The Missouri Pacific to Kansas City

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Mike Bushnell

The Missouri Pacific to Kansas City

Published for the Missouri Pacific–Iron Mountain & Southern Railway, this promotional postcard shows a picturesque view as described by the caption, Along the Missouri River for more than 100 miles between St. Louis and Kansas City.” The card is one of a series of postcards promoting Mo-Pac routes between St. Louis and Kansas City, Missouri.

The Missouri Pacific was a Class I railroad that had grown to prominence through mergers and acquisitions of smaller regional lines. Following a groundbreaking in St. Louis in 1852, the railroad grew exponentially and capitalized on the westward expansion taking the country by storm. By 1855, track had been laid as far as Jefferson City, Missouri, linking the Mo-Pac with smaller carriers in central Missouri such as the St. Louis & Iron Mountain Railway.

By 1858, the end of the line was 35 miles west of Jefferson City in Tipton, then the eastern terminus for a new mail route to San Francisco called The Overland Mail. During the Civil War, growth of the Missouri Pacific came to a standstill as Confederate raiders, led by General Sterling Price, exacted a heavy toll on the railroad, tearing up track, destroying equipment and burning depots along the entire east-west route.

The small portion of the route that had begun in Kansas City, stretching east to Independence, was sacked in a September 1864 raid that preceded the Battle of Westport.

On September 19, 1865, the last spike was driven connecting the two parts of the railroad. The following day, a train departed from Kansas City for St. Louis, leaving at 3 a.m. and arriving in St. Louis at 5 p.m.

Over the next 122 years, the Missouri Pacific shuttled both freight and passengers along its numerous routes and subsidiaries across the western United States. It even survived bad press following a crash in August 1922 when the Mo-Pac Train No. 4 slammed into the rear of the No. 32 that had stopped in Sulphur Springs, Texas, to take on water.

According to news accounts, the engineer of the No. 4 failed to see block signals set against his train. By the time he saw the No. 32 stopped on the main track, it was too late. The rear of the No. 32 was sitting on a bridge over Glaize Creek when the accident occurred. Train cars were hurled into the creek bed, where many of the dead were later found.

The ensuing collision was so horrendous it could be heard three miles away. The wreck killed 34 passengers and injured 150 in one of the worst rail accidents in Missouri Pacific history.

During the 1960s and ‘70s, passenger ridership dwindled, and the Mo-Pac placed a heavier reliance on freight in order to survive.

In 1980, the Missouri Pacific, the Western Pacific and the Union Pacific filed formal merger documents with the Interstate Commerce Commission. In 1997, the Missouri Pacific and Union Pacific filed formal merger documents making the “UP” (the surviving entity) to carry on over 140 years of rail history.

The Missouri Pacific route through Missouri remains alive today largely because of Amtrak service. The track shown in the card is probably somewhere between Washington and Jefferson City, Missouri.

After departing downtown St. Louis, the train travels through Kirkwood, Washington, Hermann, Gasconade, Jefferson City, Tipton, Sedalia, Warrensburg, Pleasant Hill, Lee’s Summit, Independence, to Union Station in Kansas City.

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The Citizens’ Military Training Camps mentioned in the cancellations on the postcard back were held from 1921 to 1940, and allowed men to receive defense instruction without obligating themselves to be called up for active duty.

I swear I’ve seen the scene of the curving bend in the countryside between Kirksville & Columbia. That wouldn’t be on the Missouri Pacific line, but many curves look the same. 😮

Enjoyable article, thank you, Michael Bushnell. Additionally as an avid newspaper reader – Hang In there!!!

Very interesting article. I am a big fan of Train and Railroad postcards and enjoy collecting them.

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A postcard appears occasionally that tells a story so complex it is difficult to manage the many interwoven parts. The story of the Shire Oak in Headingley, England, is such a tale. Eighty years have passed since the spring winds blew the tree down, but a plaque will help you find the spot where it once stood. Postcard History tells the rest of the story.

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