A Trip on the Current River Branch

Discussion in 'Willow Springs Subdivision' started by frisco4301, Sep 12, 2007.

  1. Jim James

    Jim James Staff Member Staff Member

    A kindrid spirit. My 90 year old grandma Cato lives in Advance, MO and on the way to visit my eyes follow the old Hoxie branch roadbed which parallels Hwy 25. I see ghost trains. Thought I was the only one.
    Ozarktraveler likes this.
  2. PAC MAN

    PAC MAN Member

    Nope! It is always fun to kick around and find an old rail in the road or spike in the dirt. Just wish I had a time machine to take me back so that I could just sit and watch.
  3. klrwhizkid

    klrwhizkid Administrator Staff Member Administrator Frisco.org Supporter

    Jim, there are a number of us that think along the same lines regarding traveling roads parallel to the old Hoxie Sub from Nash all the way to Poplar Bluff. Every trip reminds me of travel with my great-grandfather in the car with us telling about the many times he fired locotives on that line. I, like you envision those trains and what it was like.
    Ozarktraveler likes this.
  4. RogerRT

    RogerRT Staff Member Staff Member Frisco.org Supporter

    Excellent post Mike, this is the stuff I like to see. The Current River Branch is my all-time favorite branch line & I've scoured every part of the line I could legally get to since the early 80's. The only time I saw anything during the Frisco years was GP7 569 & caboose 1401 sitting in the yard at Willow Spring Thanksgiving 1977. I did see the BN in Mtn. View a couple of times in 1982, the train crew liked to stop for lunch at the cafe along 1st St. Were P1, P3 & P4 taken along County Road 3080 east of County Road 2790? Looks like they were taken in the summer of 1983 & 1984. Speaking of ghosts, at nights on County Road 3080 west of Mountain View you can hear the old train, according to a website on ghost stories. Attached is a photo of the Mtn. View yard in better times & a Google Earth map of the line I drew. It needs to be redrawn since they updated the ariel photos from Willow Springs-Winona last fall.


    Attached Files:

  5. Jim James

    Jim James Staff Member Staff Member

    Guess I'm not quite so crazy after all. And my time machine is my ever developing Zalam Branch. The closest I'll get to seeing a lurching freight easing down the line through the hollers and fields of Bollinger/Stoddard county during the teens and early 20s.
  6. PAC MAN

    PAC MAN Member

    Yes Roger that is the place. You could turn at the Lewis Veterinarian office and travel south to the old crossing there and walk east toward Mountain View back in the day. That is where the bridge was just east of that crossing. I used to start at the crossing east of that one closer to Mtn View and walk east or west from there. My dad used to live east of there next to the tracks and would sit on the berm next to their house and watch the steamers go by. A lot more trains back then. I would walk with my cousins most of the time. I remember the thrill of rounding the corner hoping to see a headlight coming. I remember a few particular things about the line there. There were dips in the rail where it appeared a wheel slip got out of hand and it ate into the rail in a few spots. I also remember replacing a 6 inch section of rail next to a joint thinking that would keep the train from jumping the track. There were a lot of broken sections at joints on the line. Sadly one of my last walks was when the rails and ties were ripped up and it made for an long walk around the obstacles. I remember the old whistle sign leaning over next to the ground and my cousin insisting she could get it off of the post for me. I also found a downed pole and dug up a few old insulators that had been buried for years. I remember the cafe in Mountain View where the crew would stop at the old depot site and walk over for a meal before going on to Willow. My wife's grandpa drew the assignment once in a while. I often wonder if he gave me a cab ride back then. ??? I like your pic of Mountain View. I spent many an hour right where you were standing. I remember finding an old brake hose on the ground there that I kept for some time before it got tossed out by the parents. If I could go back...I would have taken MORE pictures!
    Ozarktraveler likes this.
  7. yardmaster

    yardmaster Administrator Staff Member Administrator Frisco.org Supporter

    Not really on-topic, but there used to be a blind station sign at Arbor, and an old wooden crossbuck at Toga near the John Deere dealership - wonder if they're still there? There also used to be a blind station sign at Idlewild, near Duck Creek.

