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NRHS 2014 Convention Eureka Springs & North Arkansas Railway 6/11/2014

by Chris Guenzler

We left the Showboat Branson Belle and headed over to Eureka Springs to our last stop of the day.

Eureka Springs History

Eureka Springs is one of two county seats for Carroll County, split by the waters of the Kings River. Eureka Springs is a unique Victorian resort village, and a popular shopping and walking town. The entire city is on the National Register of Historic Places as the Eureka Springs Historic District. Eureka Springs has been selected as one of America's Distinctive Destinations by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Eureka Springs has historically been called :The Little Switzerland of America" and "The Stairstep Town" because of its mountainous terrain and the winding, up-and-down paths of its streets and walkways. The streets wind around the town, no two intersect at a 90 degree angle, and there are no traffic lights.

For many years, Eureka Springs was a popular subject of Ripley's Believe it or Not. Besides the layout of the streets, Ripley featured such items as the church that is entered through its bell tower, the hotel with seven street level floors, and many other characteristics of this Victorian town. For fans of architecture, the old commercial section of the city has an alpine character, with a large number of Victorian homes covering the hillsides. A number of commercial buildings are built of local stone. Many buildings have street-level entrances on more than one floor, with a number actually having entrances below street level.

The springs of Eureka have been known for a long time for their healing powers. Early stories state that \the Eureka area was a neutral territory, available to all area Indian tribes. Dr. Alvah Jackson is credited with exploring the area and locating several of the springs in 1856, claiming that the waters of Basin Spring had cured his eye ailments. Dr. Jackson established a hospital in a local cave during the Civil War and used the waters from Basin Spring to treat his patients. After the war, Jackson marketed the spring waters as "Dr. Jackson's Eye Water." In 1879, Judge J.B. Saunders claimed that his crippling disease was cured by the spring waters. Saunders started promoting Eureka Springs to friends and family members across the state and created a boomtown. Within a period of little more than one year, the city grew from a rural spa village to a major city.

Eureka Springs was incorporated as a city on February 14, 1880. By 1881, Eureka was the fourth largest city in Arkansas, and in 1889 it was the second largest city, behind Little Rock. About this time, Governor Powell Clayton moved to Eureka Springs and helped create the Eureka Improvement Company in 1882. Besides making street and spring improvements, the company began to build hotels and promoted the construction of a railroad. In only two years, thousands of homes and commercial enterprises were constructed. The Crescent Hotel was built in 1886 and the Basin Park Hotel in 1905. The Ozarka Water Company was formed in Eureka Springs in 1905 to bottle water to sell across the country. Carrie Nation moved here towards the end of her life and founded Hatchet Hall on Steele Street.

As spa towns reduced in importance, Eureka began to shrink, until it had only about 1000 residents by the early 1960s. At this time, the town turned to modern tourism by taking advantage of the Victorian atmosphere left over from several generations earlier. In 1967, the 7-story Christ of the Ozarks Statue was built, and a year later, The Great Passion Play began. For several decades, the now closed Great Passion Play was America's #1 attended outdoor drama, attracting approximately 8 million tourists to the area.

In 1980, architect E. Fay Jones designed Thorncrown Chapel. It won design awards at the time and in 2006 was selected for the "Twenty-five Year Award" by the American Institute of Architects, which recognizes structures that have had significant influence on the profession. Because of the special nature of its high quality of architecture, the chapel was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2000.

As of the 2010 census, the city population was 2,073.

The Eureka Springs & North Arkansas Railway History

The Eureka Springs & North Arkansas Railway (ES&NA) was started by the late Robert Dortch, Jr., and his wife Mary Jane in 1981. Robert Dortch, Sr., had built the Scott and Bearskin Lake Railroad as part of the Plantation Agriculture Museum near Scott, Arkansas, in the 1960s. After his death, the family closed the railroad and began moving the equipment to Eureka Springs (Eureka, for locals). Eventually, a 2.5-mile railroad was built, requiring several trestles over Leatherwood Creek. The line features the former Fort Smith Frisco turntable at the south end at Eureka, and a wye at the north end at Junction. The railroad leases the former Missouri & North Arkansas stone depot (built 1913) at Eureka, and added a water tower and a small yard. They also built a commissary adjacent to the old ice house and electric plant building to the south to prepare meals for the luncheon and dinner trains. The railroad was used in the 1982 television mini-series The Blue and the Gray.

The ES&NA was built on the grade of the original Eureka Springs Railway, last operated by the Arkansas & Ozarks. The Eureka Springs Railway was built from Seligman, Missouri, to Eureka Springs by 1883. Due to the rugged nature of the surrounding Ozark Mountains, getting to Eureka Springs was almost impossible. With the railroad, the town boomed. To get people from the railroad station to the various springs and resorts, Eureka Springs was served by an electric trolley line. The Eureka Springs Electric Light and Street Railway Company was chartered on May 1, 1891. It started as a mule drawn streetcar service, and then electrified about 1898. The streetcar service was abandoned in 1923.

