Monday, April 27, 2015

Yoakum's Dream

Excerpt from "The Frisco: A Look Back..."

The second Frisco Company, formed in 1896, lasted until 1913. These were years of expansion, and it gradually took form as the Frisco directorate was cleared of officers connected with the Santa Fe system, which had dominated the Frisco since 1880. When the Frisco was reorganized as the St. Louis and San Francisco Railroad Company on June 20, 1896, the road owned and operated some 990 miles of track. On June 30, 1897, this had increased to 1,162 miles. At that time its directors were in part hang-overs from the joint Frisco Santa Fe entanglement. D.B. Robinson was president, and Benjamin F. Yoakum was vice-president and general manager. In 1900, shed of its Santa Fe influence in the directorate, B. F. Yoakum became the President, and in 1903 became Chairman of the Board. Often referred to in rail history as 'Yoakum's Dream', one of the most spectacular and rapid developments of rail growth in western and Mississippi valley history took place. This history is highlighted in the following 11 paragraphs.

1. A network of new branches of the original Frisco was built to cover central, western and southern Oklahoma.

2. The system was enlarged by acquisition of the Kansas City, Fort Scott and Gulf system, extending from Kansas City, Mo., through Missouri, Arkansas and to Memphis and Birmingham, Ala. The Frisco was interconnected with the 'Gulf' by a number of short stretches, such as the one from Baxter Springs, Kansas through Quapaw and Miami to Afton, Okla.

3. A concerted effort was made to tie Chicago and St. Louis to the Gulf of Mexico at New Orleans, by acquiring control over the Chicago and Eastern Illinois Railroad, building for that road a double track from Pana, Illinois to St. Louis along the right of way of the 'Big Four' (NYC). This C&EI system was directly connected to Gulf ports by arrangements for at least temporary track rights from the Illinois Central, the Missouri Pacifc, the Iron Mountain, and the Texas Pacific railroads.

4. As might become desirable or necessary, entirely new, low-gradient track would be built on a new line down the west bank of the Mississippi River, starting at St. Louis, connecting up to the Chicago and Eastern Illinois terminus at Chaffee, Mo., and running thence to Memphis. This much was the main line of the St. Louis, Memphis and Southeastern Railroad. From Memphis, as needed, the new line would run to a river crossing at Baton Rouge, where it would intersect the new line to be built from New Orleans to Brownsville, Texas. Thence it had track rights to New Orleans.

5. Proceeding on a half-and-half basis with the Southern Railway Company, the Frisco, represented by the New Orleans Terminal Company, its subsidiary, built and acquired extensive terminal track and facilities in and around the city of New Orleans, including the Chalmette docks and terminals. Use of such facilities were traded the Illinois Central and Missouri Pacific systems for track rights from Memphis to New Orleans. These terminal properties cost the Frisco several million dollars.

6. From New Orleans, a brand new trunk line, now called the 'Costal Lines', but then the St.Louis, Brownsville and Mexican Railroad (New Orleans, Texas and Mexico Railroad) was built not only to develop the coastal region traversed from New Orleans to Galveston, Corpus Christi and Brownsville, but also the potentially rich San Benito Valley, in the extreme southern tip of Texas, on the Rio Grande River -- now one of the richest of America's fruit and vegetable farming centers. This line also was designed to interconnect Frisco Lines with Mexican National Railways at Laredo, Texas, and at Eagle Pass.

7. A new southern Oklahoma line, known as the St. Louis, San Francisco and New Orleans Railroad, running from Ardmore and Hugo in Oklahoma to Hope, Ark., was projected and built to facilitate transport of traffic originating in Colorado, south and west Oklahoma, and northern Texas, to New Orleans. This route was designed to be extended west from Ardmore to Lawton, or to Wichita Falls, Texas. From Hope, Ark., it was to run east to a connection with the main new trunk down the Mississippi west bank from Memphis.

8. Through control of the Fort Worth and Rio Grande Railroad, extending southwest from Fort Worth to Brownwood, Brady and Menard and eventually to San Antonio, with a branch from Brady to Eagle Pass, both Dallas and Fort Worth, as well as the west network of the Frisco System, were to be connected to the Southern Pacific Railroad, and to Mexican lines terminating at Eagle Pass.

