In 1866 businessmen in Nebraska City organized the Midland Pacific Railway Company (later the Nebraska Railway Company). The railroad built into Lincoln in 1871 and completed a branch line to Brownville in 1875.
One of the ways in which the Midland Pacific rewarded its local benefactors was by distributing free tickets to those who had benefitted the railroad during construction. The Nebraska City News of February 27, 1875, reported a "Farmers Excursion" from the Barney and Minersville area of Otoe County to Lincoln. Lawson Cook (nominally in charge of the excursion) and others had received free Midland Pacific tickets to distribute as a reward for giving the railroad free right-of-way through their land and for land donations to the road. An educational excursion to Lincoln was organized. The News reported that over one hundred Otoe County farmers participated, listed their names, and added that at least five had never ridden on a train before.
"When the Brakeman sang out 'Lincoln,' every one on board was pleased, and many were even gratified. Here Prof. [S. R.] Thompson, Dean of the Agricultural College, met the party with wagons and buggies, and conducted them out to the celebrated 'Model Farm,' now under his superintendency. . . . [and] located about two miles from the State University." Later the excursionists visited the school's main campus before returning home the next day via the Midland Pacific.
Unfortunately, some took advantage of the excursion to engage in less educational activities than touring university facilities. A succeeding page in the February 27 News reported an incident during the return to Otoe County under the title "More Whiskey Infernalism." According to the News, "a few ruffianly whiskey-soakers got themselves smuggled in to decent company" on the recent trip. "At Lincoln their principal employment was visiting saloons and drinking whiskey. . . . As soon as the [return] train started from Lincoln they commenced again, drinking, card-playing, ripping and swearing like fiends." An altercation between two excursionists led to a shooting in which a third man was wounded in the hand. "For ten or fifteen minutes there was the most intense confusion and excitement" until the pistol was finally taken from the assailant. He was arrested and removed from the train at Palmyra.