In 1899, the Eureka Springs Railway was reorganized as the St. Louis & North Arkansas Railroad. In 1906, the railroad became the Missouri & North Arkansas Railroad to build further east to Helena, Arkansas. The company was again reorganized in 1922 and it became the Missouri & North Arkansas Railway Company. Following another financial crisis, the company became the Missouri & Arkansas Railway. Following another labor strike and bankruptcy, the railroad closed down and most of it was abandoned. The track between Harrison and Seligman became the Arkansas & Ozarks in 1949 - which closed in 1961.

Passengers board at the depot of the Eureka Springs & North Arkansas Railway, originally built in 1912-13 to replace a wooden depot built in the 1880s. The passenger train uses several former Rock Island P-70 coaches. There have actually been as many as seven of these cars on the property at any one time. Two cars were used for the regular passenger service - maroon 2560 and green 2585. Two more are used for the dinner train, currently numbered 1 and 2. Two more are used as buildings - 2515 is used as a snack bar while 2523 has been used as an office. Another coach, 2593, was also once here.

The train is pulled by an EMD SW1 4742 built in 1942 as Chicago & Eastern Illinois 98. It holds serial number 1379. It later went to the Missouri Pacific, and then to Granite Mountain Quarries of Sweet Home, Arkansas, before coming to the ES&NA. Several steam locomotives can be found on site. These include 201, a 2-6-0 built in 1906 by Alco for the Panama Canal construction; 226, a 2-8-2 built in 1927 by Baldwin for the Dierks Lumber & Coal Company; and an un-numbered German 0-4-0T mounted on a pedestal as advertising.

Also on the property is former Alabama, Tennessee and Northern Railroad 5, a 1951 Chevrolet track inspector's car. Rides are sometimes possible in this car.

The following milepost information is from Missouri & Arkansas Railway Company Time Table No. 7, dated Sunday, February 25, 1945. The timetable showed this line to be 1.81 miles long.

The Trip and look around the yard in Eureka Springs 6/11/2014

We got off the bus and I lead the way to the train stopping to take pictures on my way there.

Alabama, Tennessee and Northern Railroad 5, a 1951 Chevrolet track inspector's car.

Eureka Springs & North Arkansas Railway SW1 4742.

Eureka Springs & North Arkansas Railway SW1 4742 and Coach 2585.

The Alabama, Tennessee and Northern Railroad 5 came by our one car train. My bus passengers boarded the train and we filled it out with some of the other busses passengers. We left with almost a full car of passengers. I gave my safety briefing to the passengers like I do on all NRHS trips. We left Eureka Springs.

Eureka Springs & North Arkansas Railway turntable.

We were backing down the railroad to Junction.

My car load of passengers.

Greg Molloy was out on the SW-1.

Bart Jennings was relaxing out there too. Now we will take you to the Junction.

The train continued backing to Junction.

The train has reached the wye switch at Junction.

To the right would be new mileage for me.

The last trip I took here we went this way. We went right and I was on new trackage.

The train crossed Leatherwood Creek.

The northwest leg of the way crosses Leatherwood Creek on this bridge.

We continued back down my new trackage.

We came to the northeast wye switch. We rolled just north of it

This is as far as we went. I relaxed on the trip back to Eureka Springs. Once there I lead the way to a photo line I made along the highway looking down at the tracks.

Eureka Springs & North Arkansas Railway water tower.

Alabama, Tennessee and Northern Railroad 5 passes beneath the water tower.

Alabama, Tennessee and Northern Railroad 5 gave us a Photo Runby. Next we will see the next trip of the Eureka Springs & North Arkansas Railway.

The Eureka Springs & North Arkansas Railway Photo Runby. Next I went to look around the railyard.

This 0-4-0 up on its perch was built in Berlin, Germany.

Another view of that engine.

Just the engine minus the tender of ESNA 2-8-0 226.

ESNA 2523 Office Car.

ESNA caboose 12153.

ESNA 2-6-0 201.

The Eureka Springs & North Arkansas railroad station in Eureka Springs. I went to my bus and found I had twenty four passengers already on it. I walked back over to the station and found another 12 passengers ready to head back. Bart said when I had forty I could leave. We left with 43 passengers and left the Eureka Springs & North Arkansas to head back to Springdale. Since I am on train trips and will not be able to take the Eureka Springs NRHS Tour. I shot pictures of Eureka Springs as we drove through it on the bus.

Views of Eureka Springs as we drove through it. We made good time back to Springdale and soon was back at the Holiday Inn. I got in my rental car and drove to Burger King picking dinner before I returned to my motel room. I did write the three stories from today and waited for news of the Game 4 of the Stanley Cup.