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The Oklahoma Central line was chartered in 1904 in Norman, Oklahoma Territory, as the Canadian Valley and Western Railway. The name was changed the next year to Oklahoma Central Railway (OCR), and the headquarters was transferred to Purcell, Oklahoma Territory. Moving force was Dorset Carter, a lawyer and businessman of Purcell. His aim was to bring coal from the mines near Lehigh to Purcell's industries and at the same time tap the rich agricultural districts around Chickasha.

Carter sought construction capital in the Netherlands, where he found Salomon F. van Oss, noted railroad journalist and financier, willing to provide the needed funds. To make sure that his money was used as intended, Van Oss sent out two Dutch engineers, Gerrit A.A. and Martin Middelberg (father and son) to supervise construction. Purcell was reached from Lehigh in 1907.

However, as so often happens, it turned out that a lot of money had "disappeared," and the OCR, hit by the Panic of 1907, went into receivership in 1908, just before the line finally reached Chickasha. Reorganization followed in 1914, and the line was first leased to and then bought by the Santa Fe. The OCR, a result of overoptimism, never served a real purpose, as other lines were already in existence at the time of its inception. The Lehigh-Ada and Byars-Purcell sections were closed in 1934, Purcell-Chickasha in 1941, and only the towns of Vanoss and Middleberg remind the traveller of the Dutch history of the OCR.


BIBLIOGRAPHY: Augustus J. Veenendaal, Jr., "Railroads, Oil and Dutchmen; Investing in the Oklahoma Frontier," The Chronicles of Oklahoma 63 (Spring 1985). Augustus J. Veenendaal, Jr., "The Oklahoma Central Railway: A 'Dutch' Railroad in the United States," Railroad History 166 (Spring 1992).

Augustus J. Veenendaal, Jr.

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