A SHORT-LINE RAILROAD TO A LITTLE TOWN
by Ed Tolle --- 1992
Thanks to Ed for his permisions
This small book is not intended as a significant contribution to U.S. railroad history. Neither is it intended to offer new insights into the understanding of railroading, or the lack of same, in Northwest Arkansas. It is, rather, hoped that it will add to the enjoyment of those who visit Eureka Springs by recounting some of the interesting things about it's railroads, both past and present. The text, to the best of our ability, reflects accurate information portrayed correctly. Those who have been responsible for it's preparation hope it can realize the purpose for which it was intended.
On a more personal basis, we are looking for additional information about the Eureka Springs line, or the other names under which rail service to our city has operated. Additionally, if there are errors of fact or omission in this writing, we'd appreciate being given the correct information. If you have constructive comments or additional relevant information, please contact the author by writing to him at 9 Deer Lane, Eureka Springs, AR 72632. He can be reached by telephone at (501) 253-6290.
Published 1992 Eureka Springs, Arkansas
A SHORT-LINE RAILROAD TO A LITTLE TOWN
As we move through the 1990's, in how many towns in the United States is it still possible, even for a part of the year, to hear the distinctive and eternally memorable harsh bellow of a steam locomotive whistle?
I like to see it lap the miles
And lick the valley up.
And stop to feed itself at tanks,
And then, prodigious, step
Around a pile of mountains,
And, supercilious, peer
In shanties by the sides of roads,
And then a quarry pare
To fit its sides, and crawl between,
Complaining all the while
In horrid, hooting stanza
Then chase itself downhill
And neigh like Boanerges;
Then punctual as a star,
Stop docile and omnipotent,
At its own stable door.
Perhaps even more important, of course, is the question, "Among those who hear the sound of a steam locomotive's whistle, how many can recognize ir for what it is?" It's a sobering fact that more than two generations have grown to full maturity since traveling by rail was in vogue in the United States. Before high-speed, comfortable, carbon monoxide belching automobiles, trucks and roaring, soaring airplanes took charge of our transportation needs. The majority of U.S. citizens alive today were born in an era when railroads were encountered only occasionally. When one does encounter them. they are propelled almost without exception by diesel, not steam, locomotives.
Recent generations have been denied the thrill of waiting at the station for the expected arrival of a train. When the knowing, or the like-to-appear-knowing, would occasionally place a foot on the track, feeling for the vibration that would announce, even before a whistle sound was heard, a train's approach. Or, for the young and supple, those who would place an ear on the rail and announce importantly, Mom, Dad, its coming!
Unspoken in either of these dramas of by-gone years was an awareness, perhaps subconscious, and un-enunciated respect for the omnipotence and force of a vehicle so awesomely large and powerful that it could be detected while miles away by the vibration it would cause through the rails on which it was traveling. And, of course, any of the above was usually followed by the first, faint bellow of the still-far-off locomotive, trumpeting its presence as it approached a populated area. Announcing its impending arrival at the station.
Eureka Springs, Arkansas, among its many wonders, both natural and contrived, is one of the places where the bellow of the steam locomotive is a regular part of daily life. From April to November each year Eureka Springs and North Arkansas (ES&NA) Railroad steam trains make trips each day from a depot that was built in 1912-13 along a roadbed that was formed in 1882-83. They travel down 2.1 miles of beautiful Arkansas countryside to a location that, depending on the date, was known as Livingston Hollow, or the Junction.
The story of commercial railroading to and from Eureka Springs began in the early 1880's and ended in 1961-62. Its history will be detailed in the later sections of this booklet. Let us pause for just a moment to examine a railroad that exists for our pleasure today. It offers an interesting and authentic look into railroading as it was in bygone days.
Reconstructing the Original Railroad
In 1981, (on a roadbed that had originally been formed in 1882-83), at a central Arkansas farm family raising cotton, rice, and soy beans began the creation of the Eureka Springs and North Arkansas (ES&NA) Railroad. Under the leadership of owner/manager, Robert L. Dortch, Jr., it would provide a variety of time-honored railroad services from both steam and diesel locomotives. The earlier road, 1883-1961, had been totally scrapped in 1961-62, leaving only the depot building and a roadbed without ties or rails or bridges. The task of rebuilding was in many ways almost as difficult as that which confronted the original builders.
A right-of-way had to be re-acquired from owners who had for many years been using the land for other purposes. New bridges had to be built where the earlier ones had either been demolished or washed away. Track had to be re-laid on a roadbed that had seen no care or maintenance for 20 years. All equipment (locomotives, coaches, water tank, rails, etc.) had to be trucked into Eureka Springs over twisting, narrow Ozark highways, down the town's Main Street to the old depot at the north edge of town.
Rebuilding the Locomotives
The most daunting challenge of all, however, had to have been the repair and rebuilding of the major equipment, i.e. locomotives. For most of these there are no spare parts available, few detailed specifications for their making, and a desperate lack of skilled mechanics who have ever worked on steam locomotives. The last Mogul steam engine, for example, was produced in 1910. The Eureka Springs and North Arkansas Railroad features three steam and one diesel powered locomotive units. Locomotive #1 was built in 1906, at the Baldwin Locomotive Works, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. It was and is a wood burner. It is a 2-6-0 (Mogul) and, engine only, weighs 75,000 pounds. It will produce 200 pounds of steam pressure (p.s.i.) and 12,000 pounds of tractive effort (power).
It was originally built with a link-and-pin coupler, (an invention that cost many early railroad men fingers, hands, and arms and even lives in accidents). It was converted to a Westinghouse automatic coupler when that unit became available.
Locomotive #1 was originally used in the Northeast Texas lumber industry. There it burned yellow pine slab wood. Later, when part of the Scott and Bearskin Lake Railway in Scott, Arkansas, it burned sycamore and other local hard woods. Here in Eureka Springs it burns white and red oak, and hickory. One of the last operational wood burners in the United States, it consumes up to 2 cords of Ozark hardwood in a full day's operation. Its cabbage-head stack is unique and was designed to serve as a spark arrester.
(During the days of the wood and coal burning engines there was great interest among railroad companies in the development of a spark arrester that would solve the problem of fires started by live embers thrown from their locomotives via the smoke stack. More than 1,000 patents were granted for a variety of arresters and smoke-stacks. The most commonly used design was the bonnet or balloon stack. It was cone shaped, flaring out from a small round base to a larger round top an appearance not unlike that of a bongo drum often used with Latin rhythms.)
Locomotive #201 was built by the American Locomotive Company of Patterson, New Jersey, specifically for the Isthmanian Canal Commission to be used in the construction of the Panama Canal. It operates on up to 185 pounds of steam pressure (p.s.i.), which produces 21,000 pounds of tractive effort. The tender will hold 1,300 gallons of oil and 2,500 gallons of water. This engine was a coal burner when new, but was converted to the use of oil during World War I when it was feared that coal would become scarce.
