History of the Drake & Lawton Railroad

Before the days of railroading, most towns were build beside rivers. So it was for the towns of Drake and Lawton on the Big Sandy. Mr. Drake and Mr. Lawton, founders of the two towns, considered themselves competitors. Each thought his town should be more prosperous than the other. Each town moved its goods by boat to and from Fremont.

When word came that the railroad would be laying tracks to Fremont, Mr. Drake and Mr. Lawton each thought the train should go through his town. Mr. Lawton won--sort of. The train went by Lawton without stopping. While following the Big Sandy River made a cheaper route for the railroad than following the more winding Snake River, Lawton wasn't big enough to make it worthwhile for the railroad to lay a spur into it. Both towns continued shipping goods by boat.

But problems arose. As more and more settlers tilled more and more fields, the rivers began to fill with soil washed down by the rains. Boats began going aground on sandbars. Mr. Drake and Mr. Lawton, each unknown to the other, began the process of dredging the rivers. It was expensive, but the goods needed to be moved to and from Fremont and what else was there?

Then Mr. Lawton asked the railroad to build a spur into Lawton. After all, the town had grown a lot since the railroad first decided to bypass it. But it hadn't grown enough so the railroad said no.

About that same time, Mr. Drake considered asking the railroad to build a branch into Drake but he knew it would be a waste of time once he heard that the railroad had turned down Mr. Lawton. After all, Lawton was a lot closer to the existing railroad than Drake was. And, even though though Drake was a larger town than Lawton, Mr. Drake doubted that it was large enough.

Then Mr. Drake began to wonder if the two towns together would be large enough. He found it hard to imagine going into partnership with Mr. Lawton but he knew both towns were going to die if some better way was not found to transport their goods. Mr. Drake was getting old. He knew that someday he would die. He didn't want his town to die, too. He though Mr. Lawton might feel the same way.

Finally, he approached Mr. Lawton with the idea of partnership. At first, Mr. Lawton thought the idea was preposterous! Why should he pay to transport his rival's goods? But, as time went by, he realized that Lawton was doomed if some solution to the shipping problem wasn't found. He agreed to talk with Mr. Drake and representatives of the railroad.

After exploring various possibilities, the railroad agreed to lay tracks into both towns for a railroad to be owned by Mr. Drake and Mr. Lawton which would have rights to ship goods over the existing tracks into Fremont. It would cost them, of course. They would have to pay for the laying of the tracks as well as the right to run their trains on the mainline. After much discussion as to who should pay how much to establish this new railroad, it was agreed that Mr. Drake would put up 75% of the money with Mr. Lawton contributing 25% since it would cost much more to lay the tracks to Drake than to Lawton. Of course Mr. Drake's name would come before Mr. Lawton's in the name of the new railroad since he was paying out more money. Thus the Drake & Lawton railroad was established. Mr. Drake and Mr. Lawton actually began working together for the benefit of both.

They began calling the D&L RR the "Dollar" railroad, reflecting the investment it was taking to get it running. One day, one of them made a joke about the Dollar going farther than it used to. No one knows who said it first as they each claimed that distinction. That phrase, "The Dollar Goes Farther", became the slogan of the railroad as they tried to persuade others that it made sense to ship their goods on the Drake & Lawton Railroad rather than by boat. Of course, without the support of Mr. Drake and Mr. Lawton in the dredging of the rivers, it soon became true.

The Drake & Lawton Railroad is not a large one. But two towns were saved from becoming ghost towns by it's creation.