More Steam! From E.E. Burke

Get Lost in a Race for Riches

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Just as the Civil War was cooling off, a different kind of conflict heated up—the battles between powerful railroads. 

Steam! Romance and Rails is a Western historical series set during the era when America expanded its boundaries as fast as men could lay track—a time when passions and ambition were destined to collide.

Yesterday, I introduced Her Bodyguard, the second book in the series. Today, we’ll focus on the first book, Passion’s Prize. These two novels take the perspectives of opposing railroads locked in a fiercely contested construction race.

Her Bodyguard follows the troubled Border Tier Railroad and the settlers’ riots sparked by greed and ambition. One woman, whose life is endangered when she stakes everything on the railroad, finds out the most dangerous man may be the one she hires for protection.

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 Passion’s Prize focuses on the story of the Katy Railroad and three very different women caught up in the cutthroat competition: a spy, a former Madam and a railroad heiress. 

Within Passion's Prize are three novellas penned by me, Jennifer Jakes and Jacqui Nelson (all Golden Heart finalists in 2010).  

We conceived our novellas within the context of the same historical event with an overarching plot line running throughout. Our characters play important roles in each others' stories. While we released our novellas separately, in my opinion the reading experience is better if you take it as a whole. 

Between now until Sunday, I’ll be blogging about a variety of topics related to these books and the series, and giving away lots of freebies. Make sure you sign up below for the drawing.

The Katy Railroad Then: a raucous railway 

Passion's Prize hones in on the Katy’s early days, after the railroad was first organized and was rushing to lay track through Kansas on its way to Texas.  Here's picture of the line that we wrote about. The race took place a point south of Salina, Kansas to the border of Oklahoma (then Indian Territory). 

Soon as the Katy went into operation, the line earned a wild reputation.

As track was laid, towns would spring up. Brothels and keno joints would appear before the first legitimate settlers staked out their land. 

In Muskogee, one man was shot and buried before the first train passed through, and three others were killed as the first cars screeched to a halt.

A rough element followed the Katy, men who became known as “terminuses” because they hung out at the existing end of the line, plundering, robbing, shooting things up and causing general mayhem. 

Bandits so frequently held up the trains the Katy had to arm railroad workers. 

One of the men charged with keeping order in Denison, Texas, was Jesse Lee “Red” Hall (Guess the color of his hair!)

Hall was known for always getting his man--or men as it were. One time, he reputedly walked into a saloon unarmed and arrested seven outlaws. Another story tells of how he cross the county in a buggy, found the wanted man he was looking for, and then handcuffed them together and rode back to Texas, where the man was tried and hung.

Periodically, throughout the building phase and later, during the early “wild days,” the government sent in troops to keep order and drive out the riffraff. 

In time, things settled down and the Katy became a very successful railroad. 

The Katy Railroad Now: a biking trail 

After the Katy stopped operating in the late 1980s, portions of its rail bed were purchased and turned into a hiking and biking trail.

 My favorite stretch of The Katy Trail is near the little town of Rocheport, MO. This part of the Katy Trail runs right alongside the Missouri River and is very scenic.

The historic town of Rocheport, once a steamboat stop, is just off I-70 near Columbia, Missouri. 

There are several lovely Bed & Breakfast Inns, including my favorite, The Schoolhouse. (Yes, it’s an old schoolhouse).

Speaking of Bed & Breakfast Inns, my newly released novel, Her Bodyguard, features the Lyons Twin Mansions in historic Fort Scott, Kansas. 

This lovely Victorian mansion--actually twin mansions--now functions as a Bed & Breakfast Inn. I used one of the buildings (the largest one you can see) as a model for my heroine's home. And I got the idea of writing a story based on Fort Scott after staying here several times. 

The innkeepers are wonderful, the town has many historic sites (including an authentic frontier fort that is a National Historic Site and a National Cemetery). Fort Scott is also located along the old Katy line and was an important stop for the railway for many years.

To celebrate the release of Her Bodyguard, I’m holding a drawing for a two-day stay at this Victorian mansion. You can enter that drawing at my website

Today, you can sign up for your chance to win one of the books in the Steam! series. Use the raffle tool below. You'll notice you can improve your chances by tweeting, liking my page or following me.

