publications

Air Brakes

Improvements in rail transportation, both of freight and passengers, were of paramount interest and importance in the pre-automobile era. The Daily Nebraska State Journal, of May 24, 1884, noted passage through Lincoln of an “Experimental Train” equipped with Westinghouse air brakes:



“A freight train passed through this city yesterday morning, on a trip the success of which will be watched with much interest by all railroad authorities. The train left Chicago night before last and arrived in this city [Lincoln] at l:27 a.m. yesterday, leaving at 2:35. It was a through freight to Denver and was the first freight train on which the experiment of using air brakes [invented in 1868 by George Westinghouse] has ever been tried. 



“The train consisted of twenty-three cars of dead freight and three private coaches. These coaches belonged respectively to Mr. Bernard, assistant general manager of the Kansas City, St. Joe & Council Bluffs, and the Hannibal and St. Joseph roads; Henry B. Stone, assistant general manager of the C.B.& Q; and J. N. Merrill, superintendent of the Iowa division of the C.B.& Q. Assistant General Manager G. W. Holdrege, General Superintendent T. E. Calvert, and Assistant Superintendents D. E. Thompson and John McConiff, of the B. & M. in Nebraska, met the train at Pacific Junction and accompanied it to Denver. Mr. Westinghouse, the inventor of the air brakes which were upon trial, was also one of the party.



“The advantages to be gained by the use of air brakes on freights, if they are successful, are chiefly the saving of time in shipping and the prevention of the damage to goods, which cannot but result from the jerking and jamming of the old method. All the officials pronounced the experiment a decided success. The time saved in stopping was quite considerable and the stop was made with scarcely a perceptible jar to the coaches. There was only one difficulty experienced. Up to the time when the train was here the engineer had not been able to handle the brake perfectly enough on a down grade, so as to prevent a little jerking when it was taken off. This difficulty was overcome before the train reached Red Cloud, and the party telegraphed back from that place that the experiment was a perfect success in every respect.



“The time made averaged about twenty-seven miles an hour. Conductor V. O. English pulled her from Pacific Junction to Hastings. He ran from here to Hastings in three hours and forty-three minutes including stops.”

Become a Member!

Our members make history happen.

Join Now

Other Publications

The Bachelors’ Protective Union of Kearney

When the Bachelors' Protective Union gave a gala reception for two of its newly married, former members and their brides in March of 1890, the social club for young, ...

U.S. Weather Bureau in 1890s Nebraska

The U.S. Weather Bureau was established by an act of Congress on October 1, 1890. It took over the weather service that had been established in the office of the Chief ...

Canning the Way to Victory

During American participation in World War I the U.S. Food Administration, under the direction of Herbert Hoover, launched a massive campaign to persuade Americans to ...

The Shoemaker’s Ashes

"Edward Kuehl, one of the most peculiar characters that ever lived in Omaha, or anywhere else, was found dead in his bed last night in the back room of his place of ...

Crazy Horse Surrender Ledger Foreward

Red Dog, an Oglala Lakota who lived at the Red Cloud Agency, Nebraska, 1876-77 (Nebraska State Historical Society RG2955.ph).   In the summer of 1876, following the ...

Darryl F. Zanuck

Darryl F. Zanuck Darryl F. Zanuck (1902-1979), a native Nebraskan, produced some of Hollywood's most important and controversial films. He helped found 20th Century Fox ...

The Burlington’s Profitable Pork Special

Nebraska railroads were much concerned with developing an adequate economy in the areas they served. The Burlington, for example, had a long history of caring for the ...

Bungalow Filling Stations

After the giant Standard Oil Company was broken into thirty-four separate companies in 1911, the newly independent Standard Oil of Nebraska dominated the state's market ...

The Bull Fight

This is the perfect time of year for a visit to the old fishin' hole. But a group of fisherfolk from Plainview discovered that this bucolic pastime sometimes has ...

Buffalo Soldiers West

African-American soldiers on the western frontier are the focus of an exhibit at the Nebraska History Museum in Lincoln. Buffalo Soldiers West, on loan from the Colorado ...

Protection for Buffalo

The extermination of the buffalo on the Plains occurred largely between 1870 and 1885. The Nebraska State Journal of Lincoln on February 1, 1874, editorialized in vain ...

Buffalo Hunting

In late October 1877 young Rolf Johnson and three friends left their homes in Phelps County, Nebraska, for a buffalo hunt in northeastern Colorado. The hunt was not very ...
About History Nebraska
History Nebraska was founded in 1878 as the Nebraska State Historical Society by citizens who recognized Nebraska was going through great changes and they sought to record the stories of both indigenous and immigrant peoples. It was designated a state institution and began receiving funds from the legislature in 1883. Legislation in 1994 changed History Nebraska from a state institution to a state agency. The division is headed by Interim Director and CEO Jill Dolberg. They are assisted by an administrative staff responsible for financial and personnel functions, museum store services, security, and facilities maintenance for History Nebraska.
Explore Nebraska
Discover the real places and people of our past at these History Nebraska sites.

Upcoming Events

View our new and upcoming events to see how you can get involved.

Become a Member

The work we do to discover, preserve, and share Nebraska's history wouldn't be possible without the support of History Nebraska members.

Latest Hall of Fame Inductee

The Nebraska Hall of Fame was established in 1961 to officially recognize prominent Nebraskans.

Listen to our Podcast

Listen to the articles and authors published in the Nebraska History Magazine with our new Nebraska History Podcast.

Nebraska Collections

History Nebraska's mission is to collect, preserve, and open our shared history to all Nebraskans.

Our YouTube Video Collection

Get a closer look at Nebraska's history through your own eyes, with our extensive video collections.

Additional Research Resources

History Nebraska Research and Reference Services help connect you to the material we collect and preserve.

Support History Nebraska
Make a cash donation to help us acquire, preserve, and interpret Nebraska’s history. Gifts to History Nebraska help leave a legacy and may help your taxes, too! Support the work of History Nebraska by donating to the History Nebraska Foundation today.

Volunteers are the heroes of History Nebraska. So much history, so little time! Your work helps us share access to Nebraska’s stories at our museums and sites, the reference room, and online.