Locomotive #201 is also a 2-6-0 (Mogul) and weighs 125,000 pounds (engine only) add a fully loaded tender and the weight rises to the neighborhood of 200,000 pounds. An interesting historical note is that this engine was originally built to run on five-foot-wide French-laid rails in Panama. The rails were laid during the unsuccessful French attempt to span the Isthmus at the end of the Nineteenth Century. #201 was converted to standard gauge (4' 8 ½") when it was returned to the United States. One hundred of these engines were built by the American Locomotive Company in 1906. There are only three in existence today. #201 is the only one of the three that is still operating on anything like a daily basis.
Locomotive #226, still being reconditioned, was also built at the Baldwin Locomotive Works, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1927. It is a 2-8-2 (Mikado) wheel arrangement. The engine weighs 130,000 pounds, with a loaded tender it approaches 200,000 pounds. It was originally a coal burner, but later was converted to use oil as its fuel. It operates at 180 p.s.i. and is super-heated. #226 has the relatively modern Walschaert valve gear arrangement, and it also has piston valves.
The locomotive turntable, located in the center of the railroad yard, is 75 feet long and weighs an estimated 75,000 pounds. It was built for the St. Louis and San Francisco (Frisco) Railroad in 1910 at Ft. Smith, Arkansas. It is now turned by a 20 HP electric motor. At its former location, however, it was powered by an air mule (an early air motor), with air pressure coming either from the air brake system of a locomotive or from a round house compressor. It is a balance-type table on which the locomotive must be well centered (balanced). It could be hand-turned, 4-6 men, but tends to lock up when using such limited force.
(As an interesting historical point -- the original Eureka Springs Railroad also had a turntable, in a location close to where the current one is situated. It remained there from 1883 until 1912, when it was moved to Harrison, Arkansas. [More on this later.] From 1912 until the road was scrapped in 1961-62, all trains had to either back into Eureka Springs from Junction, or arrive in a forward position and back out to that point where they joined the 369-mile Joplin, Missouri Helena, Arkansas tracks.)
Pullman and other Cars
Both the excursion and dining cars now operating for the ES&NA were formerly used by the Rock Island Railroad in the Chicago, Illinois, region as commuter coaches. They are 80 feet long, weigh 92,000 pounds, and will seat up to 100 people comfortably. All of the equipment in the cars are original, with the exception of the fans (Hunter residential paddle fans) and the air-conditioning units. Although the seats are now covered with vinyl material, under the vinyl is the original rattan seat covering. The floor is a special mix of mortar and sawdust essentially concrete approximately 1½ inches thick. This mixture adds weight to the lower part of each car, improving its balance, ride and braking performance. This combination is also extremely long-lasting. (As a special safety feature, all coaches are equipped with Westinghouse automatic air brake systems. The brakes are automatically activated if, for any reason, air pressure is lost.)
To complete the full railroad experience, the ES&NA also offers diesel locomotive-drawn lunch and dinner trains.
They present the finest in traditional 1920's railroad cuisine, and superb service, using sparkling place settings of crystal and china.
The grading (slope of track) on today's main line ranges from 0.75% to near 3%. The only completely level track is on and immediately around the turntable. All of the yard track, even that leading to the commissary kitchen, is near a 1% grade. The main line runs generally north and south down grade to the north, upgrade to the south (Depot location). It is hoped that in the not-too-distant future additional right-of-way can be obtained, either east, going 3 miles to the old M&NA tunnel (back cover), or west 5 miles to Beaver, through the Narrows (back cover and over the Beaver railroad bridge (back cover).
Filming the Blue and the Gray
(It is also worthy of note that engines #1 and #201, and many of the other pieces of equipment now available for public viewing, were used in 1981 for the filming of the TV miniseries, "The Blue and the Gray." It is suggested that the ardent railroad buff may wish to obtain the cassettes of "The Blue and the Gray" from his or her local rental store and watch for those sections filmed in the station area and out along the tracks leading to the Junction. The viewer will be interested to note how some of the facilities and equipment in today's yard were covered/disguised by tents and other props needed to develop an 1860's Civil War atmosphere.)
Eureka Springs In the Beginning
Shortly after the civil war, the "Magic Springs" of Northwest Arkansas were first promoted for their health-giving properties by a Dr. Alva Jackson. Dr. Jackson, and other entrepreneurs who came in the early days, developed a thriving business among ailing veterans of the Civil War. The Springs also had special appeal to people seeking ease from any number of health problems that medical science was then unable to treat effectively. This theme was to remain the primary cause of nationwide interest in either coming to visit or settle in and around what was to become Eureka Springs, Arkansas, incorporated, February 14, 1880. This interest would continue into the 20th Century.
The extent to which the health theme was promoted is summarized in an open letter from the editor in the December 17,1891 edition of Eureka Spring's 'Daily Democrat':
"People who have been bedridden sufferers for years come here, drink the waters and get well, often in a very incredibly short time, and are ignorant of the process of how their health was restored as one who never heard of them or the cause of their relief. To the most skilled chemical analysis it yields no further information than that of being the purest water ever tested on earth in any land. Fresh from the springs it is charged with a superabundance of gas, and further than that is almost as pure as the distilled dews of Heaven. Almost every form of chronic disease yields to its magic potency, and especially is this true of all female troubles. Ladies who have languished for years in their terrible mind-wrecking and body-destroying ills arrive here and in a few months at the furthest, are seen with the bloom of health upon their cheeks and rejoicing in restored womanhood."
The traveler desiring to reach this Mecca of health and personal reincarnation in the earliest days was confronted by the problem of merely getting there. Northwest Arkansas, at that time, did not have one mile of hard-surfaced road. There were only a few miles of graded/graveled roads (primarily in downtown Eureka Springs). The only access to the Springs was by way of a back-breaking, hours-long stage coach, wagon, horseback, or walking trip over mountain trails. This was extremely difficult, often impossible when it rained or snowed.
It is little wonder, then, that the Eureka Springs citizenry watched with great interest the advance of the St. Louis and San Francisco (Frisco) Railroad from Springfield, Missouri, toward the southwest corner of that state and applauded its wish to develop tracks that would extend generally south through Fayetteville to Fort Smith, Arkansas. Its ultimate destinations at that time were Paris and Dallas, Texas. The Frisco construction, which started July 9, 1880, reached the Missouri-Arkansas border by November of that year. In passing it had platted a town named Seligman, high on the Ozark Plateau, less than 20 miles from the Fountain of Health Eureka Springs.
In his annual report dated January 2, 1880, the Frisco general manager wrote, "The station of Seligman ..... is 18 miles from the famous Eureka Springs ..... a place with eight thousand people, although but 18 months old. Travel to the Springs is growing larger every month, and will, I believe, prove to be of value to this road. Parties are now preparing to construct a branch line from Seligman to Eureka Springs, intending, it is stated, to extend such line through to Little Rock via Harrison."
These "parties" were led by a colorful gentleman, General Powell Clayton, about whom much has been written a goodly portion of it not all that flattering. Clayton had seen service in the Civil War, and was mustered out as a brigadier general. Later he was to serve as the first elected governor of Arkansas following the Reconstruction, and later yet to serve that state in the U.S. Senate. He became interested in Eureka Springs shortly after its incorporation, and was to be a leading figure in its development during the late 19th century and early 20th century.
