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Oklahoma's "Do-It-Yourself-Railroad"
Comes to Life

November 12, 2003

Almanac Transcript

Oklahoma's "Do-It-Yourself-Railroad" comes to life this week on the Almanac.

Hello, I'm Steven Knoche Kite.

From the time of settlement the residents of Cheyenne, Oklahoma held the honor of living in the county seat of Roger Mills County. By 1910, however, Cheyenne's position of power as county seat was under attack. The town of Roll in 1910 made a grab at the title and more attacks were under way. What the town needed in order to secure its status was a railroad; it was one of the few county seats in the state to not have such a convenience.

Putting fire to the fuse was the decision of some businessmen from Clinton to build a railroad into Roger Mills County ending seven miles short of Cheyenne and making that terminus, Strong City, the new county seat. This railroad the Clinton Oklahoma Western Railroad or COW presented a serious threat to take away Cheyenne's coveted title. The citizens of Cheyenne not wanting to lose the court house and certainly not wanting to lose it a COW decided to take matters into their own hands.

As the Cow proceeded onto Strong City, the 500 citizens of Cheyenne began their own railroad, the Cheyenne Short Line eventually connecting up with the Cow Line. It was in this week in November of 1912 that citizens watched the first steps of construction take place on their railroad. Finished almost a year later, the seven mile line featured a consisting of "Old Number Eight," the engine, a flatcar and a boxcar. The line being a completely amateur affair ran through a number of pastures and fence lines causing the engineer or fireman to have to get out and open and close the gates.Also no turnaround facilities existed in Strong City so the return trip to Cheyenne was always made in the reverse.

Despite the limited car arrangements, the citizens made due. When attending events in Strong City or elsewhere, benches and chairs were piled onto and into the railroad cars changing the freight service into a passenger line. Most of the business on the Cheyenne Short Line, however, consisted of agricultural goods and the instability of such items in terms of price and quantity made for a shaky at best existence for the line. With the band playing Goodbye My Lover the Cheyenne Short Line ran its last run September 18, 1916 almost three years after it began. The seven mile Cheyenne Short Line served for a short time but served its purpose. Because of the RR the residents of Cheyenne made effective their argument to remain the county seat as the town is to this very day. The Cheyenne Short Line get's the go ahead this week on the Almanac.

The Oklahoma Audio Almanac is a joint production of Oklahoma's Public Radio and the Oklahoma State University Library.

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