Riding the Rails with the Pea Vine
August 20, 2003
Riding the Rails with the Pea Vine this week on the Oklahoma Audio Almanac.
Hello, I'm Steven Knoche Kite.
For the residents of early-day Oklahoma the existence of railroads often meant the life or death of
their towns and communities. As railroads came through in ever-increasing numbers, battles both political
and physical occurred over the location of stations and railroad stops. At various times entire towns
decided to relocate in order to be closer to the railroad. In the summer of 1899, citizens of Kingfisher,
Guthrie, Seward and Chandler received the news that the Rock Island Railroad had made plans to build a
route extending from Kingfisher in the west to Chandler in the east.
Work began almost simultaneously on each end, and the track received immediate use as towns along the
way became connected by rail. The town of Cashion came into existence because of this new railroad as
did several other small villages along the route.
The route, known locally as the "Pea Vine", connected more than a dozen towns. Starting in the
west, the train left Kingfisher running through Reading, Cashion, Davina, Seward, Guthrie, Bestan, Frost,
Iconium, Merrick, Dudley, Emzee, Lowe and finally Chandler at the end of the line. The track was officially
finished in this week of August 1903, four years and three months after work began. A crowd of people
gathered in Chandler to observe the final spike driven in and celebrations commenced up and down the line.
For several decades the Pea Vine proved a valuable, if not essential, component of life in midwestern
Oklahoma. Cotton, produce, people and other livestock filled the several trains making daily runs along
the line. Several factors, however, contributed to the end of the much beloved Pea Vine. The cost of track
maintenance proved exceedingly high due to the number of fills and grates constructed, and rather quickly
the Pea Vine fell into poor shape. Also, the lack of any industrial development along the line hurt revenue
intake. Only cotton, some wheat, and oil and produce, in addition to people, moved between the towns.
As the use of the automobile proliferated the railroad began shutting down the less economical sections
beginning at the eastern end. In the mid 1930s the line existed only between Cashion and Guthrie, and
by 1937 the train hadn't carried a passenger in over a year, and the one daily train moved very little
cargo. By the end of 1937 the Pea Vine, the much beloved creator and sustainer of Oklahoma towns, existed
only in the memories of those along its route.
The Pea Vine says "hello", "goodbye" this week on the Almanac.
The Oklahoma Audio Almanac is a joint production of Oklahoma's Public Radio
and the Oklahoma State University Library.