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The Railroad Magnate (Colter Sons Book 3) - Chapter 1 & 2

Updated: Nov 11, 2023

The Railroad Magnate book cover

Chapter 1

My name is James Colter, the first-born son of the Colter family. Unlike my brothers, my position in the family never crosses my mind. Which of my siblings holds the highest regard in my parents’ eyes matters little to me. I know they love and respect me. My career and ambition take far greater space in my thoughts.

An entrepreneurial spirit runs deep in my family. My papa had it, but me? My drive and ambition are twice what Papa’s ever was.

Will Colter, my papa, built a successful enterprise outside of Prescott as the first rancher in the area. When settlers started arriving in 1864, the year before I was born, he saw an opportunity to take some of his cattle, butcher it, and provide meat to the new town. That was when the Colter Meat Company was born.

As more settlers moved to town and when the Army set up Fort Whipple, Papa wrote to my Uncle Adam, asking if he’d like to start a horse training and breeding company. He wasn’t my uncle then. He later married Aunt Julia when I was little, so they’ve always been Uncle Adam and Aunt Julia to me.

Anyway, after that was the end of Papa’s entrepreneurial aspirations.

Me? Well, I’m just getting started and I have no intention of ever stopping.

There are two days in my life that changed me forever. The first was when I was fourteen. In November 1879, the Southern Pacific Railroad broke ground in Arizona City, which is now called Yuma. By Christmastime, the news reached our small town. I instantly fell in love when I saw the train engine in the newspaper. My plan to become a railroad magnate took shape. I only needed to be in the right place at the right time.

To secure my future goals, I made it clear I would not assume the responsibilities of the ranch despite Papa’s desire. It took a lot of persuading. Thankfully, my brother Sam excelled at all aspects of ranching.

As soon as I was able, I moved to Tucson and worked for the Southern Pacific until I climbed my way to a managerial position. After leaving that job as the Superintendent of Transportation, I moved back to Prescott for a similar role with Bullock’s Central Arizona Railway. By the age of twenty-three, I received a promotion to Vice President of Transportation, earning more money than I dreamed possible. My mentor, Frank Murphy, joined forces with a local mine owner to start a competing railroad out of Prescott in 1890. Being a mover and shaker, I joined him in a comparable role, bringing some capital funds with me. I was well on my way to accomplishing my dreams.

Like I said, there were two days that changed my life forever. The second one? Well, that’s the whole point of this story.

An entrepreneurial spirit runs deep in my family. My papa had it, but me? My drive and ambition are twice what Papa’s ever was.

Chapter 2

Prescott, Arizona Territory May 27, 1891

James My job at a railroad as the Vice President of Transportation kept me busy at the expense of my social life. Last fall, I left my job at Bullock’s railroad, and I joined Frank Murphy’s fledgling venture. Our goal was to build a new, shorter line that connected with the Atlantic & Pacific in Ash Fork. The new railroad route would extend from Ash Fork to Prescott to Congress, Wickenburg, and on into Phoenix, the new capital of the territory, much further south than Bullock’s line.

Two days prior we officially incorporated the Santa Fe, Prescott, & Phoenix Railway, though our plans and investments started long before then. By the start of our railroad, we raised four million dollars, a staggering sum for the day, though far short of the cost to run the Southern Pacific Railroad through southern Arizona over fifteen years prior. Railroad construction was perhaps the most expensive venture known to man. Tax exemptions and incentives from the governor made it more palatable. Frankly, if railroads had not promised to significantly reduce the cost of shipping ore from the area mines, I doubted any man would champion them.

My brothers have everything I want. Then I met her. Will she choose her unconventional career over me?

My job satisfied me. I loved being in the middle of every-thing, from planning and logistics to construction, fundraise-ing, and operations. I had every confidence Frank Murphy and the President, D.B. Robinson, who came over from the Atlantic & Pacific, would make our new line a success. With my help, of course.

That day was the celebration of the birth of our new railroad: the Santa Fe, Prescott, & Phoenix Railway. I donned my most expensive black suit, red silk vest, red neck scarf, and bowler hat. Then I grabbed my dark wood walking stick before I walked from my home in Prescott to the ballroom hosting the celebration.

As I entered the ballroom, my eyes snagged on a heavenly creature and my pulse picked up pace. Her dark brown hair complimented her ivory skin. Her sapphire blue dress brought out the vibrancy of her blue eyes, which beckoned to me from across the room. Stunning.

Before I formed a conscious thought, I walked across the ballroom to her. Her beauty became more apparent as I approached. Her curves filled out the dress nicely. My heart thudded in my chest. She was a stranger to me, and I resolved to meet her. I ignored all my responsibilities as the Vice President, and I did not stop until I stood before her. The music started, so I extended my hand toward her.

“May I have this dance?” I asked.

Pink tinged her cheeks as she placed her delicate hand on mine and stood. Everything about her exuded softness and femininity. She was only a few inches shorter than me, which I liked. My eyes locked with hers as I pulled her close. She smelled like roses and vanilla. Her long brown hair trailed down her back. It tickled my hand as I placed it on her trim waist.

At that moment, there was no one else in the room. Just her.

My feet glided across the dance floor. As I led us in a waltz, she kept perfect pace with me. Then she smiled and my heart danced even faster than my feet. The first dance sped by without a word exchanged between us.