During his terms as governor and senator Clayton had resided in Little Rock. By 1880, he was spending a great deal of his time in Eureka Springs. He had had experience with railroads, to include a short term as president of the Little Rock, Mississippi, and Texas Railroad. Clayton moved to Eureka Springs in 1882, and brought his family to live there a year or so later. In 1880 and 1881, he and his associates were busy developing political and economic support for both the Missouri and Arkansas sections of a railroad to his new home town.
On June 26, 1880, Clayton and some well-to-do associates formed the Eureka Springs Railroad Company of Arkansas. As almost half of the planned railroad would run through Missouri, another organization, the Missouri and Arkansas Railroad Company of Missouri, was formed a few months later. Articles of consolidation for both sections were filed with the Arkansas Secretary of State on February 27, 1882. That action combined both organizations into the Eureka Springs Railway. Clayton was elected vice-president and general manager of the line, and immediately set about getting construction under way.
It is interesting to note that the gentleman who was elected as the first president of the Eureka Springs Railway, Richard Kerens, would also play a significant non-railroad role in the development of the city of Eureka Springs. Near the end of the century, Kerens, a resident of St. Louis, and a devout Roman Catholic, would build a memorial chapel immediately below the then newly created Crescent Hotel  that would become part of the St. Elizabeth Roman Catholic Church that exits today.
Kerens was to serve as the U. S. ambassador to Austria-Hungary, 1896-98. Local legend has it that when he was departing for his overseas assignment his mother threw a rose toward his departing carriage from a porch of the Crescent Hotel. The lady was to pass away before his return to the United States. When he came back to Eureka Springs he purchased the parcel of ground where the rose had fallen and built a memorial chapel in her honor.
Building the Original Road
Work began on the Eureka Springs Railway roadbed almost immediately after the company's formal organization (1882). It left Seligman, Missouri and darted down a 2.6% grade into a narrow canyon cut made by Butler Creek. The next 11 miles, almost all downhill, were fairly simple to form. The first real challenge came just before the White River Crossing at Beaver, where it was necessary to blast a shelf out of the bluff next to the White River.
The Delaware Bridge Company manufactured and erected a bridge over the White River (back cover) but another engineering challenge was encountered immediately a high limestone ridge abutting the river's edge. It was necessary to blast a 100 foot long cut through the 60 foot high ridge, forming what is to this day known as "The Narrows." (Picture on back cover.) From there it was only a 5-mile run up to Eureka Springs, crossing Leatherwood Creek several times.
Several sources mention a local legend concerning the blasting out of the Narrows a legend, in this case, being a story based on fact that has been "improved" in repeated tellings. It seems that there was a cabin built at the top of the bluff immediately above where the railroad needed to blast its way through. Its owner had a marvelous view of the White River and, perhaps even better, almost complete privacy. He resisted all of Powell Clayton's efforts to move him.
Clayton, however, was not a man to be easily denied. He had the railroad built up to the base of the cliff under the recalcitrant settler's cabin. He then had an engine driven to the limit of the rails, and spend an entire day and night burning rubberized materials in its firebox blowing its whistle and ringing its bell to accompany the billowing smoke. Very early the following morning a soot blackened face appeared at the top of the cliff and told the waiting railroaders they could build the "%#$@&*A #*#$" railroad wherever they wanted. He was leaving!
Early plans showed the line starting at Seligman, taking passengers from the St. Louis and San Francisco (Frisco) Railroad, and running 18.5 miles, over 2,800 ties per mile, 7.9 miles of curved track, 63 curves of at least 9 degrees, and only 1.1 miles of level track, to Eureka Springs. From Seligman, elevation 1540 feet, the road dropped down to 934 feet as it passed through the Narrows beyond the White River Bridge, and then climbed back up to 1143 feet at the Eureka Springs Station. (In the newspapers of the day it was described as "a roller coaster ride without the element of speed." The grades and curves kept the speed down to less than 35 miles-an-hour even in the clearest sections.
Authors, in describing the transportation of this era, stress the magical waters found in Eureka Springs, and the effect these had in drawing both visitors and settlers to the region. When one looks at the town's population growth during the closing years of the 19th Century, variously reported as 4,000, 8,000, 10,000 and even 15,000, it is easy to see why they would do so. Clearly, "The Springs" were what brought people to the area. Few authors, however, spend much time in suggesting just what the development of a railroad system through the Ozarks in those years meant for a town that, in our age, is famed for its quaint, century-old way of life.
A review of the history of railroading indicates that the "iron-horse" represented, in the 1880's, the cutting-edge of a new transportation technology. Actually, railroading was then moving into what might be called its adolescence it was still a young, vibrant, and far from fully developed transportation mode. Railroading had been first introduced into the United States in 1825, a mere 58 years before the first train was to arrive in Eureka Springs.
The first operational railroad had been built in England in 1804 79 years before railroading came to Eureka Springs. The first U.S. commercial railroad was chartered (in 1830) only 53 years before, and the first train to get as far west as St. Louis, Missouri, arrived in 1857, 26 years before. The last spike for the transcontinental railroad was driven only 11 years prior to this new technology's arrival at the "Fountain of Health".
Eureka Springs, during that era, was most definitely not the quiet, small, peek-into-the-past we view it as today. It was a bustling, modern city, one of the largest in the state, and on the cutting-edge of technology. It was connected to the entire world by two narrow strands of steel. Before the century's close it was to have electricity, natural gas, a waterworks, a sewage system, a street railway system, mail service twice a day, telegraph and express systems. Other larger, more centrally located towns in Arkansas were not to have many of these until the 1930's. The railroad, and the mind-set that saw to its development, were good for the city in its earliest years.
The railroad reached Eureka Springs, formally, on February 1, 1883. In Shortline Railroads of Arkansas, Clifton H. Hull describes its new station as "built from fine-grade native materials. This structure also housed the company's general offices. Nearby were a freight depot, roundhouse, shops, and coal sheds. One large free-flowing spring provided ample water for the roundhouse, machine shops, fire plugs, locomotives, toilets and wash basins in the station, plus irrigation for the station grounds and all the other uses of the company."
James R. Fair, Jr., in The North Arkansas Line, adds further detail. "The completed passenger depot at Eureka was indeed attractive. The main section was of two stories with offices on the second floor and passenger waiting rooms, ticket office and operators' office on the first floor. Extending from this main section were platform sheds connecting a lunch room at one end and a baggage room at the other. There was a separate freight depot. Opposite the track side of the station was the area at which horse-drawn taxis and other conveyances would pull up to load and unload passengers. Typically, the Eureka Springs Transfer Co. placed an agent on all inbound trains to line up customers for transfer to the Southern Hotel, the Perry House, or other spots. The cost was 25 cents per bag or person.
Eureka Springs in 1883 was definitely a town to be contended with. It had both class and style. As stated in the 'Arkansas Gazette' of February 3, "Its permanency is not a question, but a fixed fact."
