West on the Bentonville Branch

Discussion in 'Ft. Smith Subdivision' started by U-3-b, Jan 2, 2009.

  1. U-3-b

    U-3-b Member Frisco.org Supporter

    We have some old maps at work that show the Bentonville Branch continuing through Bentonville west to western edge of the county and I am guessing off into the hinterlands of Oklahoma. In my 1941 Official Guide the line stops in Bentonville. When was this line taken up or was it a case of the cartographer and wishful thinking?

    Steve Black
    Rogers, AR
  2. tomd6 (Tom Duggan RIP 2/11/2018)

    tomd6 (Tom Duggan RIP 2/11/2018) Passed Away February 11, 2018

    The Bentonville Branch was abandoned west of Bentonville in September 1940 (41 Miles). The section west of Bentonville was built as the Arkansas & Oklahoma RR (1898-1900) that was sold to the Frisco in November 1900. The Frisco had high hopes for the line in the Cowskin Prairie area near Dodge ,IT but the main traffic was apples between Rogers and Hiwassee.The apple business began to decline in the 1920s and the Frisco spent little to maintain the line. As of December 31, 1936 the line had only 28% treated ties and only 7% tie plates.The line was poorly built with many curves, notably in the Gravette area, and numerous up and downs that made freight operation difficult. The maximum grade was
    2.2 %.

    The branch was used in 1938 for filming portions of the 1939 film Jesse James at Southwest City, MO and in the Hiwassee area. The Southwest City depot, relettered Liberty for the film, as of June 2008 was still standing in a field about one-half mile from the original site on Honey Creek. It was in an advanced state of deterioration and could well have collapsed.

    The existing Bentonville depot was originally built as a two story depot by the Arkansas & Oklahoma RR . The Frisco later removed one story, extended the baggage area and added the stucco covering about 1918.

    Passenger service from Rogers to Grove began in 1901 and at its peak prior to WWI consisted of Rogers-Grove and Grove-Rogers round trips. Daily mixed train service replaced passenger train service in 1927. The mixed train went to thrice-weekly service in March 1933 that lasted until the end of business.

    It is hard to see much of the Bentonville Branch west of Bentonville as the line was built so cheaply. There are isolated tangents west of Gravette, in the area of Beaty, and near Dodge, OK.
  3. U-3-b

    U-3-b Member Frisco.org Supporter

    That explains a lot and helps me why I can find no remnants of the line.

    Thanks for posting.

  4. jkm001

    jkm001 Member

    I've been looking at topo maps of the Southwest City, MO, area and found something interesting. There appears to be a branch that heads southwest for 2-3 miles into Oklahoma before petering out. Additionally there is a road to the northeast that may indicate another branch in that direction.


    Does anyone have track diagrams for this area? I can't find evidence of any mines or other industry on the SW branch and whatever was up that valley meant crossing Honey Creek for a 2nd time as well as grades of 2-3%.

    Much of the line from Hiwasse to Gravette is now AR Highway 72. You can see some of the railbed behind the new Gravette high school. From Beaty to Southwest City the railbed is now Honey Creek Rd. There were some bridge pilings near Beaty 20 years ago but on my most recent trip to the area I wasn't able to find them.

  5. john

    john FRISCO.org Supporter

    The 1905 Central Division ETT shows a fairly large amount of side track at Southwest City, 74 cars.

    Attached Files:

  6. tomd6 (Tom Duggan RIP 2/11/2018)

    tomd6 (Tom Duggan RIP 2/11/2018) Passed Away February 11, 2018

    The 1909 Standard Atlas of Mc Donald County, Missouri including a Plat Book, shows a railroad named Kansas City & Oklahoma Southern. It was north of Southwest City and crossed the Frisco right of way. I suspect the railroad was planned but never put in operation. The older topo maps show a railroad north of town. I seem to recall there were plans to create a new railroad from Muskogee that would account for the railroad. Based on the top maps I would guess that grading actually took place. Railroad Names by Bill Edson is a reliable source on railroads that actually operated. There is no listing for the Kansas City & Oklahoma Southern. The 1918 Field Notes of the ICC contain no info about an interlocker in the Southwest City area.

