

*   Established Kansas City, not Leavenworth or Atchison, as the premier railroad town on the Missouri-Kansas border.