"Rails by Cales"
I was born in California so long ago I don’t remember it. Since then I have lived in Illinois, Michigan, Colorado, Wyoming, Minnesota, Montana and Oregon
. I thought I liked Oregon best until I came to Arkansas in 2002. I think I will stick with the Ozarks .
Life experience includes being a pastor, a teacher, prison drug counselor, a journalist and a printer . . . linotype operator, now commonly known as “dinosaur.” Among many other places I worked at The Denver Post, National Catholic Register, and Los Angeles Herald-Examiner. I also published a county weekly for three years.
I retired in 1996 and spent six years in central Oregon. When I came to Carroll County, Arkansas I somehow lost my nostalgia for the other places and settled down.
These days I keep occupied as editor of The Bee Line, the quarterly publication of Clan Fergusson of North America; list administrator of three genealogy lists on Rootsweb.com and with e-mail contacts ranging from the Idaho panhandle to Mexico and Africa.
I have always loved railroads, especially the steam-powered days. I came to Eureka Springs several times before I moved here just to ride the rails the four miles from the station and back and was fortunate to ride the last time behind the steam engine.
I picked up a small book, "The Eureka Springs Railway," by Harvey G. Cragon (2005), published by Cragon Books, Dallas TX, at the Eureka Station. It pointed me in the right direction, so I got in the car and after numerous tries located most of the landmarks and photographed them. I have driven the route all the way to Seligman MO. I do not recommend the last part of the route after AR 187 turns south toward US 62 for a passenger car . . . there are low-water crossings and not a lot to see except for old stone culverts all along the way. The grade in that segment is largely gone.
I do not know if Cragon’s book is still available. I gave one copy to the rail museum in Harrison AR. Dr. Fair’s book is also out of print, but I managed to get two copies from Amazon.com and gave one of them to the Harrison museum. One other note of which I was not aware when I took the pictures: The Urbanette station building is now located in Green Forest near the ball park and has been opened as a community center. It is within a stone’s throw of the old right of way. The Green Forest station was lost in a tornado in the twenties, I am told.
NW Arkansas RR
NW Arkansas Rail Line
A nostalgic journey … Seligman, MO to Harrison AR
by Paul Cales
The 'North Arkansas Line',
whose official name was the "Missouri and Arkansas Railway,"
ran for 365 miles diagonally across the state from Joplin MO to Helena AR on the Mississippi. Described herein is that portion of the line that ran from Seligman MO to Harrison AR, and its role in providing transportation to the emerging community of Eureka Springs which was incorporated in 1880. Due to the rugged nature of the Ozark Mountains, travel was next to impossible and the "healing waters" of the springs of Eureka would never have been available to the rest of the world without the railroad. With access provided by rail Eureka Springs soon became one of the six largest cities in Arkansas at that time. Today its population is a bit over 2,000 full-time residents.
The railroads declined in the 1940s and nothing now remains but a two-mile excursion line from the Eureka depot to the Junction wye and back. The steam locomotive was retired a couple of years ago and excursions are now pulled by a diesel engine, but the site is still known for its dinner train, which takes passengers in old-time style to Junction and back and serves gourmet food.
Note: A "wye" is a rail configuration in a "Y" shape which enabled the steam engines to turn around. There is also a turntable for turning engines around at the Eureka Station. Diesel engines don't need them. They run either way, they just reverse polarity.
More on the history can be found in the book "The North Arkansas Line" by Dr. James R. Fair, Jr [1969, out of print]. All pictures are by Paul Cales unless otherwise noted.
The Ozarks are not an easy place to build a railroad. They are dominated by high ridges and deep canyons, despite the relatively low altitudes. These facts necessitated cuts, grades and trestles to accomplish a usable roadbed. The tunnel is located between Livingston Hollow [Junction] and Grandview. Today it is on private property and is virtually inaccessible, and the center portion has caved in.
This picture is taken from the book "North Arkansas Line" by Dr. James Fair, Jr.
We start at "Junction". The line did not actually go to Eureka Springs, but a spur, which is the currently operating excursion line, ran from what today is the Leatherwood Creek bridge on Arkansas Hwy. 23 about two miles up Leatherwood Creek to the ES station. The picture below is of the existing end of the wye which enabled steam trains to turn around, and is used today for the same purpose. It was also the switch to the rail which headed across the trestle over Livingston Hollow to the tunnel and points southeast, such as Berryville, Green Forest, Alpena and Harrison.
Westward toward Seligman
For the record, according to a reproduction of the 1886 time table found in Dr. Fair's book, the stations and sidings westbound included Eureka Springs, Gaskins, Skelton (Elks Ranch), Leatherwood, The Narrows (Beaver), Walden, Pender and Seligman.
The last two are in Missouri. The present route of AR Hwy. 187 roughly follows the route to Walden (on Butler Creek) and where 187 turns south toward US 62, Carroll County Rd. 232 to the state line.
Gaskins Switch . . . John Gaskin built a log cabin about three miles north of the Eureka Springs depot in 1846. It was on a hillside some distance above the rail line. There is also a Gaskins Switch Cemetery a little farther north on AR Hwy 23. The original cabin is presently incorporated into a 5-star steakhouse, appropriately named "Gaskins."