    Best Regards,
  8. RogerRT

    RogerRT Staff Member Staff Member Frisco.org Supporter

    I thought that was where they were taken, you were way back up in there. Attached is what it looked like 3 years ago, this location has actually held up pretty good compared to other parts of the line. Some places you can't even tell there was a railroad there anymore. When I was a union rep a few years ago I met my counterpart out of Springfield, we got to talking & I asked him about the branch & to my surprise he said it was his regular job for a while. He told me that on the way back from Winona there was a place west of Birch Tree that they really had to get a run at the hill if they picked up a lot of lumber in Winona or else they would stall & have to double the hill. I also asked him if they could make the round trip to Winona & back within their max 12 hours on duty time and he said he had many 8 hour or less days. I said the track must not have been as bad as the railroad made it out to be & he said there were places it was bad but there was also places that were pretty good & that was where they made their time up. The location where you took your photos looks like it was one of those places you could do 5-10 mph over the speed limit...


    Attached Files:

  9. klrwhizkid

    klrwhizkid Administrator Staff Member Administrator Frisco.org Supporter

    Arbor, still there; Toga, and Idlewild missing for about the past 15+ years.
  10. PAC MAN

    PAC MAN Member

    I never would have thought they would have to double there. Now west of Fremont yes or south of RA highway maybe but didn't realize the profile was that tough at Birch Tree. It all looks pretty flat until you actually get out and look at it. The old grade east of Ellsinore along A highway looks unreal with constant grade and curvature. Would have been quite a pull up that in a little steamer. The old grade IS holding up pretty good in spots. There are some places that are gone for good though like the big berm west of RA where they removed the dirt to build the highway. I was going to photo the area but it was all grown up in trees anyway. There was one day when they got close to the old bridge and they removed the dirt from around the old trestle. The old bents were really driven deep into the earth and looked really tall standing by themselves. It appeared the dirt kept the poles preserved pretty well. That old track was pretty well used at all of the places I remember. My father in law contracted with the railroad for snow removal one season. The drifts were pretty bad east of Birch Tree and he went to work with the dozer. The the next day or two after, the train derailed there anyway. Must have been soft ground there or bad ties. Sadly though he had the job of removing several sidings and other track around the area. They did buy a few pieces of old equipment off of the railroad when they were getting rid of it. I thought I was seeing things one day when we were out in the field and I saw a faded coonskin logo on the side of one of their tractors. The real deal. I plan on buying it some time and restoring it to a mandarin and white paint job and a FRESH logo! But then again I had better get my railroad built before taking on any more projects. Nice pic Roger. Sure would look good with some ties and rail on it. Btw...do you have any pics of the BN when you saw the trains in Mountain View?
  11. RogerRT

    RogerRT Staff Member Staff Member Frisco.org Supporter

    I think he was talking about between Moniter & Terrista, there was a pretty good hill in there.

    So that is what became of the big fill, I remember thinking I hope it was worth the money it cost farmer John to remove all that dirt! I think the piling on the west end of the bridge are still there, everything east of there is gone.

    Elsinore to Williamsville is the most ascessible part of the line today. You can drive next to the roadbed on HWY A to Orchard, from there the old ROW has been converted into Forest Road 3551/County Road 426/County Road 424 to the Black River bridge. The land west of the Black River was donated to MDC & is open to public so you can drive right down to the river next to the bridge, lots of old wooden bridge pilings in this area.

    If you have Google Earth you can download the .kmz map I drew of the route, I've also been told you can download these maps to a smart phone for use in the field.


    No pics of the BN in Mtn.View unless you count the ROW. In early 1982 my grandfather won the contract to wire the addition to the textile plant at Elm & Douglas in Mtn.View & we rarely knew when we would be going up there. The one time I did know we would be there the next day I talked my grandfather into letting me have the morning off so he dropped me off in downtown Mtn. View & I walked the tracks on both sides of town taking photos but I think you have seen those.