As the second dance started, I asked, “How have we not met before now?”

“Oh, but we may have.” Pink colored her cheeks. Her dark lashes fluttered as she looked down for a moment, stealing my breath away.

“I’m certain I would have remembered you.” One side of my mouth curved up.

“You are James Colter, are you not?”

She knew who I was. That did not surprise me. My reputation in the community often proceeded me. Everyone knew I was a railroad magnate and a man who accomplished great things for our town.

“Indeed. And you are?”

“Keri Glassman.”

As I maintained a steady lock on her mesmerizing eyes, I led her for a third dance. “Miss Glassman. Of the Alex Glass-man family?”

“Yes, he is my father.”

That surprised me. I didn’t know he had such a lovely and charming daughter. “And you believe we’ve met before?”

The sound of her soft laughter endeared her to me even more.

“I know it.”

I flashed her a saucy grin. “Really?”

“I am rarely wrong.”

Confident. Sure. And beautiful. I wondered where she had been all my life.

“Care to remind me where we met before?”

“You have a reputation, Mr. Colter, for being a very astute man. I am certain you will solve the mystery all on your own without my assistance.”

Her laughter floated in the air as I spun her around. Then I gently guided her back to me. I returned my hand to her waist.

“Did I meet you at your parents’ law office?”

She shook her head and smiled.

The next song picked up the pace. My footwork matched the rhythm, and we breezed across the dance floor. I could no longer discern if my heart palpitated because of her attention or the brisk tempo of our dance.

“Where then? Tell me.”

I spun her again. That time, when she returned to me, I held her closer. She grew breathless and her lips drew my gaze. For the first time in my life, I wondered if I had been missing someone like her. I cleared my throat and forced my eyes back to hers.

“Congratulations,” she said. “Starting a new railroad is quite an accomplishment.”

“Thank you.”

“I know the local businessmen, ranchers, and farmers will appreciate a more reliable railroad.”

My chest puffed under her praise as the music slowed. I held her close to my chest with my face only a few inches from hers. I could almost feel her heart beating in rhythm with mine.

As she looked over my shoulder, she stiffened and drew back. I wiped away a frown when a man stood next to us.

“May I cut in?” Her father’s direct eye contact told me I had only one choice.

Then I reluctantly released the charming Miss Keri Glassman. “Pleasure to see you, Miss Glassman.”

Her eyes followed me as I joined my colleagues at the head table. Once I sat down, I watched her with her father. She glanced at me several times, which caused a strange feeling in my stomach. I liked it.

The party continued for hours as I ate and drank with the other officers of the railroad. We congratulated each other for incorporating the railroad and discussed the promise it held for our future and the future of Prescott.

I lost track of Miss Glassman and missed her departure. Though disappointed, I thought I might call on her. I knew the location of her family’s home.

Those blue eyes haunted my dreams for some time, yet I never followed through. I forgot about her as my job consum-ed my time.



When James Colter entered the ballroom, I smiled. Years passed since I had seen him as a little girl out on Grandpa Larson’s ranch. He looked even more handsome than I re-membered.

As if my thoughts summoned him, he walked directly toward me, which surprised both me and my parents. Papa’s client invited us to the party to celebrate the launch of the Santa Fe, Prescott, & Phoenix Railway. He helped secure several connections and contracts.

I thought it was an illusion that James’s steps directed his path toward me. Certainly, he would veer off to some other woman at any moment. When he didn’t and he appeared before me, I failed to seek Papa’s permission, and I gave my hand to him.

When I rose to my feet, his gaze warmed me. He pulled me close and led me in a waltz. He stood slightly taller than me and I was grateful, as I thought myself too tall for a young woman. Yet, in his arms, my height did not bother me. His brown eyes never strayed from mine unless I broke the contact. His dark hair slicked to one side. The suit he wore trumpeted his wealth and success.

My cheeks heated as he twirled me around and spoke with me. My heart raced as I enjoyed his attention and the feel of his hand touching my waist. I knew my conversation appeared coy. Still, I relished his focused attention as we danced. Somehow, me, the reserved teenager, captured and kept his attention on the dance floor.

I lost track of how many songs we danced to. It was him and me. I hoped to dance with him all night.

Unfortunately, Papa had other ideas. He stepped in and finished a dance with me before he escorted me back to our table. As we ate our meal, I did not take part in the conversation. Instead, I watched James at his table at the front of the room. He laughed. He spoke with confidence to his peers. More than once, he looked my way, which made my heart flutter.

When Papa stood and announced it was time to retire for the night, I stuffed back my disappointment. I had hoped for just one more breathtaking dance with James.

The walk home filled with tension as Mama scolded Papa.

“She’s only sixteen. He’s a good ten years older than her.”

Papa laughed. “Unlike you and me?”

I held back a giggle. My papa was nine years older than my mama, a fact which Mama seemed to forget in the conversation about me and James.

“Mel, it was only a dance,” he said. “I doubt we’ll see him soon.”

Mama frowned. “It was six dances. Six. She is too young for him.”

As Papa tucked Mama’s hand into the crook of his arm, he rested his hand over hers. He said nothing further the rest of the way home.

When I retired to my room, I dreamed of those dances with James, his handsome face, his witty banter, and how he made me feel special. Thoughts of him filled my mind in the following weeks until, slowly over time, the magical night of dancing faded to a distant memory.

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