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Arkansas Ties ... A Little Bit of This, a Little Bit of That, and a Whole Lot of Arkansas

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History of Arkansas Railroads

Missouri & North Arkansas Railroad:

This railroad having started in 1899, was the first company approved by the newly formed Arkansas Railroad Commission..  It acquired the Eureka Springs railway, that in 1882, which ran from Seligman, Mo. to Eureka Springs and in 1901, the rail was completed to Harrison.  In 1906, the line was reorganized and renamed to Missouri & North Arkansas.  In 1903, the rail was extended to St. Joe and Leslie, later Searcy, and finally, in 1909 it reached Helena.  It was said to be the most expensive railroad built in Arkansas because of the cost per mile involved in laying tracks over the hills and mountains.  On August 5, 1914, a  collision between M&NA passenger train and Kansas City Southern freight train claimed the lives of 38 people costing the company most of its financial assets.  It reorganized in 1936 as the Missouri & Arkansas Railway only to go out of business in 1946, 

Kansas City Southern Railroad:

This rail was originally known as the Kansas City, Pittsburgh, and Gulf Railroad and was developed in 1889 by Arthur E. Stilwell.  He wanted to run a railroad connecting Kansas City, Mo. to the Gulf of Mexico.  It eventually went 789 miles and ended at Mr. Stilwell’s namesake, Port Arthur.  Mr. Still liked to name towns and develop them with his interests and names.  Some of the towns that he had an interest in were Mena, DeQueen,, Vandervoort, and the Queen Wilhelmina resort.

 St. Louis Southwestern (Cotton Belt) Railroad:

This rail was commonly known as the Cotton Belt because it ran through the farm lands of Arkansas to Texas.  It was originally incorporated in the 1880’s as the Texas & St. Louis Railway, providing service between Clarendon, Jonesboro, and Texarkana.    Trains began running in 1884 but it was forced into receivership in 1885, when it was re-organized as the St. Louis, Arkansas & Texas.  In 1891 it was re-organized as the St. Louis Southwestern.   

Warren & Ouachita Valley Railroad:

This line was developed in Bradley county in 1899 using the route laid 50 years earlier for the Missouri, Ouachita and Red River Railroad.  The plan was to link Warren and Camden together but only 16 miles from Warren to Banks was constructed.  At Banks the railroad interchanged with traffic from the Rock Island.

 Memphis, Paris & Gulf Railroad:

In 1905 the paperwork was filed for a new rail to run from Nashville, Arkansas to Memphis Tennessee and westward to Paris, Texas.  In 1906 the Nashville Lumber Company acquired the company  and construction was started on 26 miles of track from Nashville to Ashdown, a station on the Kansas City Southern.  Nashville Lumber’s sawmill was the largest customer and in 1908, 15 additional miles of track were laid  from Nashville, through Tokio Junction , to Murfreesboro to new logging camps that were springing up in that part of the state.  Passenger service was also provided and in 1910, the Nashville Lumber Company merged with the Grayson McLeod Lumber Company, forming the Memphis, Dallas & Gulf Railroad.  Financial problems after World War I brought foreclosure in 1922. The original route to Ashdown was re-organized as the Graysonia, Nashville & Ashdown and in 1927, became part of the Ideal Cement Company transporting cement from Okay, Ar.

 Blytheville, Leachville & Arkansas Southern Railroad:

This rail was owned by the Chicago Mill & Lumber Company, a huge operation that had mills in Missouri, Arkansas, Louisiana & Mississippi. It owned a box factory and mill just west of Blytheville providing transportation  from the logging camps to the mill.  The tracks extended from Leachville to Rivervale located on the St. Francis River.  Instead of constructing its own railroad, the company preferred to rent tracks from Jonesboro, Lake City & Eastern, the Frisco, and the Paragould Southeastern.  The company was acquired by the Cotton Belt in 1928 creating a new short route between St. Louis and Memphis but passenger trains were never put into use. 

