When he Manila-Dagupan railway opened on November 23, 1892, the people of Kalookan greeted the inaugural train with brass bands and fireworks. Although the terminal station was in Tutuban in Manila, the railroad, then as now, maintained its yards and shops in Kalookan. New job opportunities opened for the town's farm hands, and British personnel, including a top executive named Higgins, established residence in the vicinity of the railroad compound. Kalookan was now the overland gateway from Manila to the North. To the Americans, the railroad was not a new weapon of' war. They had an army that was not only the most modern at the time but which had utilized trains during the Civil War and in transporting troops to Indian territory in the American West. Once the demonstration was reported in the January 11, 1899 issue of La Independencia, they had their sights on Aguinaldo at Malolos, they knew they had to take Kalookan and its railway facilities first and foremost.
At the time of the San Juan Bridge incident, the army led by Gen. Arthur McArthur was unprepared for any immediate action outside of Manila. Its main strength was still on the way from half across the globe. Yet, to Gen. McArthur's mind, the taking of the railroad town was a military necessity that could not wait. On February 10, 1899, in a move that caught Aguinaldo unaware, the Americans marched across the swamps of Maypajo to capture Kalookan. With the railroad yards and maintenance shops under his control, McArthur believed that his few soldiers, better armed than the more numerous Filipinos, could end the war in a matter of weeks.
He was wrong. He did not count on the courage and tactical ability of Aguinaldo's Director of War, described as the only true general of the revolution because of his formal military education and his penchant for discipline and organization - Gen. Antonio Luna.