The White River Route held much promise when it was built to reach
local mines, but these mines never panned out. By 1915, the timber supply
that raveled here itself played out, so it was up to the traffic between
Kansas City and Memphis that kept the line open. Eventually, even the
local business disappeared for the railroad as highway system developed.
By the 80's there was little left. Silica was still strong at Guion,
and there was frozen poultry out of Batesville, otherwise there was
essentially no local traffic between Cotter and Branson.
Still, Arkansas Power & Light has a large generating station at Newark,
just north of Newport. MoPac's coal trains used this route and the railroad
upgraded the line with heavy rail and improved bridges.
The bridge line had a through connection to the Southern (later Norfolk
Southern), a road that MP was interested in merging with. Had the NS-MoPac
merger actually happened the White River Line would be much different
than it is today.But the MP and Southern didn't make sense; Southern
decided that the two roads covered too much of the same territory and
not much would have been gained from such a union. But one can still
Appeared on the St. Louis railfans list: "Route of the Heavy Haulers
Union Pacific ran the final train over the Pea Ridge Subdivision yesterday,
one of the youngest (40 years old) rail lines in North America.
The Pea Ridge Sub runs from Cadet Missouri, roughly 57 miles to the
south of St. Louis, to the Pea Ridge Iron Mine located 30 miles to the
west of Cadet in Sullivan, Missouri. The signs of a declining U.S. steel
market and the continuous reduction of what was the former Missouri
Pacific Lines has become reality.
It started early (6AM) yesterday morning when UP Omaha train managers
sent a firm order to the crew of the southbound train that this would
be the last run and to have all cars off the Pea Ridge Subdivision with
the exception of the ones spotted at a small minerals company known
as CIMBAR, located on the very first mile of the line at New Fountain
Farms (it will likely continue to see service after the western 26 miles
are taken out of service). In the next couple of weeks, UP will be busy
deactivating the approach signal to the main line at New Fountain Farms,
taking down crossbucks and crossing signal heads, and spiking inactive
There is some interesting history about this line that you all may
be interested in: back in the heydey these trains were known as the
"Heavy Haulers," aptly named by Missouri Pacific crews as they were
among one of the heaviest trains the railroad ever handled, hoisting
millions of tons of iron ore out of Pea Ridge in Sullivan, Missouri
destined for numerous steel mills across the U.S. This train would travel
from the mine 27 miles on the Pea Ridge Sub to reach the St. Louis to
Poplar Bluff DeSoto Sub mainline. The Pea Ridge Sub, complete with heavy
ballast and 112 lb code 25 rail (some of which is welded), with a 30
mile per hour max speed, was constructed in 1961 to reach a joint Bethlehem
Steel/Meramec Mining Co. iron mine in Sullivan, Missouri, making it
only 40 years old to date, one of the youngest rail lines to be constructed
in the United States. In order to move the ore, MP purchased a fleet
of ore jennies in order to move the ore north to common locations such
as Granite City Steel in Granite City, Illinois or south, towards Texas.
In recent years, however, the ore moved in conventional PS-2 or ACF
covered hoppers, while slag moved out in gondolas. Additionally, the
original Heavy Haulers usually ran up to 80 or 90 cars but that number
has dwindled to just a weekly 15-30 or so in the last couple of years.
Bethlehem/Meramec closed the mine in 1977 and it and the Pea Ridge Sub
sat dormant for 2 years. In 1979 Woodridge Resources purchased it, fired
the pelletizing operation back up, and the rail line was reactivated.
The cause of the latest shutdown was that the company couldn't find
enough business to justify keeping the mine and it's 117 member workforce
Today I followed the train, as I have been doing for the past several
months, up the entire branch. As if U.P. was making a statement about
the falling of the flags, the last train was powered by a duo of Speed
Lettered SP GP-40s already sporting the yellow renumber patch job (in
the 1400 series) over the pre-existing SP unit numbers. Of interest,
I noticed it contained several empty covered hoppers that appeared to
be destined for the mine; what I later found out that there was an error
made in redirecting the cars away from the closed mine, creating a backlog
of over 50 empties PLUS the ones on today's train which were never loaded
at Pea Ridge.
After leaving Pea Ridge for St. Louis around 1 PM the train consisted
of 57 empty covered hoppers, which snaked through the rolling Ozarks
almost unnoticed. The only glimmer of hope for future runs across the
Pea Ridge Sub lies with Woodridge Resources--only if it sells the mine,
or if it lands a contract that is substantial enough to show a profit
will the trains ever come back. If the decision is made to seal the
mine and dismantle the pelletizing system, the Pea Ridge will go down
as being one of the shortest lived rail lines in the U.S. There no doubt
that this week one thing WILL prevail among the tracks through the forests
of Washington County: the sound of silence.