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Mo Pac - First Railroad In the West

First Railroad In The West      

A Historical Outline

What is now the Missouri Pacific Lines had its real beginning on July 4, 1851, when, amid colorful ceremonies, ground was broken at St. Louis for construction of the Pacific Railroad. This pioneer company had been chartered by the State of Missouri on March 12, 1849 and was to "extend from St. Louis via Jefferson City to the western boundary of Missouri and thence to the Pacific Ocean." 


Surveys for the route of the new railroad had been made in 1850 under the direction Of James P. Kirkwood, a noted engineer of his day, and the first section, about four miles long, was opened for service on December 9, 1852. On that date the first railroad train operated west of the Mississippi River traveled triumphantly over the four miles of the Pacific Railroad. 


Other pioneer railroads, now integral parts of the Missouri Pacific System, were also chartered or under construction during the two decades from 1850 to 1870. Among the major ones were the St. Louis and Iron Mountain, Cairo & Fulton and the International-Great Northern. 

The Iron Mountain charter of 1851, which renewed for the most part the charter of the "St. Louis & Bellevue Mineral Railroad Company," granted in 1837, provided for the construction of a railroad from St. Louis to Pilot Knob, and, if desired, extension to the Mississippi River at or below Cape Girardeau or to the southwestern part of the state. The original line, completed in 1858, extended from St. Louis to Pilot Knob with a branch from Mineral Point to Potosi. 


The Cairo & Fulton (there was a Missouri Company incorporated in 1854 and an Arkansas Company incorporated a year earlier), proposed to build a railroad from Birds Point, Mo., on the west bank of the Mississippi River opposite Cairo, II1., to Fulton, Ark., near the Arkansas-Texas state border, via Poplar Bluff, Mo. Twenty miles were constructed from Birds Point west, but financial difficulties and the War Between the States delayed completion of the line to Poplar Bluff until 1873. Meanwhile construction of the Arkansas branch was under way. The Cairo & Fulton, having been bought by the/Iron Mountain, was consolidated with that railroad in 1874. The third major railroad constructed during this early period and destined to become an important link in the Missouri Pacific System was the International-Great Northern, a combination of two fairly large lines – the Houston and Great Northern and the International Railway. The Houston and Great Northern was chartered in 1866 to build from Houston to the Red River. The plan of the incorporators at that time was to continue on through the Indian Territory into Kansas and on to the Canadian border. Before this objective could be attained, however, other paralleling lines had been constructed. In 1872, the line was completed from Houston to Palestine, Texas, where it connected with the International Railway. 


The original plan for the International Railway contemplated a connection at Texarkana, Ark., with the Cairo & Fulton but this was later changed. Construction began in 1870 and three years later the line between Hearne and Longview, Texas, was completed. Connection was made at the latter point with the Texas and Pacific Railway. 


The Houston and Great Northern and the International Railway merged and consolidated themselves in September, 1873, into a new corporation under the name International & Great Northern Railroad Company. Subsequently the International-Great Northern was extended to San Antonio and then on to the Mexican border at Laredo. 


In the late 1870 s Jay Gould, who was to do much toward welding many small individual southwestern railroads into the Missouri Pacific system of today appeared on the scene. Gould s first entry into the history of the Missouri Pacific occurred in 1879 when he bought control of the Pacific Railroad, at that time extending from St. Louis through Kansas City to Atchison, Kansas. Later he acquired the Iron Mountain; Missouri-Kansas-Texas; Central Branch Union Pacific; International-Great Northern; Texas and Pacific, Galveston, Houston and Henderson and the Wabash. All of these railroads were operated under Missouri Pacific-Iron Mountain management with Gould as president. 


Gould's rail empire attained its greatest mileage in 1883 when it embraced 9,547 miles of railroad, stretching from Buffalo on the east to Kansas City in the west, and south from Chicago and St. Louis to Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston, Galveston, E1 Paso, San Antonio and Laredo. But Gould's empire was not to hold together very long. The stocks of the various railroads constituting the MP-IM system were not owned by the parent company but by Jay Gould and his associates. Whenever any of the afflicted lines became unable to meet the obligations of its bonded indebtedness, receiverships resulted. 


Thus the Wabash lease to the Iron Mountain for 99 years was set aside May 29, 1884. Receivers were appointed to take over the property. The Texas and Pacific also went into receivership December 16, 1885. 


Accounts of the International Great Northern were separated from those of the Missouri Pacific May 1, 1888, and on February 21, 1889, the I-G.N., too, went into receivership. Since the Missouri Pacific felt unable to carry the deficit of the leased Missouri, Kansas and Texas, receivers were appointed for it November 1, 1888. The MK&T and the Wabash were never again to become parts of the Missouri Pacific system, as did other Gould roads. Despite the loss of these roads, the MP-IM, through the acquisition of others in its territory and by building new and extending existing lines, regained the stature of a great rail empire. At the time Jay Gould died in 1892 it was a 5,455 mile system. This was truly a remarkable feat when it is recalled that Gould's original purchase, the Pacific Railroad, consisted of only 440 miles extending from St. Louis to Atchison. 