The only connection to the rail line is that there was a section house and a railroad stop at this location for passengers who did not want to continue into Eureka Springs.
**Skelton, now known as Elk Ranch, is on Hwy. 187 and had a hotel of sorts which still stands.
Ruins of a trestle are still evident on Elk Ranch just west of a monument factory which occupies what was probably part of the grade. You can see the grade heading west along the pole line away from the ruined bridge.
On the right, one can plainly see some of the original stonework that supported the trestle.
An interesting sidelight is that in about 1910, there was actually an elk breeding ranch here, hence the name.
Just north of the present town of Beaver are the remains of the Narrows Bridge and trestle. At the time it was built the problem was to cross the White River. With the addition of a series of dams, it is now called Table Rock Lake. This "progress" has also pretty well obliterated the north end of the bridge, which turned to the right and skirted what is now Holiday Island. At the south end, just to the right end of the picture, is the town of Beaver. Over the years floods were endemic, and there are numerous pictures of the area under water.
Butler Creek runs west from Beaver
and the rail line follows it … more or less
On the left, as it is today, summer 2005 - - - A nice walking trail which takes you to the point where the line turns west along Butler Creek. Poker Bluff, on the right, as it was, along the White River just south of Beaver."The B/W picture at right is taken from the book "North Arkansas Line" by Dr. James Fair, Jr."
Butler Creek Trestle
Heading west alongside Butler Creek and bound for Missouri, the old trestle still stands.
You can get there either by taking the walking trail shown in the previous photo or by going to the fire station in Beaver from where this picture was taken.
Trestle at Democrat Hollow
Hwy. 187 runs up over a hillside where the grade to the south is obscured by private property and trees. At about 2.5 miles to the west you come to Democrat Hollow where the rock work, the west end of which is shown above, is plainly visible. This site is hard to see in the summer for the foliage, and difficult to photograph even in winter because it is shaded, but both ends are plainly visible in winter. I have driven the route many times in the past three years, and every time I see another piece of the grade. It takes some searching.
On the left one is looking west along Carroll County CR 232, 1.5 miles north of US 62/AR 187 junction, and about 8 miles from Seligman MO.
On the right you are looking east at the probable site of Walden Switch, where there was once a long siding and a few buildings, but no station.
These pictures were taken from the middle of the road on AR 187. The paved highway headed east is plainly visible in the picture.
Below is a section of the old grade heading SE from Cisco, about three miles north of Berryville, AR. It ran from Freeman Switch to Green Forest.
In the late nineteenth century, when this line was built, Arkansas had no roads as we know them. If I were to try to give you the location of the old roadbed in today's terms I would relate it to existing routes,interstate, state and county. This impediment did not exist in 1872 . . . hence we find place names that no longer exist, like Harrington and Cisco. Some may have been towns, others were sidings or whistle stops. Dr. Fair,in his book, remarks that it was odd the railroad went through Alpena while Carrollton was the larger, more stable community . . . today, Carrolton may have three houses, and Alpena is on two US highway routes, US 62 and 412. This section of the site concerns the route from Eureka Springs to Harrison, where the artifacts are much harder to find than on the Seligman MO/Eureka sector.
The Green Forest depot was destroyed by a tornado in, I believe, 1929. Long after the line was torn up the Urbanette depot was moved to Green Forest, and in 2007 it was remodeled and is now a community center. It is located by the ball park, about a block from where the old depot was.
After an exhaustive search of old Rand McNally maps. railroad maps, historical societies and conversations with octogenarians we came up with a 1904 map. It is the only one we found that shows the location of "the tunnel".
As you can see, the tunnel is under Oak Hill, just SE of current Holiday Island, a mile or two from where I live.
Getting down there is probably counterproductive. The picture of the East Portal with train emerging from Dr. Fair's book will have to suffice. It is in the earlier portion of this site.
The below,1895 picture of the Eureka Springs depot may give some idea of the need, at that time, for rail transport. Talk about Malfunction Junction! All those horse-drawn vehicles and no roads as we know them today. Yes, there were a couple of routes, but they did not go to Eureka Springs. One of the Cherokee Trails went right through here . . . I have a trail tree in my front yard . . . but that was in the 1830-40 era. This depot was destroyed, and the present one was built about 1915.
The Journey ends here until another rainy day presents opportunity to capture the eastern end of the route, including stops such as Grandview, Urbanette, Green Forest, Coin, Alpena and Harrison. Berryville had a depot, but, like Eureka Springs, was on a spur. There are few artifacts and photos of this part of the line, including the Urbanette depot which has recently been moved to Green Forest and is being remodeled.
I still have to work from Green Forest to Harrison. We know the line went "between the twin bridges" on US 62 and up to Coin, then to Alpena where it ran behind what is now the Post Office. As you drive on US 62 and look north you can see a line of trees which is probably where the grade wasFrom there it turned south toward Harrison and ran through Capps and Batavia, as the map shows.
Note: Additional readings can be found in "The Eureka Springs Railway," by Harvey G. Cragon (2005), published by Cragon Books, Dallas TX. It is available at the Harrison, AR Railroad Museum.
Until that time, Slainte Mhor, as the Scottish Gaels would say . . . it means CHEERS!