Pullman palace sleeping cars soon were regular parts of the service, running without change from and to St. Louis. Private cars were frequently seen on the side tracks. Daily service included an outgoing 8:30 A.M. mixed train that carried no freight on Sundays, and a passenger train leaving at 3:50 P.M., pulling the sleeper. Incoming trains were a passenger train at 11:30 A.M., with the sleeper, and a mixed train arriving at 6:30 P.M. Fare to Seligman was $1.75, round trip $3.50 -no reduction for a round-trip ticket. Running time to Seligman was about 1 hour each way. If, as rarely happened, there were more than 8 loaded freight cars on the run to Seligman, a helper engine often had to meet the train in the Butler Creek Cut and help it up the final 2.6% grade and onto the Frisco tracks.
During the closing 1880s and throughout the 1890s the city of Eureka Springs continued to develop rapidly. In 1886, as mentioned previously, the Crescent Hotel was completed. The hotel contained 100 rooms and could accommodate 250 guests. Set in a 27 acre park, it had an unobstructed view of the countryside for miles in each direction. In 1891 a street railway was constructed that connected the Crescent hotel and other hotels of that time with the depot. The line, three miles in length, was originally drawn by mules. It was electrified in 1898.
Almost immediately after its impressive beginning in 1883, the Eureka Springs Railway came up against a cold hard fact of the railroad business, that running a railroad at a profit was a difficult task. While the city of Eureka Springs boomed, its developing strengths lay in services and people, not in any sort of industry or business that would need to rely on a railroad for transportation of materials or products. The road began to show signs of economic distress well before the end of the century.
A railroad locomotive and its cars are a large, terribly heavy while quite roomy, means of transportation. To attain the peak of financial effectiveness a train should be run rapidly and frequently, nearly fully loaded, over roadways that are straight, flat, and of considerable distance. The road to Eureka Springs was never to have any of these characteristics. Ir was a mere 18.5 in length, almost never to run in a straight line, and rarely level. Also, there was never to be any significant continuing source of traffic, either passenger or freight. After an initial high level of incoming business, both passenger and freight, things slacked off significantly, never to return to really profitable levels.
In addition to the burdens placed on the line by the character of the terrain it needed to cross, there were other formidable barriers to financial success that were to remain during its entire existence (1883-1899 as the Eureka Springs Railway, and from 1899 to 1961 under a number of other corporate entities.) Chief among these barriers, as mentioned previously, was the fact that Northwestern Arkansas was never to develop any consistent source of high grade railroad traffic, either passenger or freight. A major part of the traffic that it would carry would originate on other carriers.
The highest level of profit in railroad freight hauling goes to the line that originates a shipment, and that owns the cars in which it is shipped. Any subsequent carrier, that assists in the movement of traffic to be delivered within that carrier's area of operation, receives less per mile than the originating line. Often it must pay per diem on the originating line's cars while they are on its tracks. Additionally, there is generally a higher charge for transporting manufactured goods, i.e. furniture or glass (which Northwest Arkansas did not produce in any significant quantity) than for transporting raw materials, i.e. lumber and sand (which it had in abundance.)
The Destined Demise
Northwest Arkansas, then as now, was more an importer than an exporter. Much of what it was to ship to other areas was unfinished, raw material freight. The railroad found itself often accepting freight from other lines, usually getting the smaller share of the total shipping charge, also having to pay per diem on the cars from other lines until they could be returned. Its traffic not only produced less compensation, it was often very labor intensive raising handling costs dramatically and lowering profit margins, if any, to the same degree. The Crescent Hotel's opening in 1886 caused a small upturn in business but that element, alone, would not turn the tide of decreasing profits.
The level of unsuitableness of the Ozarks for railroading can best be understood if one considers that the Eureka Springs Line could not generate significant profits even when the railroad was actually without serious competition from other types of transportation. In the late 19th century, cars and trucks were almost three decades from the time in history when they could offer an acceptable alternative to train transportation.
The year of 1883 saw one of the Eureka Springs Railroad's major supporters among the Frisco management, a vice-president, pass away. With his passing went the strongest source of support not only for the new railroad itself, but for an idea that had been developing rapidly to extend the rails on to Harrison, Arkansas. Several places in the existing literature indicate that many eastern capitalists were never convinced that sufficient business existed, or would exist, in the Northwest Ozark Region to support a full-fledged railroad. Time was to prove them correct, but during his tenure with Frisco the vice-president had been an avid supporter of extending the line further into Northwest Arkansas. (More will be included on this topic at a later point.)
In 1887-88 stories had begun to circulate that there existed large deposits of zinc ore in Boone, Marion and Searcy Counties, along with vast quantities of hardwood to be cut and shipped out to a waiting market. During 1888 and 1889 passenger traffic was increased by a large number of persons using the railroad as the first leg of their journey to the Harrison area. (A state-funded study done in 1890-92 strongly supported the zinc claims of the counties to the east of Harrison.)
As the century came to a close, travel to Eureka Springs for health reasons began to slack off noticeably. This loss was at least temporarily overcome by an increase in the number of passengers that used the Eureka Springs Railroad as a part of the journey to Harrison, rather than the much slower and harder riding of stage coaches from the east, south and north. As the economic-development possibilities of the territories to the east of Eureka Springs became known, genuine interest was shown in extending the rails in that direction.
In an October 6, 1897 edition of the Eureka Springs Fountain, the Harrison case is well stated:
"Time and again have our people been buoyed up with the hope of the building of a railroad into this section: time and again have they obtained the right of way, bonuses and subscriptions to aid wind blowing companies, backed by imaginary capitol to build paper railroads from every direction into Harrison, and time and again have they seen the collapse of these schemes and the shattering of their fond hopes."
Shortly before that editorial call for an extension of the rails, an item had appeared in the Fountain that, while not reflecting the common desire to extend the rails to the east, was more prophetic as to the future of the road:
"Roadmaster Wallace informs us he has just finished shipping 60,000 railroad ties. They averaged 10 cars a day and paid one cent a tie for loading them. The business is about the only source of revenue this section has, although horses cattle, hogs, chickens and eggs are occasionally shipped out."
As mentioned previously, despite the noticeable drop in earnings, as the Eureka Springs Railway rolled toward the 20th century enthusiasm remained strong for the railroad and its extension to Harrison. Anything so powerful as a locomotive just had to be successful. Also, while the railroad's freight traffic had declined seriously, incoming passenger traffic showed only a slight decline. The citizens of Berryville, Green Forest, Alpena and Harrison, and those in the surrounding areas, desperately wanted a railroad.
Harrison, in a newly won status as the county seat of Boone County, was desperate for a reliable means of supplying its rapidly growing population. Transportation of the type needed, a railroad, existed 100 rugged miles north at Springfield, Missouri; 100 equally difficult miles south at Russellville, Arkansas; 150 miles east at an Iron Mountain Railroad connection (later to become Union Pacific); but only a short 50 miles west at Eureka Springs.
Again, Powell Clayton stepped forward to provide leadership, supported closely by Richard Kerens. They and a select group of associates, (using a business technique that was to become popular in the late 20th century) decided that since the Eureka Springs Railway was going steadily downhill as a business venture the best way to remedy the situation was to throw more money into it. They would extend it to Harrison and beyond.
In 1898, Clayton and Kerens went to work, with enthusiastic local support all along the proposed line. Independent engineering surveys agreed that the line could be extended at an estimated $14,000 a mile. This was, for that time, a very acceptable cost. While there was to be a problem with getting over, around, or through a bluff 3 miles east of Eureka Springs, the remainder of the way to Harrison would offer no major engineering difficulties.
