The Missouri Southern Railroad

The Missouri Southern Railroad ran an approximately 53 mile line between Bunker, MO, and Leeper, MO, where it connected with the St. Louis Iron Mountain & Southern Railroad. (Right of way)

Image: A Missouri Southern Railroad engine and cars are stopped at the Ellington Depot. The Masonic Hall (left), Bales Brothers Store (middle) and Dr. Chilton's home (right) are visible behind the train. A man walks on a wood plank footbridge in the foreground. Missouri State Archives, copied from original held by N.J. Shocklette, 1907

The line was built in stages beginning in 1886 as the Mill Spring Current River and Barnesville Railroad Company, changing to the MS name the next year. It incorporated the right of way of an earlier narrow-gauge logging line into its route west of Leeper.

Image: Paul Wobus, via Missouri Southern: History of a short-line


Like many short-line railroads of its time, it initially suffered from poor construction, something that would plague the route throughout its days as a narrow-gauge operation, although it would be re-gauged in 1907. All of its spur track was abandoned by 1912. The main-line would continue running until 1941. (Thanks to Nick Walker for providing this information!)


Reynolds County, 1904 Map, showing the Missouri Southern Railroad running through the county. (My Genealogy Hound)


Missouri Southern: History of a short-line
 explores this road in depth. The first page of the book summarizes the early history of the line as follows, "One of the last frontiers in the United States to be settled and developed was the Ozark region of southern Missouri and northern Arkansas. 

During the decades following the Civil War, Eastern capital moved into the region to exploit its vast wealth in minerals and timber. To develop the Ozarks good transportation was needed. Since the area had no navigable rivers, developers turned to railroads. While several trunk roads such as the St. Louis, Iron Mountain and Southern, and the Kansas City, Fort Scott and Memphis were either constructed or extended during the years of the Ozark boom, a plethora of short lines were also built. 

Although a majority of these new roads were designed to serve a mine or sawmill, several became sizeable operations. The Missouri and North Arkansas Railroad, for example, by the first decade of the 20th century had nearly 400 miles of trackage. One road, built during the period of early Ozark growth and destined to become more than a sawmill industrial line, was the Missouri Southern Railroad, a road located in the timbered region of southeast Missouri.

The Missouri Southern had its beginnings on January 18, 1884, when five businessmen, two Pennsylvanians and three Missourians, met in the small Missouri community of Colemanville in Carter County, to discuss the feasibility of constructing a lumber road to develop the large stands of pines and hardwoods in neighboring Reynolds County. At this meeting they drew up the charter for the Mill Spring, Current River and Barnesville Railroad Company. 

The new company planned to acquire an existing narrow gauge line which served the Clarkson saw- mill near the Wayne County community of Leeper on the St. Louis, Iron Mountain and Southern and to extend it in a northwesterly direction into Reynolds County. Its ultimate destination was to be Barnesville, a distance of about 30 miles. 

Construction began at once. Within a year the line was in operation to Keystone, about 9 miles from Leeper; six months later the MSCR&B was running to Penn, giving the road 12 miles of trackage ; and by 1887 the line had been extended an additional 2 miles to Carter. It took the road another nine years before it reached Barnesville, now named Ellington.

The new road, whose name had been changed to the Missouri Southern Railroad Company in 1887, was poorly constructed." From H. Roger Grant The Railway and Locomotive Historical Society Bulletin No. 123 (OCTOBER 1970), pp. 44-51 (11 pages in total)

Missouri Southern train near Ellington, Missouri in about 1903.  Paul Wobus photo

UPDATE: I received the following information on the Missouri Southern from reader Nick Walker:

"When the line was standard gauged in 1907, a significant portion between the communities of Garwood and Ruble was rerouted and the old narrow gauge right-of-way was abandoned. Many other sections of the railroad were re-graded, stabilized, and older trestles replaced with new ones of better construction. There were even a handful of steel bridges constructed.

When all of the work was finished and regular passenger service to Bunker began May 2nd, 1909 the railroad was in much better condition, unusually so for such a remote operation. The earnings from 1907 to 1930 provided the owners with a comfortable operating surplus. This allowed the railroad to properly maintain the right-of-way and the new trestles / bridges. Through the depression the railroad suffered and by the late 1930's the condition of the tracks became dangerous in some areas. Despite doing everything the company could do to hang on, the I.C.C. authorized the Missouri Southern to abandon its railroad on April 24th, 1941. The last train was on May 20th, 1941. 

Missouri Southern Railroad Pass (Sample). Image provided by Nick Walker.

Steam locomotive roster:

       #1   4-4-0   Alco-Rogers, #42321, 1-1907, destroyed by fire.

       #2   2-6-0   Alco-Rogers, #42322, 2-1907.

       #3   2-6-0   Alco-Rogers, #42323, 2-1907. 

       #4   Shay   Lima, #2025, 12-1907, sold around 1917-1921.

2nd #4   2-6-0   Purchased from the Terminal Railroad, originally an 0-6-0.

Motorcars & Diesels : 

M-100    Brill 33-Passenger Gas Motor Car, purchased new 11-1924, sold to National Railways of Mexico 1941. 

2nd #1   Plymouth Oil-Electric Locomotive, purchased new 3-1935."

Thanks as always for reading!

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