Kansas Ordnance Plant Sidings

Discussion in 'Parsons Subdivision' started by Caseycat, Feb 2, 2010.

  1. Caseycat

    Caseycat Member

    :)Conducting historical research on the Parsons Subdivision line that ran East-West just on the North edge of the Kansas Ordnance Plant property in the 1941-1942 timeframe. Lumber and other materials were dropped off at the Brownstone siding. I'm specifically looking for general information pertaining to this portion of the track that is approx. 2 miles East of Parsons Kansas. Would appreciate any references and/or specific details.
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  2. mvtelegrapher

    mvtelegrapher Member

    Bill just sent you an email regarding this. Let me look at my timetables tonight. I also have an early history of this line that I wrote in college. Send my your email address and I can send you a copy. I also wrote another college dealing with the construction of the plant as well as the plants in Pryor and Riverton. It may take me awhile to dig that one out.

    John Chambers
  3. keiv

    keiv Member

    Early history of this line:
    In February of 1880 the Kansas City, Fort Scott & Gulf leased the narrow gauge Memphis, Kansas & Colroado Railroad; it later bought up all the stock and merged the property into the Fort Scott Southeastern & Memphis. The Memphis, Kansas and Colorado Railroad Company had been chartered November 26, 1877 with the idea of building a narrow gauge railroad from Memphis through Kansas to a connection with the Denver & Rio Grande in the San Juan mountains of Colorado. In August of 1878 the MK&C acquired the Memphis and Ellsworth Narrow Gauge Railroad Company, which had been chartered in Kansas on October 10, 1876, to build a narrow gauge railroad along some of the same route, from Memphis, Tennessee to Ellsworth in Kansas. Tracklaying had actually started with the ceremonial laying of the first rail on April 10, 1878 at the Fort Scott crossing in Cherokee, Kansas and the first 7 miles of 3' gauge track was completed from Cherokee east and south to Weir City in 1878, and the 25 miles west from Cherokee to Parsons, Kansas was completed in April of 1879.

    The Fort Scott was not interested in a narrow gauge route to Memphis, it was going standard gauge, and by way of a route further north, through Springfield, Missouri, but the Memphis, Kansas & Colorado tapped the coal fields and would also be potentially useful as a southern tie between the Fort Scott and Lawrence lines. The 18 miles from Parsons to the connection with the Kansas City, Lawrence & Southern at Cherryvale, Kansas were completed in April, 1881. Some grading had been done from Cherryvale west and from Weir City southeast, but the Fort Scott never laid track on this. In October of 1882 the entire MK&C line was converted to standard gauge.

    The KCFS&G became part of the Frisco in 1901.

    The line ran from Pittsburg, Kansas to Cherryvale, Kansas. It had regular passenger service until the 1960s. The passenger depot in Parsons was torn down in 1968, and the section between Dennis and Cherryvale was also removed at that time. Local freight service continued until 1980. The section of the line to the former Kansas Gas & Electric power plant continued by Burlington Northern into the early 1990s. The majority of the line was abandoned and removed in the 1990s. The section of this line between Cherokee and Pittsburg is still in use today by BNSF.

    Industries served by this line were grain elevators in Dennis, Parsons, Strauss and McCune, the Kansas Army Ammunition Plant, the Kansas Gas & Electric Power Plant, the Wilson Sawmill in Parsons, a chemical company in Parsons, an oil company in Parsons, a livestock yard in Parsons, coal mines in Cherokee County and several industries and businesses in Pittsburg. In the 1970s near the intersection of Frisco Avenue and 27th Street in Parsons, the railroad constructed a concrete ramp that was used to unload farm equipment from flatbed rail cars. That ramp still exists today. The Frisco maintained a yard and freight house in Parsons, but most of the Frisco infrastructure in downtown Parsons was removed in the 1970s to make way for a highway underpass project as well as high rise building projects which were built on the former passenger depot site.

    I have seen very few photos from this line's active period. I have a photo of very fancy KCFS&G passenger train between Parsons and Cherryvale. I have seen a photo of the Katy line in Parsons and at the edge of the photo you can see a black and yellow Frisco locomotive on the Frisco tracks in Parsons. There was a photo published in the Parsons newspaper of a derailment on this line which involved box cars carrying bullets from the ammunition plant. The Parsons paper also ran a story in 1991 about a special flat car that had to be brought in to transport a malfunctioning generator from the power plant. I have seen photos of the sawmill which show Frisco gondola cars on the siding. I've also seen aerial photos of Parsons which show the tracks but none that ever show any trains. Friends of mine who worked for the Katy also have told me stories of how the Katy would occasionally make deliveries over this line from their yard in Parsons. I've also seen several photos of the passenger depot in Parsons.