 The International-Great Northern was not rejoined to the Missouri Pacific family of rail lines until 1924. This was affected when the Missouri Pacific acquired the Gulf Coast Lines, a rail system extending in an arc from New Orleans through Beaumont and Houston to Brownsville, Texas, with numerous branch lines in Texas and Louisiana. 


The Gulf Coast Lines was projected originally by B. F. Yoakum, chairman of the board of the Rock Island and Frisco Lines. Yoakum's plan envisioned using the Rock Island and Frisco, together with several railroads to be built in Texas and Louisiana and now known as the Gulf Coast Lines, to form a continuous line of railroad extending from Chicago, St. Louis and Memphis to Baton Rouge, Houston, Brownsville, Tampico and Mexico City. 


The first section of the present Gulf Coast Lines – the St. Louis, Brownsville and Mexico – was built from Robstown to Brownsville, Texas. Construction started in August, 1903 and the line was placed in operation July 4, 1904. Northward construction proceeded from Robstown and through service from Brownsville to Houston started December 31, 1907. 


Construction of the second section – the Beaumont, Sour Lake and Western –was started at Beaumont in October, 1903. This was undertaken originally by a group of Beaumont citizens who wanted to build an electric line to serve the newly discovered oil fields in that area. Yoakum purchased the properties in 1905 and placed them in service to Houston on December 31, 1907, simultaneously with the beginning of operation of the St. Louis, Brownsville and Mexico from Houston to Brownsville. 


The third section of Yoakum's projected international railway was the New Orleans, Texas and Mexico. This was to extend from Beaumont to Baton Rouge, with a line from Baton Rouge to Memphis. Construction began in 1905 at Anchorage, Louisiana, on the west bank of the Mississippi River opposite Baton Rouge, and the line was completed to DeQuincy, Louisiana, September 1, 1909. To bridge the gap between DeQuincy and a connection with the Beaumont, Sour Lake and Western at Beaumont, arrangements were made with the Kansas City Southern to use their tracks between these two cities. 


The projected line between Baton Rouge and Memphis never progressed beyond the plan-on-paper stage. Trackage rights were, therefore, acquired from the Louisiana Railway and Navigation Company between Baton Rouge ad New Orleans and through train service was established between Houston nd New Orleans on September 1, 1909. In 1916 the trackage arrangements with the L.R.&N. were discontinued and since that time Gulf Coast trains have used the Illinois Central route between Baton Rouge and New Orleans. 


The Frisco receivership of 1913 carried with it the three Yoakum-projected roads in Texas and Louisiana. However, upon recommendation of the Interstate Commerce Commission the court ordered the receivers to divest the Frisco of their Texas-Louisiana lines. Upon termination of the bankruptcy in 1916 the name Gulf Coast Lines was adopted for the several roads stretching from New Orleans to Brownsville, all of which had been acquired by the New Orleans, Texas and Mexico. In December, 1924 the I.C.C. approved the application of Missouri Pacific to purchase the Gulf Coast Lines, which acquisition included the International-Great Northern, the latter having been purchased by the Gulf Coast Lines six months earlier. 


Another important railroad considered part of the Missouri Pacific family is the 1800-mile Texas and Pacific Railroad. This railroad, in which Missouri Pacific owns a controlling interest but which is operated separately, stretches from New Orleans through Dallas and Fort Worth to El Paso. The Texas and Pacific line between Texarkana and Longview is the connecting link that binds the Missouri Pacific from the north with the International-Great Northern to the south, and the closest cooperative traffic and transportation relationship exists between the parent company and its subsidiary. 


The Texas and Pacific enjoys the distinction of being the only railroad chartered by an act of Congress. Shortly after receiving its charter in 1871 to build a railroad from the east border of Texas to San Diego, it acquired two smaller, previously chartered and operating railroads. Built westward, the line was completed in 1881 to Sierra Blanca about 90 miles east of E1 Paso. An agreement with the Southern Pacific provided for the joint use of that railroad's tracks to El Paso and the Southern Pacific further agreed to handle between E1 Paso and California any Iron Mountain-Texas and Pacific trains that might be offered to them. 


Thus has been the development–necessarily briefed in this presentation of the Missouri Pacific System. The pioneer railroad west of the Mississippi River, starting at St. Louis on July 4, 1851, today comprises a network of rails that measures, with inclusion of the closely affiliated Texas and Pacific, almost 12,000 miles. Significant of its historic importance to the West and Southwest is the fact that the period of the Missouri Pacific's growth parallels era of greatest progress and expansion throughout the rich agricultural and industrial empire it serves.