9. Direct connections to Galveston from Fort Worth and from Dallas were planned directly over a two-forked road called the Trinity and Brazos Valley Railroad. The Dallas and Fort Worth forks converged at Teague, and ran thence a single line to Galveston.

10. The New Orleans terminal facilities, the Chicago and Eastern Illinois road and improvements made thereto, the east-west branch in south Oklahoma (St. Louis, San Francisco and New Orleans), and the St. Louis, Memphis and Southeastern Lines with all the new road or roads on which track rights were procured, were welded together under a new giant railroad company, the Chicago, St. Louis, Memphis and New Orleans Railroad Company. This had a capital stock of one hundred fifty million dollars, all of which was guaranteed by the main Frisco corporation.

11. Link the entire Frisco System, as thus developed to the Rock Island Railroad. Most of the Rock Island network was then located to the north of the bulk of the Frisco network. The Rock Island connected Chicago with territory to the Northwest of Chicago, including Iowa, and Minnesota. It also covered central and north Missouri, a good portion of Kansas, portions of Arkansas, and had terminal lines in Denver and Colorado Springs. It had a main line connecting Topeka and Herigton with Wichita Kans., to Enid, Chickasha and Terral, Okla. with connecting line into Fort Worth. It also had a line which, as far back as 1845, had been projected by General Fremont as part of the 35th Parallel route to be taken by the Atlantic & Pacific, predecessor of the Frisco. This line extended from Memphis through Little Rock, Ark., to Oklahoma City and beyond to Amarillo, Texas. This line was in the process of extension to Tucumcari, New Mexico, for connection with the Southern Pacific line up from El Paso, and so to the Pacific Coast. Also, a new line was being built from Herington and Hutchinson, Kansas to join the Oklahoma line terminating at Tucumcari. Various other short lines, such as the one from Bonner to Newport, Arkansas, interconnected the Frisco and Rock Island for more effective coordination.

By 1911 practically every feature of the Yoakum plan as outlined above had been carried into effect and completed. The principal link left out was the 'west-side' main line down the Mississippi from Memphis to New Orleans, and the link eastward from Hope, Arkansas joining it. The New Orleans, 'Chalmette' dock facilities were finished, and the 977 mile coastline the 'Brownsville Road' was in operation. As already shown, the Frisco had expanded greatly in Oklahoma, and had taken over the Kansas City, Fort Scott and Gulf System, with its lines to Birmingham.

The St. Louis, Memphis and Southeastern line, 666 miles, connecting St. Louis to Memphis, was operated by the Frisco from July 1,1904. The Chicago and Eastern Illinois lines had been taken over and its Pana-St.Louis line constructed.

Trackage of the Frisco System proper rose from 1,162 miles in 1897 to 1,659 miles in 1900. In 1901 it rose to 1,915 miles and was increased to 3,033 by addition of the 'Gulf' system. By June of 1902, with Oklahoma extensions and the Texas 'Brownwood' line counted, the total mileage was 4,201 and on June 30, 1904 it reached 5,456 miles.

This phenomenal successful development of the Frisco System and relations with the Rock Island was followed by a long string of disasters. Some of these, contributory to the collapse of Frisco's empire were

1. Mexican Republic became the victim of devastating revolutions, wrecking Mexican Railroads and thus the business for the 'Brownsville' road (New Orleans, Texas and Mexico).

2. Operating deficits in 1912-1913 of $904,000 and 1913-1914 of $1,214,000.

3. On March 24, 1912 the Mississippi broke its levees and so completely inundated the Frisco low lying tracks in Arkansas, tying up traffic until May 12, 1912.

4. Levees in Louisiana broke on May 3, 1912, flooding sections of the Brownsville line until June 24, 1912.

5. Because of floods in 1912 net profits were reduced to $177,400 for 1911-1912.

6. In 1911, coal strikes contributed a heavy loss of business.

No railroad system could withstand such operating conditions and on May 27, 1913, the Frisco went into the hands of receivers.

With the Frisco, the C&EI went into receivership. That ended its relations with the Frisco. The New Orleans Brownsville line (New Orleans, Texas and Mexico Railroad) also went into receivership. Frisco and Rock Island systems were dissolved. Certain other short lines like the Brownwood line in Texas were sold.

The Frisco continued in receivership up to August 24, 1916, when the present St. Louis-San Francisco Railway Company took over what property the system had left. The road was operated during World War I by the United States Government, being released in 1920.