Union Depot, Alexandria, Louisiana, serving the Texas & Pacific Railway and the Missouric Pacific RailroadUnion Depot, Alexandria, Louisiana, serving the Texas & Pacific Railway and the Missouri Pacific Railroad

Alexandria, situated in Central Louisiana, has long been a railroad center.

Among the railroads serving Alexandria over the decades:

  • Missouri & Pacific Railroad
  • Texas & Pacific (T&P) Railway
  • Kansas City Southern (KCS), extending south to New Orleans, and north to Shreveport, Hope and Kansas City
  • Louisiana & Arkansas (L&A) Railway
  • Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific
  • Alexandria and Western Railway
  • Red River Railroad (Ralph Smith Smith Railroad)
  • various logging and sawmill railroads

Missouri Pacific Railroad (MoPac)

Missouri Pacific Railroad (MoPac)

In early 1890, the Houston, Central Arkansas & Northern Railroad Company began construction at the Louisiana- Arkansas border and continued southward through Monroe to Alexandria. This section was completed in July 1892, and covered a distance of 145 miles.

In April 1893, this line was conveyed to the Alexandria and St. Louis Railway Co., and shortly afterwards to the St. Louis, Iron Mountain & Southern Railway Co.

The Iron Mountain had arrived in Central Louisiana in 1880. Five north of Pineville, Julius Levin built a sawmill next to the railroad. The town he named Levin was later changed to Tioga. On June 1, 1917 the Missouri Pacific Railroad Co absorbed the St. Louis, Iron Mountain & Southern Railway.

In 1997, the Missouri Pacific merged into the Union Pacific system.

Texas & Pacific (T&P) Railway

The Texas and Pacific Railway Company (T&P) was created by federal charter in 1871 with the purpose of building a southern transcontinental railroad between Marshall, Texas, and San Diego, California.

In the 1890s, the Texas and Pacific acquired several lines in Louisiana, and on September 12, 1882, finished a route from Shreveport to New Orleans.

The original Texas & Pacific Railway station in Alexandria was located at the corner of Tenth Street and Madison Street.

It was later replaced with Union Station, in use until the demise of passenger trains in Alexandria.

The T&P merged into the Missouri Pacific system on October 15, 1976.

Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific

The Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railway (CRI&P), also known as the Rock Island, or the Rock, was a class 1 railroad running west, southwest and northwest from Chicago. The railway was chartered in 1847 as the Rock Island and LaSalle, and later it was decided the line should stretch into Chicago. Over the years it expanded to many states, and fell into bankruptcy. By 1984 all assets had been sold, and the line ceased to exist.

One line ran from Little Rock, Arkansas to the south, through Junction City, Ruston, Hodge, Jonesboro, Winnfield, Packton, and then into Alexandria. The Rock Island line paralleled the adjacent Louisiana & Arkansas (L&A) Railroad trackage, which also visited ran through Winnfield and Packton. Located at Packton was "L&A Junction", where the Rock Island connected with the L&A and used its trackage rights on the L&A south to Alexandria. When the trackage rights on the L&A were extended northwards to Winnfield, this line was abandoned.

To the south of Alexandria, the Rock Island extended through LeCompte to Eunice.

Louisiana and Arkansas (L&A) Railway

In May, 1903, William Edenborn, a German-born steel-wire magnate from St. Louis, chartered the Louisiana Railway and Navigation Company (L. R. & N. Co.), which he consolidated with the Shreveport & Red River Valley Railroad (S. & R. R. V. R. R.), connecting Shreveport and Alexandria, which Edenborn had founded in 1897.

The L. R. & N. Co. was chartered to extend the S. & R. R. V. R. R. line from Alexandria to Naples, run a ferry across the Mississippi to Angola, and to lay new tracks from Angola to New Orleans via Baton Rouge, with a possible extension to the Gulf of Mexico. In 1923 Edenborn died, and a group of investors gained control over the line and reorganized it under the name Louisiana and Arkansas Railway.

The L&A was consolidated into the Kansas City Southern Railway (KCS) in 1938.

Kansas City Southern (KCS)

KCS had its origins in Kansas City in 1887, the brain child of Arthur Stilwell. By 1897 Kansas City Southern had a 560-mile track between Shreveport and Kansas City, Missouri. Shreveport was connected to Coushatta by 1898 and to Alexandria by 1902.

Kansas City Southern (KCS) overpass, Third Street, Alexandria, LouisianaKCS railroad trestle and overpass, Third Street, Alexandria, La., now removed ... see photo below
(photograph by the author, August, 1976)

KCS had a strong connection with the Louisiana & Arkansas (L&A) Railway, and eventually controlled it. One extension was to Winnfield, Louisiana, reached on May 31, 1902. The extension to Hope, Arkansas, to connect with the Missouri Pacific and the Frisco railroads, which had built into Hope simultaneously, was completed on June 1, 1903.

On December 24, 1903 the line was extended south to Jena, Louisiana to reach large timber holdings in the vicinity of Trout and Good Pine. Jena was the southern terminus of the road until it was extended to Alexandria, from Packton, in 1906. Operation into Alexandria began on July 1, 1906.

The KCS railroad bridge over the Red River has today been located south down river. The bridge approach, wooden trestle and steel overpass over Third Street have been removed, and the KCS depot flattened (see image below).

