Katy's Beginnings in Missouri
What came to be known as the Missouri Kansas Texas Railroad began life in 1865 as the Union Pacific Railway (no corporate relation to the Union Pacific of today). Beginning construction in 1869, the line was originally planned to run from Junction City, KS, through Emporia to New Orleans, LA. One year later, the railroad changed its name to the Missouri, Kansas & Texas Railroad to better reflect the pared-down goals of company management.
The beginnings of the MKT's Missouri lines actually began before the MKT itself. In 1867, work began on the Tebo & Neosho Railroad, which was to have run from Sedalia and Clinton to Neosho in southwestern Missouri. Crews began building south from the Pacific Railroad (later MP) in Sedalia in June of 1870, reaching Clinton in August, and finally Nevada in October. In late 1870, the Tebo & Neosho was absorbed by the newly formed MK&T. And on February 3, 1871, the line from Sedalia finally reached its parent MKT line in Parsons, KS. From that point, the company pushed its rails south from Parsons into Indian Territory (later the state of Oklahoma), reaching the state of Texas in December of 1872, thus fulfilling the company's original vision of linking the states of Missouri and Kansas with the state of Texas.
Back to the north, the Katy was not about to stop in Sedalia. The original goal of the corporation was to reach Chicago, and construction continued at a brisk pace in order to reach the Windy City (and railroad capital of the world). By 1873, the MK&T had built northward from Sedalia and Boonville to Hannibal, MO, on the Mississippi River, a few hundred miles shy of Chicago. Passenger and freight had to be ferried across the Missouri River at Boonville until the railroad completed its first bridge at that location in 1873. As a result of the completion of the Boonville bridge in January of 1874, through service was commenced from Texas all the way to Chicago, via a connection with the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy from Hannibal to Chicago. During this time, the MKT also commenced operations into St. Louis, utilizing the trackage of the Missouri Pacific from Sedalia, through Jefferson City, to St. Louis.
In 1880, the MK&T was leased to the Missouri Pacific Railroad, and it was operated as a part of the immense MoPac Jay Gould empire until 1888, when the lease expired and the Katy resumed independent operation (the Mo Pac would later build its own lines through Oklahoma into Texas, some of which would later be abandoned by UP in 1988 in favor of the original MKT lines). During the MoPac years, the Katy was extended to Forth Worth, Dallas, and Waco, TX.
On To St. Louis!
With St. Louis quickly rising as a major railroad gateway, the recently-liberated MKT began shifting it focus to it and away from Chicago, though still continuing operations to Illinois via the CB&Q connection at Hannibal. In the late 1890's, the Katy created a subsidiary called the Missouri, Kansas, & Eastern Railroad to construct a new line from the existing mainline at New Franklin, along the Missouri River, to Machens, on the Mississippi River. From Machens, Katy trains could continue on to St. Louis via the CB&Q. Unfortunately, in its hurry to reach St. Louis, many construction "corners" were cut. The poorly engineered line was constructed in the floodplain of the Missouri River for much of its length. The new route, completed in 1895, would lead to millions of dollars in losses and would prove to be an operational nightmare for many years to come. Included on this new line were a new shops complex at the new junction at New Franklin, a branch line to the city of Columbia, and the only tunnel on the MKT system, located in Rocheport.
Also in 1895, the MKT completed another new line from the St. Louis mainline at Bryson (north of Windsor) to the KC mainline at Paola, KS. This line was envisioned to serve as a through connector route for traffic between Kansas City and St. Louis, though its rather circuitous route made for long transit times and prevented the MKT from competing seriously in the trans-state rail market.