When the railroad laid tracks through Newton in the early 1870s, one of the many necessities to follow was a locomotive roundhouse. The first was built in 1871, but it burned to the ground in 1880. It was rebuilt in 1888 with nine stalls. Four more were added in 1891. Santa Fe division headquarters had moved to Nickerson in August 1879. In 1897, through tireless efforts of city leaders, the division headquarters for the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railroad returned to Newton, and the Nickerson Roundhouse was relocated here. The native stone roundhouse was dismantled stone by stone, loaded into coal cars and rebuilt as an addition to the Newton roundhouse. This brought the total count to 32 stalls. In 1907, nine more stalls were added. The roundhouse served the railroad into the 1950s when, at 12:01 a.m. on January 1, 1955, it was officially closed and later razed. Only the turntable remains to evidence where it once stood. The return of the railroad headquarters was won through the culmination of multiple groups working toward one goal. The battle began in January 1894 and, coincidentally, it was all about water. Following the Newton Panic in the 1890s, Newton was struggling to recover. The Newton Kansan, dated April 28, 1899, recalled "(Newton) had railroads and a rich country surrounding it, but it was overbuilt and was dying of mortgages and taxes." The Fred Harvey restaurant had left town and many downtown buildings stood empty. With the survival of the community so fragile, several individuals sought any opportunity to see the ATSF division headquarters return to the Newton. It was in January of 1894 when a railroad official disclosed that Newton could win the division headquarters if it could secure an adequate supply of quality water. That took three years, and Newton had to purchase its own water works company, before the contract was signed in March 1897. Newton’s offer included assurance that the city would furnish water to the Santa Fe for seven years without charge. In exchange, the Santa Fe would haul all necessary materials required to construct the new water line the city needed to allow them the opportunity to offer the water. In addition, the Commercial Club would provide the Santa Fe employees who owned their homes in Nickerson comparable residential housing or building sites in Newton. According to the Newton Kansan, dated April 28, 1899, the city was thoroughly revived. It stated "in addition to the railroad shops and round house the ‘committee of safety’ has brought a half a dozen or more smaller industries and its success has filled the people with pride . They have made a town that is a good place to live in, and they have begun to adorn it. Last year they laid out a park for athletic purposes, combining a race track, a bicycle course, a baseball field and a shooting ground. This year they will add to it a lake for boating. Water rates are low, consequently the people have beautiful lawns, an abundance of shrubbery and pretty gardens. The bright new houses of the workmen who came from Nickerson have inspired the richer men of the town to paint their houses and make improvements."
The paper went on to boast that the community had "a population of 7,500, an assessed valuation of $1,062,481, a commercial club of 100 members, a paid fire department, local and long distance telephones, Western Union and Postal telegraph lines, gas and electric light plant, artificial ice plant, a public library, Bethel College (a Mennonite institution, the only one in the United States), public schools, seventeen churches, two newspapers, city waterworks, three elevators, three flour mills, a creamery and three railroads - the Atchison, Topek & Santa Fe, the Missouri Pacific and the St. Louis & San Francisco." It would seem the railroad has been the lifeblood of Newton since its birth and today, it is a thriving industry and among the largest employers in the county."