On May 25, 1899, the Eureka Springs Railway passed into history as it became the St. Louis and North Arkansas Railroad (SL&NAR) which it would remain only until 1906, when that organization became the Missouri and North Arkansas Railroad. The SL&NAR's first task was to extend rail service to Harrison and beyond. The Eureka Springs line had lasted from April 26, 1882 to May 25, 1899 17 years of Glory!
(Railroad service to and from Eureka Springs was to continue for another 60+ years minus a period from 1946 to 1950 when, because of unreconcilable differences between what the trainmen desired in salary and the road felt it was able to pay, service was discontinued. (Much more on this topic is to follow.)
Touring the Route
It is perhaps worthy of note at this juncture that from the cockpit of a low-flying plane almost all of the Seligman-Eureka Springs roadbed is still evident. The exact point north of Seligman where the tracks began is no longer ascertainable, fillings for highway #37's construction have blotted out the two-three hundred yards of what had to have been the originating point. East of Highway #37, however, the old roadbed still remains. It winds down along Butler Creek to a non-serviceable, but still extant trestle before the bluff-cuts at the approach to Beaver, through Beaver and over a non-serviceable bridge to the Narrows, through the Narrows and up along Leatherwood Creek to Eureka Springs. Aerial survey definitely justifies the opinion of early users of the road from Seligman to Eureka Springs, with its downs and ups, and constant twistings, the railway definitely looks like a roller coaster!
To the enthusiast with a car that can operate in rough terrain this route can also be done on the ground. You start from the current Eureka Springs and North Arkansas Railroad depot and head north on Highway #23. At just over 2 miles you pass the end of the ES&NA line and go on to a small bridge over Leatherwood Creek. Looking up the left side of the creek you see what are obviously remains of the old roadbed. Going on down Highway #23, glances to the left indicate mounds that are most definitely the old roadbed. At 3 miles you turn onto Highway #187, with the old roadbed still on your left. At Elk Ranch (4 miles from the station) you cross Leatherwood Creek and the roadbed appears on your right.
One mile further, before the summit of the bluff overlooking the White River and the town of Beaver, a right turn down a small 2-track trace will lead you to the Eureka Springs-side of the Narrows. It is here that, during the glory days of the Eureka Springs line, people would come, via special railroad cars, to celebrate the Fourth of July. If one sits back and listens, with eyes closed, the echoes of former days (bands playing, children laughing as they climb the imposing rock formations that flank the Narrows, speeches by notables of the day (maybe even Powell Clayton) can sometimes still be heard.
Back on Highway #187, you go over the one-way "Golden Gate Bridge of the Ozarks" to Beaver Town. You pull immediately to the left and park. A short walk up the Beaver Town Walking Trail brings you to the cuts in the bluffs that were made to allow the train's approach from the northwest to Beaver. After returning to your car you "follow your nose" for 3 miles to State Road #537, a not-too-well maintained Arkansas country road. Within a mile after leaving Highway #187 you find yourself driving on what was obviously the old roadbed. You notice that you are traveling in a tunnel of trees, still unquestionably beautiful if experienced during the Spring, Summer, or Fall. (Somewhere in here you pass into Missouri.) Another 4 miles and you notice to your left the area where people lived in houses fashioned under a stretch of overhanging bluffs the "cliff dwellers" observed by early train passengers. Some unused structures are still remaining. Another 3 miles along a narrow valley and you shoot up rapidly (reminiscent of the old 2.6% grade and occasional helper engines) into Seligman and onto Highway #37. Its the end-of-the-line. You're there! It was a great trip!
Early surveys showed that the extension of the newly formed St. Louis and North Arkansas Railroad to Harrison would have to by-pass Eureka Springs. One who visits the railroad station today notes that there is a steep rise in the terrain as one moves south up Highway #23 (Main Street) and into the downtown area.
A location just over two miles north of town, at Livingston Hollow, was chosen as the point from which the extension to Harrison would begin. Eureka Springs, then, was to become a spur-connection off the main railroad line.
After the glory years of the Eureka Springs Railroad, 1883-1899, and after the name was changed, and the road was made to by-pass the city, both the railroad and the city seemed to lose some of the spark, impetus, dynamism, needed to continue as growing entities. Eureka Springs was to lose its luster as one of the fastest growing, most dynamic cities in Arkansas and become a small, quaint village that people would visit to get a peek into the past.
The last spike was driven and the first train arrived in Harrison on March 22, 1901.
The engineer caused near panic when, during the reception ceremony, he called down from the cab, "Watch out, everybody, I'm gonna turn 'er around!
Despite the joyous welcome of the citizens of Harrison and its surrounding territory, however, the St. Louis and North Arkansas Railroad was never to be a profitable venture. It went into receivership in 1906. The owners, rather than getting out of what was obviously a extremely high-risk business, profit-wise, again decided to move forward aggressively. They reorganized under the name of the Missouri and North Arkansas Railroad. This name, by which the road was to be known for the longest of any of its designations, was to become widely referred to by the acronym of M&NA, or just MNA.
The last acronym was, unfortunately, to be locally translated into the "May-Never-Arrive" railroad. The MN&A was to remain in receivership until the mid 1920s.
The M&NA. after a series of financial moves that saw it finding the dollars needed to continue operations under the 1906 receivership. negotiated track agreements at its northern terminus of Seligman that would allow its use of Frisco rails for the 9.4 miles from Seligman to Woodruff Tracks were to be laid, financed by M&NA, from that point to Neosho, Missouri. There the M&NA trains would go onto Kansas City Southern (KSC) rails for the remainder of the trip to Joplin, Missouri. (Woodruff would later be known as Wayne.)
At the same time. although there were pressures to direct the proposed extension past Harrison to either Memphis or Little Rock, a decision was made to extend to Helena, Arkansas. There freight could be ferried across the Mississippi River and go on to New Orleans via the Yazoo and Mississippi Valley Railroad. The M&NA could then offer a 369 mile bridge for freight and/or passenger traffic between the areas that fed into both Joplin and Kansas City and were intended for New Orleans as a terminus and, of course, for freight and passengers going from New Orleans to either Joplin or Kansas City. (An interesting sidelight into the reasoning for the choice of Helena over either of the more noteworthy destinations, Little Rock and Memphis, is the suggestion that the decision was influenced by the fact that Powell Clayton's wife was a native Helena belle.)
The Kansas City-New Orleans route was an idea that, for many reasons and a lot of bad luck, was never to become operationally viable. By the time the route was completed (February, 1909) the roads between which the M&NA hoped to serve as a bridge. the Kansas City Southern Railroad and the Yazoo and Mississippi, had made other arrangements. The M&NA, then, "started nowhere and ended nowhere." (It is perhaps correct to wonder. if even the bridging plans, had they become operational, would have been a benefit significant enough to save the line. Bridging, most often, is a, "We're going that direction anyway, so we'll just take this extra freight along with us" sort of thing. Bridge traffic alone yields a fairly low per mile income. As the M&NA was never to be a particularly busy road, and was never to have a significant number of trains going either way, the bridge strategy might have caused an overload for its personnel, engines and rails.)
