A Brief (or not so brief) History of Railroads in Kirkwood


Image from gatewaynmra.org

Passengers line up to greet the Amtrak train at Kirkwood’s historic railroad station.

JUDAH KUHN, Broadcast Editor

Big, yellow, flag-adorned trains are a familiar sight in Downtown Kirkwood. I want to show you how they got to be this way.

From the beginning, the first railroads were the Pacific Railroad and the Southwest Branch of the Pacific RR. The Pacific RR reorganized into the Missouri Pacific, or the MoPac, and the Southwest Branch reorganized into the St. Louis and San Francisco, or the Frisco.

The MoPac and Frisco both built stations in Kirkwood, but the Frisco’s station was demolished years ago. The Frisco and MoPac ran freight through Kirkwood, and the MoPac ran passenger too.

In the 1970s, passenger traffic dropped off; so in 1976, Amtrak was created. It was only a few years later, in 1980, that the Frisco folded into Burlington Northern. The BN neglected the line, and it was in rough shape.

Back to the MoPac now. They had opened a line from South St. Louis to Kirkwood, which was the now-abandoned Kirkwood Cutoff. This was used to relieve westbound traffic off the main line as traffic backups near downtown were hours long.

This takes us to a more modern time. The year was 1982. MoPac was looking to merge. They found Union Pacific. The UP took over MoPac, and they began operating the line through Kirkwood, called the Jefferson City Subdivision. These are the trains you see today. 

The Union Pacific improved operations on the main, rendering the Kirkwood Cut-off obsolete. They abandoned a large portion from Crestwood, MO to St. Louis city. They kept the line from Kirkwood Junction, where it connected to the Jeff City sub, to Crestwood, as that was where the last business was.

In 1999, the rails were cut, and the line was officially abandoned. Two years later, the rails were pulled up; and the line was converted to Grant’s Trail. Lastly, in 1995, the Burlington Northern and the Santa Fe railroad merged and formed BNSF. This train still runs to this present day. The lines may have had different owners and looked different, but one thing is for sure: trains have always been the centerpiece of Kirkwood.