Jonesboro, Lake City & Eastern Railroad:

Formed in 1897 by a group of Jonesboro residents opened up an isolated region known as “Buffalo Island” that was located between   Leachville, Manila and  Big Lake.  Tracks went 87 miles from Jonesboro to Blytheville with a branch from Barfield to Armorel on the Mississippi River.  The company was sold to the Frisco Railroad in 1924.

 Choctaw, Oklahoma & Gulf Railroad:

This company was primarily developed to transport coal from Indian Territory.  In 1898 it was expanded to run to Memphis, Tennessee to new markets that would use the company’s coal from the mines.  After purchasing the Memphis & Little Rock, the company was able to run between Little Rock, Perry, Danville, the Oklahoma border.  In 1901 it acquired the Hot Springs Railroad company otherwise known as the Diamond Joe Line in what would now be considered a “hostile takeover”.  Within a few years it became a smaller part of the Rock Island.

 Rock Island Railroad:

The Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railroad began in the 1860’s.    It established a presence in Arkansas when it acquired the Choctaw, Oklahoma & Gulf in 1902.  Its main line in Arkansas extended from Memphis to Little Rock, Booneville, and on to Oklahoma City;. At one time it also served Fordyce, El Dorado, Malvern, Camden, Hot Springs, Dardanelle, and Newport letting it compete with the Missouri Pacific.  In November 1940 it unveiled the first diesel-powered streamlined train called the Choctaw Rocket.

 Bentonville Rail Line:

Formed by a group of citizens from Benton County in the early 1880s, it ran from  Bentonville connecting with the Frisco at Rogers.  Their actions saved Bentonville from becoming a “ghost town” and almost certain death to the community.  In 1898 it was acquired by the Arkansas & Oklahoma Railway and the track was extended into Indian Territory.  It was later purchased by the Frisco.

 Kansas City, Fort Scott and Memphis Railroad:

This railroad extended to Fulton* in 1883 and was later incorporated by the St. Louis and the San Francisco lines.

 St. Louis and San Francisco (Frisco) Railroad:

Established in 1853, to develop a track running west to San Francisco, running through Arkansas, it was subject to several reorganizations.  It was responsible for the Winslow Tunnel through the Boston Mountains as well as the Van Buren Rail Bridge.  

 Arkansas Midland Railroad:

Originally established in n1871 as the Arkansas Central Railroad, built between Helena and Clarendon (47 miles) it was forced into receivership in 1878 and re-organized as the Arkansas Midland.  In 1901 it was purchased by Jay Gould to run as a subsidiary of the St. Louis, Iron Mountain and Southern Line.

Iron Mountain Railroad:

In 1874, the following companies consolidated to form the St. Louis, Iron Mountain, Southern Railway – St. Louis & Iron Mountain Railroad, Cairo & Fulton Railroad,  Cairo, Arkansas, & Texas Railroad Company.  In 1917, it was incorporated with the Missouri Pacific.

 Missouri Pacific Railroad:

In 1917, the Missouri Pacific acquired the Iron Mountain rail, became “Mopac” and was the largest and most important railroad in the state.  In 1927, Missouri Pacific operated 1,810 miles of track in Arkansas, which was more than 35 percent of the total in the State of Arkansas.

 Sources: 

Arkansas Historic Preservation Program 2000 – 2007, Arkansas Railroads – Past & Present.

Arkansas Democrat - 1936 Special Edition, History of Arkansas Transportation

A letter from Jim G (October 2011):

"Kansas City, Fort Scott and Memphis Railroad:

This railroad extended to Fulton in 1883 and was later incorporated by the St. Louis and the San Francisco lines."


Do you actually mean "Fulton COUNTY" (north Ark) instead of the town of Fulton (far SW Ark)?  I think the KCFS&M ran through Ark on a route from Springfield MO to Jonesboro to Memphis TN (currently part of the BNSF Rwy), making a route through the town of Fulton unlikely.

thank you, Jim G.

Editor's note: This is a transcription of an article wrote in 1936.  It may or may not be referring to Fulton town or Fulton County.