    I did see the BN there on 2/18/1982 with BN #2302 (X-SLSF #447) & on 3/19/1982 with BN #2298 (X-SLSF #443), couldn't get the caboose #, it was around the curve. The engines were already repainted BN green by this time. The crew was heading east to Winona & stopped for lunch at the same cafe we ate at, they would pull the entire train into town & stop the caboose at Pine St. to let the rear crew members off, then shove back west to clear the crossing & walk to the cafe. You could always tell who they were, they all sat at the same table & a couple of them had radios with them. I don't recall they ever said much, just sat there & ate.

    According to my friend I mentioned earlier by this time BN had abolished the regular daily turn and the branch was now serviced one day a week, maintenence of the line was also slashed shortly after the 1980 merger. This was the way the branch was operated until June 7, 1983 when the line was abandoned. BN would call a Springfield-Thayer pool crew out of the motel in Thayer & drive them to Willow Springs to work the branch. They would work as much as they could in their 12hrs on duty time, then a van would pick them up & take them onto Springfield to tie up. Must have been a long day...

    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 7, 2020
  12. PAC MAN

    PAC MAN Member

    I can't really figure out why I never saw any "green" in Mountain View. Guess it was all in the timing. I did catch the BN flat loaded with lumber there but that was the last I ever saw anything there. I remember that being right around the time of abandonment. When I lived in MO before, I lived off of the line about 3 miles. I could clearly hear the train whistle at the crossing south of RA but couldn't pedal down in time to see it. I generally saw the trains at the 63 crossing southeast of Willow or east of there crossing the creeks. I lived next to the tracks in Willow Springs when I was very young and remember the F units switching the yard there and the sound (very loud) of the Leslie horns at the crossing about 40 yards from me. That is possibly where the Frisco got imprinted on me. Always had to wait for the caboose to go by before carrying on what I had so suddenly dropped when I heard'em a coming. I remember coming home at night from visiting family and crossing in front of a freight at Pine Grove Road in the hole waiting for a southbound from Cabool to pass. I remember how eerie it looked from the back seat of the old Nova with the locomotive being so tall and just the steps and number boards lit up. The occasional gyralight made an appearance too. How cool were those things???? Grandma, having grown up around railroads all of her life, used to haul me over to the tracks where we would sit for an hour or two to catch a train rolling through. It always seemed that the "watched pot never boiled" so to speak. But when you weren't expecting it "there goes one!" Nope...it sure isn't the same. No more cab rides or variety. These days I don't even care to look much unless there is a manifest or some foreign power. It's only a thrill if I see an old gp or sd or a car with an old scheme that takes me back to the old days. I'll have to look up the 2302 or 2298 just for nostalgia since I couldn't be there. Thanks again for the trip Roger. You never disappoint.
    Ozarktraveler likes this.
  13. This thread has to be my favorite so far! I have a little real estate to do some modeling and love Alco's so looks like I know what to model!
  14. Brad Slone

    Brad Slone Member Frisco.org Supporter

    Pickup a copy of the February 1954 issue Trains, it has a nice four page article on the Current River branch.

    Brad Slone
  15. w3hodoug (Doug Hughes RIP 03/24/2021)

    w3hodoug (Doug Hughes RIP 03/24/2021) 2008 Engineer of the Year Frisco.org Supporter

    Acrylics on canvas by Benjamin C. Grace.

    It is based on a John Sillick (deceased) March 28, 1961 photo taken of a local freight engineer in Willow Springs, MO and from the Jeff Cooney collection.

    Attached Files:

  16. Morailfan

    Morailfan Member

    Does anyone here happen to know what the principle products shipped in the last days of the Chicopee/Winona Branch were?
  17. RogerRT

    RogerRT Staff Member Staff Member Frisco.org Supporter

    In the early 80's...

    Untreated RR ties from Winona & Mountain View...Feed for Richard Bros. in Mountain View & Birch Tree...Sometimes a load of lumber from Birch Tree & Winona + fertilizer for Mountain View & Birch Tree...By this time they only went as far as Birch Tree, service to Winona was "as needed"...Roger

    BTW-Any updates on the original line bypassing Dixon Hill??? I do believe I found a suitable route over the ridge south of Laquey but would have included 1-2 more tunnels around Hazelgreen...RRT

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