    I grew up in Parsons and this line ran within a block of my house. I remember the line mostly being rusted and in disrepair even compared to the Katy tracks in Parsons. Occasionally a black and yellow Frisco locomotive would come down the line to move grain cars, but to the naked eye in the 1970s the tracks looked like they hadn't been used in 100 years. Not one single railroad crossing on this line had an electric signal.

    If anyone has photos of Frisco locomotives and cars operating on this line, I would LOVE to see them. I would have taken some myself, but I was just a kid at the time.
    Last edited: Apr 3, 2017
    Russel Parsons and rjthomas909 like this.
  4. keiv

    keiv Member

    John, your dad was my engineering professor in college. I've also noticed several of your photos in railroad books.
  5. meteor910

    meteor910 2009 Engineer of the Year Staff Member Frisco.org Supporter

    A question - When driving K-10 between I-235 and Lawrence, KS, there is an ordinance plant off to the south as you drive K-10 about half-way or so to Lawrence heading west.

    What plant is that? What is its history? WW-2 built? Is it still operating? What RR serves/served it? What kind of shipments (and cars) would have served the plant?

    Thanks. When driving to KU/Lawrence for many years now (son Kurt is a KU grad. Rock chalk Jayhawk!), I have always gazed at it wondering what its story is.

  6. tferk

    tferk Member Frisco.org Supporter


    That is the Sunflower Army Ammunition Plant, near DeSoto, KS. Built 1941, shutdown in 1992, declared surplus in 1998. Served by ATSF. I believe they had both nitric acid and sulfuric acid plants on site. They manufactured explosive compounds. The document at the link below says the facility had 71 miles of in-plant railroad. Shipments would depend heavily on the specific era (they made 3 different explosives over the history of the facility), and if a war was currently being waged.


    Ted Ferkenhoff
    Flagstaff, AZ
  7. meteor910

    meteor910 2009 Engineer of the Year Staff Member Frisco.org Supporter

    Thanks Ted.

  8. keiv

    keiv Member

  9. rjthomas909

    rjthomas909 Member Frisco.org Supporter


    Great post on the history of this line. I am also from the area, growing up in Scammon, just south of Cherokee. As my Frisco layout includes this area, I would be interested in any details you have on industries, traffic, interchanges with MKT, MOPAC, or other items that would help with realistic operations. Thanks for posting on the Frisco.org.

    -Bob T.
  10. tferk

    tferk Member Frisco.org Supporter

    I do a lot of research on railroad operations related to defense projects. Had not ever looked at the KAAP, so did some quick digging to find some info.

    Attached is a map of the Kansas Army Ammunition Plant. The Frisco's Cherokee-Parsons line runs along the top, the MKT branch to Joplin is at the bottom. This map cuts off the MKT connection on the south end. The rail system consisted of a main "spine" running north-south between the Frisco and Katy connections. There was a loop of track that ran east of the main spine. The main yard inside the facility was located on the south end of the spine near the MKT connection.

    Caseycat's original question asked about 1941-42, which would have only seen construction materials delivered.

    Various sources indicate that the plant had two ex-Army RS4Tc locomotives.

    This facility is being redeveloped, so there are several documents about KAAP available on the internet. These show more detailed maps of various plant areas, list all the munition types produced during the plant's operating life, and describe what functions were performed at plant locations.

    Ted Ferkenhoff

    Attached Files:

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  11. tferk

    tferk Member Frisco.org Supporter

    Additional KAAP data: In 2004, KAAP reported having a railcar storage capacity of 1,200 cars; a railcar loading capacity of 250 cars. Rail weight was 100 lb/yd. Tightest curve was 10 degrees.

    Ted Ferkenhoff
    Flagstaff, AZ
  12. bob_wintle

    bob_wintle Member Frisco.org Supporter

    There are 33 miles of rail at KAAP. Most of which is lighter than 100 lb. rail. A lot of spurs and sidings are between 70 to 90lb. The Frisco came in from the North and ran the length of the plant to drop off cars. There are two wyes where they could turn their locomotives. The first Frisco Train I saw there was a Black and Yellow GP 7. I miss those days. The Latest locomotives the plant used were 600 hp BLH units. Both of which are still there but are out of service. I worked out there for 35 years, most of which was spent just a few feet from the Plants Diesel Shop.
    Last edited: Nov 12, 2015
  13. rjthomas909

    rjthomas909 Member Frisco.org Supporter

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