The St. Louis–San Francisco Railway (affectionately known as the “Frisco”) was a St. Louis-based railroad that operated in nine Midwest and southern states from 1876 to 1980.
The railroad stretched from Kansas City to Pensacola and St. Louis to Oklahoma City and Dallas, having some of the most iconic motive power, logos and slogans in the history of railroading. The Frisco was also renowned for excellent passenger service led by some of the best-looking steam locomotives ever built, and celebrated for fast freight hauling behind steam locomotives of its own design as well as diesels in the later era.
The Ozark region extends in a southwesterly direction from the Mississippi river just below St. Louis, across Missouri and Arkansas, overlapping into Oklahoma with Kansas at their border.
From St. Louis to Springfield, the Frisco Lines followed the top bench of the Ozark range; south of Springfield, the railroad proceeded by diverging routes across the high plateaus; and in Arkansas and Oklahoma it descends the southern slope to the Arkansas River valley.
Flanking this north and south thoroughfare is the line from Kansas City to Memphis crossing the range from East to West. For many years, these main lines and their numerous branches have connected every part of the Ozarks with main market centers in other parts of the USA. People saw LOTS of opportunity here, and it is no surprise why this is so.
This star shaped advertisement was created for the Frisco Lines brochure (circa 1910) when Frisco offered daily train service from every point on the compass - north, south, east and west - to, and from, Eureka Springs. Arkansas.
Born as a branch of the great Pacific Railroad project of the mid-19th Century, the Frisco became a separate entity that helped to feed the population of a growing nation, helped build its factories and ship those factories’ products, helped win two World Wars, and helped to carry Americans East and West, North and South in style and comfort. In the 104 years of its separate existence, it became a major corporation that provided the best service possible to its customers while treating its employees like a big family, never losing the homey touch enshrined in its Ozarks-inspired Coonskin logo.
In the early 1900's, it is in the Ozarks that diversification of crops found its acme, its climax.
Farms all over the Ozarks grew because of intense fertility. The conserving of soil and utilization of opportunities offered by climatic conditions increased production and made the Ozarks a much-to-be-desired place for farmers to call home.
From a geographical standpoint, the Ozarks are located in (almost) the center of the United States. This is, of course, wonderfully advantageous from a marketing perspective. Ozark fruit and berry growers have never been dependent on any one market as they are within easy transportation distance of other principal consuming markets in the USA and products can be transported at a relatively low cost from the center of the USA moving outward to the coastlines.
The Ozark plateau has a limestone, flinty soil. The valley contains a rich alluvial soil. The greater part of the soil of the Ozarks is rich in its possibilities for orcharding as soil conditions here are favorable for the production of fruit, berries and truck crops. The Frisco Lines has shipped peaches, strawberries, grapes, canned tomatoes, cantaloupes and sweet potatoes from the Ozarks to the rest of the USA. In addition, there are many shipments of canned beans, spinach, berries, dried fruit, cherries, blackberries and apples.
At one point in time, in every Ozark county, apples were being harvested for commercial purposes. Yellow Transparent, Maiden Blush, Ada Red, Duchess, Jonathan, Grimes Golden, Delicious, York Imperial, Winesap, Black twig, Champion, Ingram, Gano, Ben Davis and Arkansas Black.
Apple growers in the Ozarks are quite successful; more so today. Location, soil and climate are all in their favor here. Back when things were getting started, the Frisco Lines, through their Agricultural Department, maintained a fully equipped horticultural and marketing bureau which was prepared at all times to give aid to orchard farmers to help cultivate this shipping market.
The peach belt of Arkansas centers in Crawford, Washington and Sebastian counties. The red clay soil, mixed with gravel, is splendid for growing an excellent quality of peaches.
In 1926, the Frisco Lines reported a whopping 1506 cars of strawberries shipped to the rest of the USA from the Ozark region yielding a return of $2,340,000 that year for strawberries alone.
Grape-growing in the Ozarks is one of our leading industries as this part of the country is ideal for the growing of grapes.
Over 100 years ago in an Italian colony, Tontitown, located just six miles west of Springdale, Arkansas, in Washington County, the first grapes were planted. The varieties grown at that time were primarily for making wine and in a few years the Italians had won a reputation throughout the nation for a superior quality of wine made from Ozark-grown grapes.
While early table grapes have been shipped from the Ozarks in a small way for many years, the industry was still in its infancy when the Welch Grape Juice Company of New York decided to thoroughly test the quality of the grapes grown in this region and subsequently decided this was the ideal place to for commercial grape growing and agreed to locate a grape-juice plant in Springdale, AR.
John S. Tibbs was one of the pioneers in water shipping, and he was succeeded by M.A. Church. Another was the Ramsey and Turner Water Company. The most famous was the Ozarka Water Company which shipped water for over a quarter of a century, from Eureka Springs, Arkansas.
Tibbs and Church are always shown in old pictures at the Basin Spring. Ramsey and Turner used Mystic Spring but said that they would get it from any spring requested. Ozarka's came from Ozarka Spring and, as it was situated above the train depot, the water was piped directly into glass lined rail cars. There were distributors that bottled it when the rail cars arrived at their destinations. Ozarka's water was also served aboard all Frisco trains.
Fiscal responsibility, pragmatic management, and a touch of whimsy combined to make the Frisco a railroad beloved by all its fans, by the Frisco People, and by those who did business with the road and those who worked for the road, or at least wished they had.
The Frisco merged with, and was assimilated into, the Burlington Northern on November 21, 1980, but most of its lines are still in service today with BNSF or various short lines.
Discovering Eureka is a blog series where we seek to discover the unique things that make up Eureka Springs. There is so much to see, experience and explore here in Eureka Springs and in this series we will take time to give you the local perspective on what to do, where to go, what to see and how did this become something significant for our town. Take a moment to check out the different chapters in this blog series on www.iloveureka.com
All of the historic research for this non-revenue generating community blog is complied by using various methods and resources widely available. I often find information from public libraries, magazines, books, historical publications, websites, other blogs, and much more. This story was compiled with the help of http://frisco.org/mainline/about-the-frisco-railroad/