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The Frisco - A Look Back at the Saint Louis-San Francisco Railway


The St. Louis-San Francisco Railway, known as the Frisco, was a dominant railroad throughout the south central United States, primarily in Missouri, Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Kansas. It played an important role in the lives of people all along the rails. The Frisco had acquired rights of way through much of the region and had an interest in the development of that land, which would eventually bring people to an area, people who would use the services of the railroad. Many of the towns began initially as a result of a depot or station needed by the Frisco for fuel and water. The population also expanded along the railroad as a result of the opportunities for employment it provided.

The Frisco was particularly influential to the Springfield, Missouri area because its operational center was located there for many years. This included headquarters, major assembly and repair shops, and support activities of all kinds. The Frisco was the major employer and the key to twentieth century development in the area. Ozarks residents became trades people, office workers, executives, depot workers and operating personnel. Employees relied on the Frisco for employment and local business relied on the Frisco employees for their livelihood.

For many years the Frisco provided a primary link between small towns in the South and Midwest to the rest of the country. The Frisco shipped products to market, brought goods in for local consumption, and provided reliable mail, package, and passenger service. Expansion of service into branch lines enabled local development which in turn helped the railroad prosper.

Author Craig Miner abbreviated the impact of the St. Louis-San Francisco in the preface of his book, The St. Louis-San Francisco Transcontinental Railroad: the thirty-fifth parallel project, 1853-1890: "The St. Louis-San Francisco transcontinental was the serious continental railway which was the longest before the public eye. It was one of the first routes to be seriously considered and the last great trunk line to resolve its fate. Men died of old age working on it and men spent careers working on it. Five corporations ran the cycle from organization to bankruptcy, and the Indian nations through which it ran evolved from primitive agriculturalists to sophisticated industrialists."

This brief history of the Frisco was found at the Burlington Northern Santa Fe web: "The Saint Louis-San Francisco Railway Company, known in the Midwest and Southwest as the “Frisco” has a history that developed with, and sometimes led the way for, westward expansion in the second half of the nineteenth century. What became the Frisco was chartered in 1849 as the Pacific Railroad of Missouri. Construction began in 1855, but was later slowed with the advent of the United States Civil War, 1861-1865. In 1876, the southwest branch of the Pacific was purchased by the Saint Louis-San Francisco Railway; the road was extended into Oklahoma and Kansas, and by the 1880s was complete through Tulsa to Sapulpa, Oklahoma. After the turn of the century the Frisco completed the line though Kansas and Oklahoma and into Texas. In 1901 the Railway expanded to the Southeast and by the 1920s had reached the Gulf of Mexico at Pensacola, Florida."

The Frisco became part of the Burlington Northern Railroad system in 1978, which in turn joined with the Santa Fe Railroad to become the Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) in 1995."

The Frisco Museum was started by Allen Schmidt, a history teacher and railroad enthusiast who amassed a sizeable private collection and opened the first Frisco Museum in Ash Grove, Missouri, in 1984. The Museum later formed an association and in 1994 leased a former Frisco traffic control building on Commercial Street in Springfield. In 2000, the Museum closed and later the collection was sold to Springfield Underground. Springfield Underground has made this material available to the Springfield-Greene County Library. Funded by a digital imaging grant from the state of Missouri, the Library has created an educational web site of special interest to railroad hobbyists, historians, genealogists, and others seeking information about the history of the region.

The Collection

This digital collection presents postcards, Frisco employee magazines, and photographs which were previously held by the now defunct Frisco Museum in Springfield, Missouri.

Rights and Reproductions

The text and images contained in this collection are intended for research and educational use only. Duplication of any of these images for commercial use without express written consent is expressly prohibited. Please contact the copyright holder.

To order a reproduction from the archival TIFF file, inquire about permissions, or for information about prices, contact Local History and Genealogy Department at Springfield-Greene County Library District at (417)616-0534 or send an email online

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