The years between the time the M&NA was incorporated and the first World War were to see a number of ups and downs for the road. At least a few of them directly concerned Eureka Springs. In 1908, for example, the Elk Breeders of Arkansas came into being as a corporate organization. It was interested in raising elk and exporting elk meat via the railroad, from an area immediately west of Eureka Springs that still bears the name Elk Ranch. Elk meat, at that time, was a popular delicacy in major meat markets like New York, drawing a price considerably higher than that paid for beef or pork.
It is also worthy of note that elk are natural enemies of wolves, usually mastering them in one-on-one combat. The presence of elk caused the departure from the area of both wolves and wild dogs, which were plentiful in those days. This happening was welcomed by the owners of both sheep and goats who suffered heavily from encroachments by both animals. There was at the time, however, a stringent federally enforced prohibition of shipping the meat of non-domesticated animals. The seemingly great idea was never to become a reality. The Elk Ranch flag stop was to remain for some years beyond the demise of the organization for which it was created.
After 1907, the road did not operate without a yearly deficit until just before being taken over by the federal government in 1917. (The war was to change the railroad industry in many ways, especially its short-line elements. Many of them would not survive beyond that erawhen all attention had to be given to those roads that could move large masses of freight and passengers.)
In 1910, despite, or perhaps because of its frail economic status, the M&NA instituted through Pullman service, only to withdraw it 10 months later. Even in those times of economic distress there were 8 trains daily arriving at the Eureka Springs depot. (The depot itself was replaced in 1913 by the attractive stone structure that today offers enjoyment to thousands of visitors each year.)
1911 was to produce a ghost train one that seemed to disappear.
A selection in an old copy of the 'Railroad Magazine' reads:
"Phantom trains have long been subjects for the most exciting fiction, but it is seldom that a well authenticated instance of such apparitions occurs. A story from Eureka Springs, Arkansas, seems to fill the bill in this particular, however.
The engineer of a passenger train was about to slow up for the water tank at Gaskins, as was his custom, when he saw just ahead a caboose with the signal lights burning. He also saw the conductor come out of the cupola with his lantern and noted the burning fusee on the track.
He yelled to his fireman. The fireman glanced out of the window, saw the caboose, grasped the reverse lever, and helped his chief to throw it over; then both men dropped down to jump. But before they could go over, the caboose vanished, and the only thing left was the charred fusee on the track.
Fireman Harrelson had such a fright that he refused to go out next morning, and Engineer Dobbins went out under protest, he recommended Master Mechanic Dolan to have everything in readiness, as there was sure to be a wreck somewhere.
The trains ran as usual, and if there was any object in the visit of the ghost train it has not been made clear yet. The account is supplemented by the statement that Agent Braswell, of Gaskins, also saw the phantom caboose and lights from his home."
Another of the M&NA's moves to become financially viable (in 1912) was to purchase two gasoline-electric cars, one for the Joplin-Eureka Springs run, the second to be used at the other end of the line, Heber Springs-Helena. These all-steel cars were beautiful in many ways, and operated at a fraction of the cost of steam powered locomotives. They were Pullman green in color with gold lettering, had interiors of finished mahogany, plush frizette seats, and could seat up to 85 passengers when fully loaded. Motive power was supplied by twin electric engines that ran on electricity furnished by two gasoline-fueled generators. The gasoline for the generators was stored in overhead tanks that ran almost the entire length of the car.
Through freight service was offered from Joplin to Helena, the road functioning as a two-district operation. During the early years crews were changed at Leslie, Arkansas. A national move toward an eight hour work-day, however, and the fact that it was becoming increasingly difficult to keep trains operating over the length of the two sections, 182 and 177 miles respectively, forced a change to a three-district operation. Harrison and Heber Springs were to serve as division points. The district lengths became 127, 116 and 116 miles. To increase passenger use of the road sleeping cars were reinstituted, with parlor sections where, for a price, passengers not wanting sleeping accommodations could ride in a luxury not found in the regular coaches.
Despite the new depot building in Eureka Springs, the change in division points saw almost all of the railway offices and support activities that had been located there since 1883 moved to Harrison. Harrison was to remain the headquarters for the M&NA, and subsequent entities that were to assume the operation of the railroad, until the rails were taken up in 1961. Eureka Springs lost heavily in both population and business when the railroad's business and support activities were moved eastward. The railroad had employed many of its citizens, and they in turn had used local businesses and other services in conducting their daily lives. There was never to be anything developed that would take the railroad's place in the local economy.
With 8 trains a day, the Eureka Springs depot had been a very busy place, as described in a poem written by an agent, E.R. Braswell:
Missouri and North Arkansas is the name of the road
Always on time and our connections are good.
First train in the morning leaves at eight-forty,
With fifteen minutes at Seligman after you arrive
To get a train to St. Louis unless they are late
But for Ft. Smith and Paris you have a two hour's wait.
The next train arrives at ten fifty-three
Brings visitors from St. Louis, Dallas and K.C.
Leaves Eureka Springs promptly at eleven o'clock
Makes connections at Kensett for Memphis and Little Rock.
The Iron Mountain South leaves Kensett at nine five
And at eleven o'clock in Little Rock you arrive.
Then at one-ten A.M. the Memphis train will be due
And gets you to Memphis about five-fifty-two.
Twelve fifty-five is the Motor Car time
Brings visitors from Lebanon and south on that line
Then leaves Eureka Springs promptly at two P.M.
Takes you to Elk Ranch and right back again
Arrives at Eureka at fifteen past four,
And leaves at five o'clock for Seligman once more
Ten minutes wait at Seligman for the local train north
One hour for the train for Dallas and Ft. Worth
Then the train from St. Louis is just pulling in,
We get all their passengers and hike out again
Arrive at Eureka about seven-forty-five
Just before the passengers from the south will arrive.
Number two is the last and will leave eight o'clock
Brought passengers from Kensett, Memphis and Little Rock
It takes you to Seligman where you make connections north
But you stay there all night if for Dallas or Ft. Worth
But passengers for Joplin go right through you see
To make connection for Wichita and K.C.
And various points too numerous to mention,
But for all these places we make good connection.
If there's any other information, rates, e-r-c,
Just write, phone, or ask the agent, E.R.B.
These figures, even for one city (the line's headquarters city), were not all that impressive. The M&NA at Harrison was originating only an average of 1.6 cars of outgoing freight a day, definitely not showing it to be anything like a "big time" railroad.
As 1914 got underway, the war developing in Europe afforded opportunities for some additional business. The joy of this small upturn was to be dampened considerably by two events that occurred in August of that year. The first, a train wreck involving an M&NA motor car and a Kansas City Southern freight train. The second, the death of Powell Clayton, the co-founder and long-rime supporter of the railroad to Eureka Springs and beyond.
On August 5, 1914, one of the motor cars left Joplin bound for Eureka Springs. It had a full load of passengers, with some standing in the aisle. It left Joplin, designated as passenger train #209 while riding the Kansas City Southern tracks, and would have become M&NA #5, once it reached Seligman. Its orders called for it to take a siding at Tipton Ford, 10.8 miles from Joplin. There it should have remained until a northbound freight train cleared that station.