    Railroads through Cherokee County by David Campbell mentions a planned railroad from Tahlequah to Monett in 1908, The railroad, called the St Louis & Oklahoma Southern, actually did right of way work in the Tahlequah area as the book has several photos of the roadbed. It was planned to go south to Muskogee and north to Monett. It seems the railroad did complete grading of about 15 miles before it ran out of money. I would guess that Kansas City & Oklahoma Southern and the St Louis & Oklahoma Southern were one and the same.
  7. jkm001

    jkm001 Member

    Are any of these sources online or would you be able to scan in the older topo maps?

  8. tomd6 (Tom Duggan RIP 2/11/2018)

    tomd6 (Tom Duggan RIP 2/11/2018) Passed Away February 11, 2018

    The first post on this topic included a link to a USGS map that show the proposed railroad near Southwest City.
    My 1909 Mc Donald County map is a poor copy that would not scan well.
  9. jkm001

    jkm001 Member

    My Terraserver link is from a USGS map from 1981. Do you have access to older topo maps? In digging around the USGS site it appears there are probably older topo maps from this area but getting them is problematic.

    Is your plat map better than this?


    The county map from the same 1930 source shows a branch curling back into OK from Southwest City.

  10. tomd6 (Tom Duggan RIP 2/11/2018)

    tomd6 (Tom Duggan RIP 2/11/2018) Passed Away February 11, 2018

    The quality of the 1909 Plat is not as good as the one you put up. To access older USGS topo maps you probably would have to go to a Government depository such as the Government documents section of the Mullins Library at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville.
    Railway & Locomotive Historical Society, Bulletin No 60 issued in January 1943 is the definitive history of Oklahoma Railroads . They do not show any railroads with names similar to the ones previously mentioned.
    The personal notebook of the Central Division Superintendent LM Cantrell from 1928 to 1936 has extensive information on common facilities shared by the Frisco with other railroads. I cannot find any documentation as to another railroad at Southwest City, MO.
  11. gbmott

    gbmott Member


    I am intrigued by your reference to Supt. Cantrell's notebook -- who has it, and is it publicly accessable? It must contain some great information regarding the Central Division.

    Changing the subject, though still Central Division, I can never remember whether the Mountainburg helper service was based in Rudy or Chester. Do you know, and have you ever seen a station plat showing the facilities there?

  12. john

    john FRISCO.org Supporter

    1907 Frisco list of stations:

    60' Iron turntable at Chester, Mfg'r not listed
    55' Wood turntable at Winslow, Frisco Mfg'r

    1926 Frisco list of stations:

    75' Iron turntable at Chester, Mfg'r not listed

    Winn said the original turntable was at Schaberg but was partially destroyed by fire in the 1890's and then moved to Chester. He said the table at Winslow was "abandoned in the early 1900's and the engines then backed down the mountain."

    I guess my question would be, if you backed the engines back to Chester, what did you need a turntable there for? Would it have been to turn the locomotives to send them to Fort Smith? I would think that they probably refueled the locomotives from cars at Chester.

    I know we probably should have started a new thread on this: The attachment is a poor photograph of Chester (copyright 1900) from There Is Something To See Along The Frisco Line.

    Attached Files:

  13. Coonskin

    Coonskin Member

    Hello All:

    Just discovered this thread. Thanks for the Chester pic.

    John asked:

    "I guess my question would be, if you backed the engines back to Chester, what did you need a turntable there for? Would it have been to turn the locomotives to send them to Fort Smith?"

    That is correct. Drifting tender first downgrade for about 11 miles and running tender first at mainline track speed for 29 miles would be two different animals.

    Re: Chester...

    According to a hand drawn map I have (somewhere) of Chester "back when" indicates there was a bit of online business there. Timber products, a cannery, and of course, their modest engine service facilities, roundhouse, turntable, along with auxiliary tracks.