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What's your favorite biking or hiking trail? Or your favorite B&B? Leave a comment and enter the drawing for a free book!


  1. I do enjoy riding on a train. I once travelled overnight with my two children when they were very young. It was quite exciting.


    1. My basket list includes a cross country train trip. Thanks for commenting!

  2. I stayed in a few B&B in the Niagara Falls region. They are very pretty.

    1. One with a balcony would be cool! Thanks for stopping in!

  3. Sounds like this area is brimming with history. What a wonderful inspiration for your novels! One of my favorite b & bs was in Sandwich, Mass on Cape Cod. There was a glass-making factory/museum nearby.

    1. Cape Cod is lovely, I agree! There is a lot of history out here, with Missouri and Kansas being the "frontier" states for so long. It's also really beautiful, more so than you'd think. I've posted a board on Pinterest with Kansas pics just so people can see how pretty this state really is. http://bit.ly/18Nz7TY

  4. I love it when you talk history, Elisabeth. Your passion for the subject is always informative and entertaining.

    Up here in Victoria, Canada we have a biking/hiking trail called the Galloping Goose. The 37 mile long trail is built on abandoned rail beds and trestles, and is named after (I just went and looked this up) "a gawky and noisy gas rail-car which carried passengers between Victoria and Sooke in the 1920's."

    Congrats, on releasing Her Bodyguard! Love the cover, the characters and the history :)

    1. The Galloping Goose? I love the name, and love what you found about the origin. I can just hear the "honking" of the train! Apparently abandoned rail beds make for good biking trails. Usually they run next to or near water. The Katy Trail is just gorgeous in the fall.

  5. Years ago I stayed at a B&B it was very nice and they served a delicious breakfast in the morning.


    1. I really enjoy B&B's and not just because of the breakfasts (which are usually great). Typically people who run them love the history of the area and provide little known facts that make the trip more interesting.

  6. Don't forget I'm giving away a FREE weekend at the beautiful Lyons Twin Mansions in Fort Scott, KS. See my website for more info: www.eeburke.com

  7. LOVE IT E.E.!!!!!

    We have some railroads paths turned into biking trails around here. We're going to have to check them out.

    1. The Katy Trail is really worth the effort. One day I'd like to bike the whole trail, stop at all those little towns along the way. Fun times!

  8. Don't have a fav

    bn100candg at hotmail dot com

  9. It's been years since I've ridden on a train. But we took the train several times from Albuquerque to CA (and back)to visit relatives. Once we even took a sleeper car! Our children were young, but I think they still remember it -- and now they're adults with almost grown kids of their own!
    I've never stayed in a B & B {although I would love to do so} -- UNLESS you count the pension in Germany that we stayed at for several weeks until we could move into govt quarters.

    I'm not sure I'd ever heard of the Katy railroad -- but then I've not been in Kansas much. Now however, we live just 17 miles south of the Kansas border in OK so we may just have to check out this area.


    1. The Katy went through Oklahoma, served the midsection of the country. There was a major depot at Muskogee, as I recall. The bike trail runs through Missouri mostly, from roughly St. Charles west along the Missouri River. Very scenic. Thanks for stopping in and commenting!

  10. Hey E.E. What a fascinating story--love the history and then finding out how it all turned out. My husband and I love hiking and trail-walking. Minnesota has a very active Rails-to-Trails program and we have miles and miles of refurbished trails. One of my favorites, however, is the short but gorgeous Tony Knowles Coastal Trail that runs 11 miles from downtown Anchorage, AK to Kincaid Park on the eastern side of the city. On a clear day you can see Denali (Mt. McKinley), maybe a beluga whale, the ocean, the woods, the '64 Earthquake fault line AND climb a huge hill into the park. It's a great little bike ride or hike!

    1. Oh wow! That trail sounds awesome! I'm definitely putting Alaska on my bucket list now that I've heard about all these lovely places. The Rails to Trails programs are wonderful ways to use old rail beds. And many of the bridges and tunnels are intact, as well as some of the depots and buildings that were used. So pretty and interesting, aren't they? Thanks for the info and thanks for stopping in.