For reasons that were never to be known with any degree of certainty, the passenger train did not stop at Tipton Ford and ran head-on into the northbound train. A total of 43 people aboard the motor car were killed, none from the freight train. Several of those killed were burned to death by a fire fueled from the motor cars ruptured gasoline tanks those still conscious pleading to be released or killed before the flames reached them.
All of the M&NA crew were killed in the accident and the courts were unable to decide definitely just who was at fault. Each line was left to pay for its own expenses, liability and equipment damage. The M&NA assumed by far the greater part of that burden. It never fully recovered from the results of the tragedy. The matter was to have a Phoenix-like reappearance, however, in 1917, during a particularly difficult financial time for the M&NA.
One of the major points of controversy in the 1914 court hearings had been whether or not the order to wait on the siding for the freight train had actually been passed to the M&NA crew. All trainmen on the run that night (none was to survive) were well-respected, career employees with spotless records. There was a signature on the records for the night indicating that a crewman had indeed received the order, but question had been raised as to the validity of the signature. The court, at that time, had not been persuaded that the signature was forged
The M&NA, for reasons that are not fully understood, did not pay their attorneys for their work connected with the case. In 1917, when pressed for payment, the M&NA offered the legal firm 40% of anything it could collect on the matter as complete settlement of the debt. The lawyers hired a nationally recognized authority on handwriting to examine all traffic documentation related to the case. He offered the opinion that the signature indicating the orders had been received was a forgery. This led to the contention that the M&NA motor car crew had not been made aware of the train coming in their direction. A jury awarded the M&NA $190,000.
The Kansas City Southern, of course, appealed the decision. In 1918 it was finally decided that the railroads should share the liability equally, the lion's share of which the M&NA had originally paid, and that each would be responsible for its own property damages. This, with the attorney's fees also taken care of, amounted to a cash advantage for the M&NA of $50,000. While not a great financial gain for the beleaguered road, it was a tremendous psychological victory.
The death of Powell Clayton was also a severe blow to the road. He was still a major stock holder even though in the most recent years had not been able to participate in management affairs. At the time of his death he had been living in Washington. D.C.. having lived there since he had served as the U.S. Ambassador to Mexico. His major interest had been in undoing a very negative Legacy of his handling of Arkansas State matters during his tenure as its governor, and later as a U.S. Senator. He died still a very controversial figure.
In 1915 the hopes of significant increases in traffic due to the discovery of zinc ore beyond Harrison in the Northeast Arkansas area proved to be in vain. The main zinc deposits were too far east of Harrison to make transfer by horse drawn wagon profitable, and the Yellville, Rush & Mineral Belt Railway, backed by the Iron Mountain Line, was chartered. It would connect the highest yielding areas to the Iron Mountain and keep most of the business away from the M&NA.
The approaching war led to some increases in business. and the M&NA was, for a short time, operating in the black. On December 26, 1917, President Wilson, acting on a recommendation of the Interstate Commerce Commission, nationalized all railroads. (It is a point of some irony that the federal government, in taking over the management of the railroads, promised each a continuation of the level of profit enjoyed during each line's last three years of operation. The M&NA, up until a few months prior to the war, had been operating at a loss. To follow the federally directed formula exactly would have seen the road paying money to the government.)
One immediate result of the M&NA's going under federal control was a significant salary increase for the trainmen. Due to the facts that living in Northwest Arkansas was much less costly than in many other parts of the country, and that the railroad had always operated near to and/or below the break-even point, M&NA salaries had not kept up with national standards. Being brought up to the national standard, and with a 16 per cent raise offered to all railroaders on April 30, 1918, retroactive to January 1 of that year, M&NA employees received what amounted to almost a 100% increase in salary. (While the government also increased freight rates by 25%, and raised passenger rates to 3 cents a mile, these increases would not make up for the retroactive part of the pay hike.)
Almost immediately after taking over the nation's railroads, the federal government found that operating approximately 1,700 short line roads was an impossible and unprofitable task. These roads, which had gone under federal control with the other railroads on December 26, 1917, found themselves returned to their owners on June 29, 1918. With salaries at unimaginably high levels, and a work force not willing to surrender any of its gains, serious budgetary and labor problems were dumped on an unprepared M&NA management. Operations came to a complete stand-still as the shopmen struck, and after a fervent plea from M&NA management, the United States took over management again. The striking trainmen returned to work on the basis that the government would adjudicate their differences with management.
After the "War to End All Wars" had been successfully concluded, and a cooling-off period allowed, all railroads were returned to their owners on March 1, 1920. Along with the return was the creation by the government, through the Transportation Act, of an extended system of federal control of railroad wages, rates, mergers, etc., and expanded powers for the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC). The M&NA was returned with its equipment in good working order and its payroll 66% greater than it had been in 1917. As its wages had been parred with the larger national roads, and then increased by additional government-sponsored raises, the payroll at the time of return would consume 92% of the operating budget -compared to a 60% average for Class I railroads that year. The M&NA workmen had been highly unionized. It was not a pleasing picture, most definitely not one that could be maintained indefinitely.
The outcome was entirely predictable. Management informed the trainmen that there would have to be an immediate reduction in wages if the road was to continue to operate. On February 1, 1921, in response to this announcement, the Harrison shopmen walked off their jobs. Management and labor met jointly after that date with the Railroad Labor Board, and other meetings were proposed. The trainmen, however, on February 21, refused to accept a RLB proposed cut in salary that would allow the line to continue to operate, pending a study of the road's capability to pay higher wages. (The proposal also contained the assurance that any forthcoming raises would be retroactive.)
The general membership of the unions saw little to be gained by further meetings. At 3:00 P.M., February 26, the engineers, firemen, hostlers, conductors, trainmen, yardmen, agents, telegraphers, train dispatchers, and maintenance men started what was to be one of the longest and bloodiest strikes, both figuratively and literally, in U.S. railroad-labor history.
A review of the writings about this calamity seems to indicate that the national railroad union leadership chose to use this small Northwest Arkansas line as a crucible in which it would try to fashion a strategy it could use to dominate other railroad labor-management confrontations. There can be little question that the union forces saw Arkansas for what it was in those days, still emerging from a location-imposed cultural isolation that had left parts of its development far behind those of many other states. The Ozark people had had almost no experience with strikes the 1918 railroad strike had lasted only a week, and had been resolved without serious involvement of or inconvenience to the public at large.
In the Ozarks "home folks" were loyal to "home folks." Nearly all of the M&NA trainmen were from the areas immediately surrounding the line neighbors, fellow churchmen, etc. The national union leadership, which had shipped a goodly cadre of strike organizers to the Harrison area, along with adequate union strike funds to help keep the strikers and their families from going hungry, was able to recruit a strong following among both the local workmen and population. The union leadership, however, underestimated the level of back-country pragmatism that existed in Ozark natives. A pragmatism that had always been necessary for survival in that area.
During the early days of the strike, public sentiment was with the railroad employees. When, however, the people and businesses along the line began to see that with the strike they were back almost to where they had been before the coming of the railroad, the larger mass of them began a serious reassessment of their position on the strike.