  14. tomd6 (Tom Duggan RIP 2/11/2018)

    tomd6 (Tom Duggan RIP 2/11/2018) Passed Away February 11, 2018

    Up until 1897 Winslow had a turntable used to reverse the hill engines. The turntable was then moved to Pettigrew on the St Paul Branch which that same year had been extended to Pettigrew from St Paul. Engines going to St Paul used a wye to reverse directions according to a map I have seen.
    The Chester turntable was used to turn engines so they could head south to Fort Smith for their required 30 day inspections.Chester never had a roundhouse as normally only one engine was used in helper service.
  15. Coonskin

    Coonskin Member

    Hello Tom and John:

    Revisiting this thread (still scrounging for St. Paul Branch info), I note some information that had slipped past me. In addition, I have a few comments/questions:

    In John's post above, data indicates the Winslow turntable was still listed in the 1907 Station List. Yet, Tom indicates the Winslow turntable was removed in 1897 and sent to Pettigrew.

    Are we talking about two different turntables? That is, a steel one that was moved to Pettigrew and a wood one that replaced it, or, is there a discrepancy in original informational sources? If the Frisco Stations List comes from the SLSF itself, can we safely conclude there was definitely still a turntable at Winslow in 1907?

    Also, has anyone determined WHERE the turntable at Winslow was located? I have "heard" it was just outside the south portal of the tunnel in the flat area on the east side. Having passed through that area many times when running A&M trains, there does appear to be an area that was intentionally leveled, and there does seem to be plenty of room for a 55' turntable.

    Interpreting history: You gotta' love it.

    Andre Ming
  16. john

    john FRISCO.org Supporter

    Andre, I don't have any additional information for this. As you pointed out, the 1907 List of Stations shows Winslow with a Frisco built 55' wood turntable and Pettigrew with a steel "Pencoyd" 55' turntable. Lacking additional information I'd have to assume that both were in use concurrently.

    It would be really helpful if someone out there has access to another, different, early Frisco List of Stations. Perhaps someone has seen one in a library or other collection? The gaps in our early Central Division information make it difficult to be certain about anything. The only published secondary source I know of for the northern end of the early Central Division is Robert Winn's Railroads of Northwest Arkansas. Am I missing something else that is available?

  17. Coonskin

    Coonskin Member

    Hi John!

    Right you are on drawing a blank on the early Frisco in NW AR, as well as south of Fort Smith. (The Arthur Sub wasn't even on the historians radar screen.)

    Mr. Winn's little book is the only written resource I have too. I am not aware of any other historical publication that dealt with the Fort Smith District/Subdivision.

    Tomd6 has accomplished a tremendous amount in regards to the rail history of NW AR... but there are still gaps/holes that we could sure use some help with.

    In particular to my problem, trying to be reasonably accurate in my attempt at recreating the SLSF in virtual form (circa early 1900's) is really proving to be a humdinger of a scavenger hunt! Not doing too well at this point!

    In addition to my (thus far unsuccessful) quest to find information about Pettigrew, AR, still to come: I hope to find maps of the track, station, and service facilities at Monett, again, circa early 1900's.

  18. klrwhizkid

    klrwhizkid Administrator Staff Member Administrator Frisco.org Supporter

  19. Coonskin

    Coonskin Member

    Hi Whiz!

    That's a great start!

    I will bookmark the link and study it in more detail when I near Monett with the rails.

  20. john

    john FRISCO.org Supporter

    Sorta, kinda on the subject: The Arkansas Historical Quarterly Vol X No 4 (Autumn 1951) has an article by W. A. Burgess on the building of the Frisco roadbed in northwest Arkansas. Mr. Burgess' father, Edward, was a manager and partner in Lebanon Construction Company which did a lot of the grading. W. A. was a college student at St. Louis but spent his summer vacations working with the construction crews. If you like early, early Frisco history its an interesting read.


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