Missouri Railroads

Springfield-Greene County History

Local History Website of the SMSU Department of History

Railroads in Springfield & Greene County

In the 1800s, railroads were the best and fastest way to get anywhere in the country.  Railroads would take people and goods, such as food and other supplies, all across the country.  Railroads were built to go all the way from places such as New York, New York to San Francisco, California.  Railroads are what helped people move from the east coast to the west coast.  They were very important before there were cars, highways, and planes.

A lot of people wanted Springfield to be a place where railroads start and pass through during that time.  There were lots of different railroads that came through Springfield at one time or another.  The railroads took things all over the place.  They would carry their loads to places such as  St. Louis, Kansas City, Ozark, and Bolivar in Missouri.  These railroads all crossed in Springfield. 

The South Pacific Railroad was the first to build a track to Springfield. It ran from St. Louis to Springfield. This was on Commercial Street, then North Springfield. The first train arrived here in 1870. 

Click on the image below to go to a map of the South Pacific Railroad Co. of Missouri, 1870

Another railroad, that connected Springfield to Kansas City and Memphis, was begun as the Kansas City, Ft. Scott, and Memphis Railroad. People in Springfield wanted the line to go through their city. They began the Ft. Scott, Springfield, and Memphis Railroad. This line became part of the Kansas City, Fort Scott, and Memphis Railroad. The first train to arrive from Kansas City in Springfield was in 1881.

Click on the image below to go to a series of maps showing the development of railroads in Springfield, Greene County, and Missouri

The Frisco
One of the most important railroad companies to ever be in Missouri was
the St. Louis and San Francisco Railroad Company, called the Frisco Railroad.  The Frisco was one of the major railroad companies in the United States.  The Frisco Company bought the South Pacific Railroad. The Frisco built more railroad tracks. Springfield was an important center for the Frisco. The Frisco Company also had a line that went through Bolivar all the way to Kansas City. 

Image below, the Frisco Railroad Depot


In 1901, the Frisco and the Kansas City, Ft. Scott, and Memphis Railroad joined. They joined in a single depot in downtown Springfield.

The Frisco built railroad shops in Springfield so they could work on the trains and keep them running well.  The people of Springfield gave land to the Frisco Railroad to build the shops.  The shops made sure the railroad would always be in good shape whenever a train came into town or left.

The Frisco helped make Springfield a very important place in the Midwest.  Springfield had a lot of people from all over the country come to visit and live here.  The railroads made the number of people in Springfield grow.  They made Springfield very important to farmers and factory owners since their goods came through here. 

The Frisco Railroad was very important to Springfield’s growth.  It helped Springfield become one of the biggest cities in the Midwest.  It also helped people get from one part of the country to another easily.

Author: Justin Minard

Source: A. M. Haswell, Transportation, Chapter 7, in Jonathan Fairbanks and Clyde Edwin Tuck, Past and Present of Greene County, Missouri
Image of the Frisco Depot, Courtesy of the History Museum for Springfield-Greene County

Website Created and Maintained by F. Thornton Miller, SMSU Department of History