Even the most cursory review of what transpired over the years of the strike would be (has been) a book in itself. Suffice it to say that the public finally arose, demanded rail service, ran many of the union agitators and their families out of town, and at least a semblance of service was restored. An indication of the level of local inexperience with such matters, however, can be seen in the deep and abiding faith of local citizens that rail transportation would return to its former levels, or perhaps even improve.
Such was not to be the case. The unions had seen to it that the M&NA's relationship and reputation with other roads and other parts of the nationally unionized transportation and supply industry would never be the same. Another nail had been driven into the coffin-lid of the M&NA. The road would never completely recover from what the strike and the unions had done to it.
The line went into receivership again in 1935 and was purchased by the Frank Kell interests of Wichita Fall, Texas. Its name was again changed, to the Missouri and Arkansas Railway Company it had been named the Missouri and Arkansas Railroad Company in 1880. Business continued, occasionally at a profit, until after World War II. (Close examination of the records of the Kell era seem to indicate that there was a serious stripping of some of the best equipment passed on by the M&NA. This equipment, assumedly, went to other Kell interests. Inferior replacements generated significantly increased maintenance costs.)
At the end of World War II there was a chaotic scramble by both labor and business as prices spiraled upward, almost out of control. The result was again predictable. Workmen demanded much higher wages, management claimed an inability to meet their demands, strikes were called, and management applied to the ICC for permission to abandon the road. Operations were halted in September 1946. The M&A was sold in 1946 to a group of eastern financiers known as the Salzberg interests. They were interested in the road primarily because of its value as scrap metal. The name of the Seligman-Harrison segment of the line was renamed to the Arkansas & Ozarks Railway Company in 1949. It was not to become immediately operational.
There had been loud, vehement protests against the destruction of the railroad, whatever its name. Almost from its beginning the Missouri and Arkansas, Eureka Springs, St. Louis & North Arkansas, Missouri and North Arkansas, Missouri and Arkansas, Arkansas & Ozarks Railroad was a "peoples railroad." They didn't own stock in it, but it was theirs! They had wanted it in the 1880s, they still wanted it in the 1940s and 50s. When the road had originally been constructed there were no government grants of land to the companies that built the line that was to traverse Northwest Arkansas. The people who lived on the land it was to cross had given what was needed to the railroad. People living near the railroad and in the cities had given money to buy the land needed for depots and train yards.
In a well written book about the 1921-23 railroad strike, An Industrial War, a History of the Missouri and North Arkansas Railroad Strike, 1922-23, by the Reverend Mr. Walter F. Bradley, this feeling is described extremely well: (The Reverend Mr. Bradley was, at that time, the minister of the First Presbyterian Church in Harrison.)
"Practically every farmer whose land was touched by the right-of-way donated part if not all of the land desired by the company, and in many instances it split their bottom fields "wide open", reducing the acreage of cultivated fields sometimes in half when the shops and general offices were moved to Harrison, the community "put up" a bonus to the road of $26,000. The gift of thousands of dollars to the road by citizens of this territory both manifested and created a deep interest in the railroad.
While the public through its gifts had not a cent in the enterprise as an invesrment, yet their gifts coupled with the great necessity which brought the road, made in every citizen a keen sense of personal interest in the road, akin to the feeling of ownership itself."
In 1950 Eureka Springs and the other villages and cities on the Seligmen-to-Harrison segment of the line were to again have a railroad. The A & 0 Railway began operations but it was to handle only freight. Its first shipment went to the John Paul Hammerschmidt Lumber Company in Harrison. Locomotion was by then diesel engine. Northwest Arkansas was really catching up with the times! The initial enthusiasm, however, did not engender enough business to keep the road afloat almost literally (see below). It struggled on for a number of years, but in 1960 a final series of disasters struck.
Leatherwood Creek, immediately below Eureka Springs, went on a rampage and did extensive flood damage to the roadbed. At the same time the Army Corps of Engineers condemned a 2.7 mile stretch of track near the White River and Beaver. Waters rising behind the Table Rock Dam at Branson, Missouri, were expected to cover that section occasionally, or to be so close to doing so that the road could not operate over it effectively .
An August 25, 1960 Associated Press/Harrison announcement read:
"The fate of the railroad that started construction south from Seligman, Missouri toward Eureka Springs in 1880 and reached Helena, Arkansas in 1909 is still being debated. All of the line has been scrapped except 65.93 miles from Harrison to Seligman, and a branch line, 3.16 miles from the main line junction to Eureka Springs. Now the owners want to abandon the remainder and a hearing before the Interstate Commerce Commission got underway today. Owners have placed a value on the property as junk which totals $647,500."
An Associated Press/Washington, D.C. release, December 19, 1960, read:
"An Interstate Commerce Commission examiner recommended Friday that the Arkansas and Ozarks Railroad be permitted to abandon its entire line, a total of 70 miles."
The shops and offices at Harrison and other places on the line were closed. The diesel engines were shipped out on low-boy trailers behind powerful trucks that were driven over well-constructed roads. Salvage was begun in 1961. The railroad era in Northwest Arkansas was over, at least for the moment!
SIC TRANSIT GLORIA MUNDI !!
The Author Ed Tolle
Ed, like so many residents of Eureka Springs, Arkansas, was originally from somewhere else -- in his case -- several somewhere elses. He retired in 1990 from a career in the Agency for International Development, Department of State, spending 19 of the 25 years prior to his retirement in foreign countries (Viet Nam, Yemen, Liberia and Somalia). Like the shepherd in "The Shepherd of the Hills", however, Ed claims to have died to the other world and to have been reborn in the Ozarks a true native. He now lives with his wife, Loan, a portrait artist/jewelry designer, and their daughters Yume and Colleen. (Ed has 3 sons, Michael, Steven and Jeffrey, who have already flown from the nest.)
(A personal note.) Writing even so small a booklet) required the assistance of many people. Most important among them were my wife and children, to whom this work is dedicated. Also extremely important in its formation were Robert L. Dortch, Jr., owner/manager of the Eureka Springs and North Arkansas Railroad; his sister Floride Rabsamen, creator of the section on Railroad Slang; the Bank of Eureka Springs, from whose collection of historic photographs most of the book's pictures were taken; the Eureka Springs Public Library, repository of a great deal of information on the development of the Eureka Springs area; the Boone County Heritage Museum, Harrison, Arkansas; which has in it's Railroad Museum Section the finest collection of materials from the railroad era in the Northwest Ozark Region; Timmothy Kubat, of Republic, Missouri, a railroad buff with an abiding interest in the history of the Missouri & North Arkansas Railroad; James Lair, president of the Carroll County, Arkansas, Historical Society; Henry Gruppe, an active author from Potomac, Maryland; Edward A. Coxhead of Eureka Springs, former executive vice president of the Minnesota Commercial Railway, St. Paul, Minnesota; and Dr. Kevin Hatfield, principal of the Eureka Springs High School, whose editorial assistance was of great value. The Seligman - Eureka Springs and Joplin - Helena route maps were fashioned after those created in "The North Arkansas Line", by James R. Fair.
To everyone, the most heartfelt thanks!
Ed Tolle (of Holiday Island)