Multi owner tracks in Fort Smith

Discussion in 'General' started by john, Oct 5, 2016.

  1. john

    john Supporter

    FS Wagon 1914 map one.jpg
    FS Wagon map part 2.jpg
    Some years back I was told that rail historian Charles Winters had been quoted as saying something to the effect "back in the old days it was not unusual for different railroads in Fort Smith to spot their own cars over other railroads tracks." I was never sure what to make of this and most that I have discussed it with treated the idea with a large measure of skepticism. A few weeks back I spent two days looking at ICC maps in the National Archives at College Park, Maryland. It was a great experience. The rules place heavy restrictions on the number of map scans you are permitted per day (10), they do the scanning. (scans ran from 20 to 50 MB in size each) Because of the rules, most of the maps I was interested in had to be photographed with my pocket camera and stitched back together with less than perfect results. Still they are usable. One attached map is pieced from two photos of a section of a KSC map of Fort Smith, Arkansas. I am posting it here as it may provide some insight into early railroading practices in Fort Smith and elsewhere. The second map shows another section of the ICC map adjoining the first but slightly to the north.

    The first map in question shows part of an area just south and east of the well known S.F. Jct. area where Flanders was later located. I was surprised to see it included on a KCS map as I didn't realize they had operations in Fort Smith south of their Poteau River bridge at that time. The manufacturing complex in question is Fort Smith Wagon Company. This was one of the larger manufacturing operations in the city at the time (the map is dated 1914). At this date the company was owned by John Deere and credited with approximately 250 employees and production of ca. 15,000 wagons per year. No doubt rail traffic in and out was substantial.

    Note that the tracks at the factory are 1/4 owned by Frisco, Missouri Pacific, KCS and Fort Smith and Western. This is a somewhat different situation than the common privately owned track connecting to two railroads (Frisco and Missouri Pacific had a lot of this in Fort Smith at the time). At Fort Smith Wagon direct access is available from Frisco and Missouri Pacific, the other two would have had to avail themselves of some sort of trackage agreement if they provided direct service. Fort Smith and Western was already using trackage rights over KCS and their Poteau River Bridge via the track that exits the top of the maps (west). The only thing preventing a direct connection between KCS and FS&W with the Wagon Co. was a short stretch of Missouri Pacific track crossing Wheeler Ave and just beyond.

    Anyway I thought I'd throw this out and see if anyone thinks that it is possible that four railroads were directly serving this industry over the same set of commonly owned tracks?

    FriscoCharlie likes this.
  2. Coonskin

    Coonskin Member

    Very interesting, John. Years ago I had found that facility on some Sanborn maps... and have seriously considered adding it to my Frisco Line mini-mega MSTS route... but I was getting into "tile object count" concerns so I decided to forego.
  3. Joe Lovett

    Joe Lovett Member

    What years was the Ft Smith Wagon Company open for business? It sounds like it could be a great facility to model.

  4. Coonskin

    Coonskin Member


    I don't have the exact years, but as a general rule, wagon companies began to fade as automobiles/trucks became more prevalent. As I recall, some of the track for the facility was re-purposed and served Flanders Chair on the east side of Wheeler, and Morrel Packing and a steel company on the west. Not enough time right now to dig out my 1960's era track charts and verify. Will try to remember to do so tonight when I get home from work.
  5. john

    john Supporter

    There are several online articles about Fort Smith Wagon Company and John Deere. I believe this particular operation lasted from 1903 until World War 2. Fort Smith Wagon was located on the west side of Wheeler Ave and United Walnut on the east side. I always understood that the warehouse Whirlpool once used for compressors on the west side belonged to Flanders as well. This was just south of the Morrel Packing that Andre mentioned above. Here are a couple of postcards of the F.S. Wagon and one of United Walnut along with a Sanborn map from the same time frame as the KCS map posted originally.
    Fort Smith Wagon Company 2.jpg Fort Smith Walnut.jpg FS Wagon Co.jpg Sanborn FS Wagon 1908 1918.jpg
    Last edited: Oct 27, 2016
  6. john

    john Supporter

    Here is a Missouri Pacific map of the former Fort Smith Wagon Company area. It's not dated but has revisions noted through the mid-late 1940's so it's probably late 1940's or maybe early 1950's. The tracks are still there but the industry has all changed. The top of these maps is east. The Frisco runs along the bottom of the maps. It is still noted on the map that the tracks are jointly owned - except for the Fort Smith and Western (which now belongs to Missouri Pacific in Fort Smith).

    IMG_0482.jpg IMG_0483.jpg
  7. yardmaster

    yardmaster Administrator Staff Member Administrator Supporter

    John -
    Exceedingly interesting stuff. Thanks very much for sharing. I can't say I've ever seen or heard of multiple railroads owning undivided interest in trackage. I always just figured there would be contracts regarding trackage rights or joint-use track, not unlike the descriptions provided in the margin of these:

    Frisco Joint Trackage Rights / Interchange - Kansas City

    I'm wondering how the railroads untangled all of this undivided jointly owned track when it was no longer needed. Reminds me of "Pudd'nhead Wilson" wishing he'd owned one-half of a dog.

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

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

    I have a copy of the Frisco Central Division Superintendent's personal data book covering the 1926-1936 era.The book notes the following :
    "Ft Smith joint tracks with Mo. Pac.
    Joint maintenance and operation of joint tracks serving Ft Smith Wagon Co. and Virginia Hard [sic] Hardwood Co. Operating Co. Mo. Pac.Contract no 2609 dated 9-2-04 supts supplement no 3169 , dated 1-10-06. Neither parties to contract KCS and FTSW maintenance and operation 25% basis. Frt. Company rates."

    Tom Duggan
  9. klrwhizkid

    klrwhizkid Administrator Staff Member Administrator Supporter

    Sounds like something that needs to be scanned and posted on this thread...

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