Rural Missouri - July 2018 - 21
expensive and risky railroads
were to build and maintain.
Indeed, when the Panic of
1873 struck, Levi Parsons
and his cohorts went bankrupt. The Katy and Missouri
Paciﬁc Railroads came under
the control of Jay Gould, who
is remembered as one of the
most ruthless of all the robber
barons of the Gilded Age.
Historians remember the period of Gould control as a dark age for the Katy.
Following the ousting of Gould in 1888, the Katy fell into receivership. At that
time, there were 1,612 miles of track, mostly in poor condition, as was the
whole physical plant of the Katy. Subsequently, more enlightened managers
inaugurated a program to upgrade the right of way with new ballast, ties and
heavier grade track. Bridges made of steel replaced wooden bridges. Old depots
were refurbished and new depots built, such as the imposing brick depot at
Sedalia, which presently serves as a welcome center. Katy rolling stock, such
as freight cars, was refurbished or replaced, and newer, heavier Mogul-type
locomotives became the workhorses of the Katy system.
Also in this period, in 1893, the Katy ﬁnally achieved a direct gateway into
St. Louis. A group of St. Louis capitalists ﬁnanced construction of a 162-mile
route from Franklin to Machens in St. Charles County. They named new towns
that appeared along the route after themselves - McKittrick, Case, Gore,
Wainwright and Steedman. On March 16, 1895, passenger and freight
service commenced at Union Station in St. Louis. In 1901, an 8.5-mile
spur from this route opened service to Columbia. Another short line ran
to El Dorado Springs, much visited for its spas and healing springs,
and still another line extended to Joplin to take advantage of rich
zinc and lead deposits nearby.
The crowning achievement of this period of improvement was
the construction in 1932 of a new railroad bridge across the Missouri River at Boonville. Of all steel rivet-connected construction,
this bridge had a 405-foot vertical lift span over the channel. This
bridge, now preserved by the city of Boonville, remains one of the
longest railroad lift span bridges in the nation.
The Katy acquired many feeder lines in Texas, Kansas and Oklahoma during the Gould and receivership years. By 1915, the Katy
operated a total of 3,965 miles. Fully a fourth of these lines failed to
yield a proﬁt. During World War I, the federal government operated
This group poses on the cowcatcher of the ﬁrst train to arrive
in Rocheport. They are identiﬁed as, from left, Francis Lanew, I.J.
Canole, Ernest Miner, Dr. E.H. Chinn and George Welbern. The
unidentiﬁed man in the right background was the engineer.
America's railroad system. It
evidently didn't do a very good
job of it, for the Katy emerged
in poor condition. At the end
of the war, the Katy carried
a large debt accompanied by
crippling interest payments.
The railroad began to shed
underperforming feeder lines.
In 1923, the Katy unloaded
the 70-mile Moberly to Hannibal branch, much to the regret of later Katy historians, who feel that a potentially proﬁtable mainline to Chicago was lost in the process.
During the Great Depression, the Katy struggled mightily to ward off insolvency. World War II led to a revival of the Katy's fortunes. Business picked up
and the Katy was able to acquire streamlined passenger cars and diesel locomotives. But during the 1950s business declined again, and severe employee
reduction and drastic cost cutting did little to improve the bottom line of the
railroad, which by 1957 had ceased to be proﬁtable. A capable leader, John
Barringer, took charge and kept the Katy aﬂoat through the mid-70s.
But the Katy railroad continued to struggle. The big trend was toward centralization, as smaller carriers were increasingly gobbled up by huge holding
companies. During this period the Katy could not shed its status as a regional
carrier. The huge debt the Katy carried made it an unattractive prospect for potential investors. By the mid-80s a
suitor did appear in the form of the Union Paciﬁc. Unfortunately, that merger resulted in the end of the Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad as a corporate entity.
Beginning in the early 1990s, a 237.7 mile
stretch of the original Katy right of way was
converted into the now famous Katy Trail, operated by the Missouri Department of Natural
Resources. People on foot or riding on bicycles
along this stretch can still see Katy depots, railroad bridges, culverts and a tunnel at Rocheport
that were built during the Katy's glory days as one of
Missouri's most important railroads.
Denny is a freelance writer from Jamestown.
photos courtesy of the State
Historical Society of Missouri
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Rural Missouri - July 2018
Rural Missouri - July 2018 - Intro
Rural Missouri - July 2018 - Cover1
Rural Missouri - July 2018 - Cover2
Rural Missouri - July 2018 - Contents
Rural Missouri - July 2018 - 4
Rural Missouri - July 2018 - 5
Rural Missouri - July 2018 - 6
Rural Missouri - July 2018 - 7
Rural Missouri - July 2018 - 8
Rural Missouri - July 2018 - 9
Rural Missouri - July 2018 - 10
Rural Missouri - July 2018 - 11
Rural Missouri - July 2018 - 12
Rural Missouri - July 2018 - 13
Rural Missouri - July 2018 - 14
Rural Missouri - July 2018 - 15
Rural Missouri - July 2018 - 16
Rural Missouri - July 2018 - 17
Rural Missouri - July 2018 - 18
Rural Missouri - July 2018 - 19
Rural Missouri - July 2018 - 20
Rural Missouri - July 2018 - 21
Rural Missouri - July 2018 - 22
Rural Missouri - July 2018 - 23
Rural Missouri - July 2018 - 24
Rural Missouri - July 2018 - 25
Rural Missouri - July 2018 - 26
Rural Missouri - July 2018 - 27
Rural Missouri - July 2018 - 28
Rural Missouri - July 2018 - 29
Rural Missouri - July 2018 - 30
Rural Missouri - July 2018 - 31
Rural Missouri - July 2018 - 32
Rural Missouri - July 2018 - 33
Rural Missouri - July 2018 - 34
Rural Missouri - July 2018 - 35
Rural Missouri - July 2018 - 36
Rural Missouri - July 2018 - 37
Rural Missouri - July 2018 - 38
Rural Missouri - July 2018 - 39
Rural Missouri - July 2018 - 40
Rural Missouri - July 2018 - 41
Rural Missouri - July 2018 - 42
Rural Missouri - July 2018 - Cover3
Rural Missouri - July 2018 - Cover4