Site of KCS depot and bridge approach, Alexandria, LA (looking south on Third Street)
Site of KCS depot and bridge approach, Alexandria, LA (looking south on Third Street)

KCS Southern Belle

Kansas City Southern (KCS) Southern Belle passenger train ... Sweetheart of American Trains
KCS Southern Belle ... "The Sweetheart of American Trains"

KCS inaugurated the Southern Belle on September 2, 1940, from Kansas City to New Orleans, stopping in Alexandria. The 868 mile trip took about 21.5 hours.

KCS actively advertised the new train, including a beauty contest won by an 18-year-old Baton Rouge girl, Margaret Landry, who was named "Miss Southern Belle." Miss Landry became the spokeswoman for the new train, and was pictured on KCS timetable covers.

KCS kept passenger service even when it was losing money on the proposition. Unlike most railroads, the KCS retained a positive view of passenger service even into the 1960s, and felt an obligation to provide passenger service as long as there were riders. KCS purchased used passenger cars as other railroads dropped service. In 1965, the KCS purchased ten new passenger coaches, the last railroad car purchase by a private U.S. railroad.


Our family frequently took rides at night in the summer to escape the Alexandria heat; one of our standard stops was to see the Southern Belle at the KCS station on Third Street. Seeing the shiny black passenger cars, massive diesel engine, and observation car was always a thrill.

KCS diesels in new KCS paint scheme ... courtesy of KCS LinesKCS diesels in new KCS paint scheme ... photo courtesy of KCS Lines

We watched the Belle leave the station in reverse, and then move forward over the Third Street overpass and cross the Red River heading north.

Often we would then ride over to Pineville and watch the Southern Belle cross the Main Street overpass near Louisiana College as it gained speed for its run to Shreveport, and beyond.

Southern Belle service ended on November 2, 1969 as passenger volume dropped, and contracts were terminated by the Postal Service and REA.

Today, Kansas City Southern has revived the popular, classic KCS paint scheme (see photo above from KCS).

KCS Holiday ExpressKCS Holiday Express

It also operates the Holiday Express, making stops throughout the KCS system during the 2011 holiday season.

The 11th Annual Holiday Express is headed by the KCS Southern Belle Business Train, and has a scheduled stop in Pineville on December 1, 2011.

Alexandria and Western Railway

A regional railroad, the Alexandria & Western Railway, began operation in 1909, extending from a terminal at Second and Lee Streets, along the city's trolley tracks, and then westward along Bayou Rapides. Its destination was a point in Texas, and its primary cargo was timber for area sawmills.

It was owned by the Bayou Rapides Lumber Company. Construction began in 1913, and the line eventually reached Gardner. It ceased operations in 1925.

Alexandria & Western Railway Engine No. 10Alexandria & Western Railway Engine No. 10

Many other logging operations and sawmills were located in the Alexandria area over the years, and many ran railroads, such as the Crowell & Spencer Lumber Co., Urania Lumber Company, Caddo-Rapides Lumber Company, Enterprise Lumber Company, Long Pine Lumber, Iatt Lumber, Ferd Brenner Lumber Co., and the J. A. Bentley Lumber Company at Zimmerman.

Ralph Smith Smith Railroad

In the early 1800s, planters in the area south of Alexandria had difficulty in getting their crops to market due to fluctuating water levels and the narrow, twisting turns of Bayou Bouef. An area engineer, Ralph Smith Smith, decided a railroad was the solution to the farmers' plight.

He developed a 16-mile-long railroad, circa 1840, following Bayou Bouef for the most part, to connect Smith's Landing (near present day Lecompte) to the docks at Alexandria. The Red River Railroad, also known as the Ralph Smith Smith Railroad, was the first railroad built west of the Mississippi River.

Though crudely built and very slow, Smith's train could make one round trip a day, and was in operation for over twenty years. In 1854 Smith's Landing was renamed Lecomte, in honor of the famous racehorse. The railroad was destroyed in 1864 during the Civil War. In 1881, Smith sold his railroad to the New Orleans Pacific Railway Company. Ralph Smith Smith, born in 1806, died in Alexandria in 1883.

Railroading Memories from the 1950s

Alexandria and the railroads maintained a tight relationship over the years. The railroads employed many in Alexandria, including my grandfather, Joseph Leo Bourg, Sr., who worked for the Rock Island. In the dozen houses on our block, two were railroad employees. My uncle Doyle S. Gibson also worked for the railroad, on the Cotton Belt Route, in Arkansas and Texas.

Alexandria Louisiana Transportation Center, corner of Murray Street and Second StreetRelocated Union Station depot facade at the Alexandria transportation center on 2nd Street

However, by the time I became aware of railroads in the mid-1950s, much history had already past, and my memories are from a short slice of time between 1955 and 1968.

I do recall the thundering noise of the Missouri-Pacific Alco PA "long nose" diesels as they pulled into the station and literally shook the ground.

Union Station, rotting away from years of neglect, was torn down during the construction of I-49. Its facade was saved, and moved to the new transportation center downtown at the corner of Murray and Second Streets at the Red River levee.

Union Tank Car Comes to Alexandria

In 2006 the most modern railroad tank car manufacturing plant in the world was constructed by Union Tank Car just north of Alexandria in the England Air Park, and began using new technology and unique assembly methods.

Union Depot

Jackson Street and Tenth Street, Alexandria, La.

Completed circa 1910, remodeled in mid-1941 to handle the huge increase in military traffic due to World War II

Demolished for the construction of I-49

New Union Station, Alexandria, LA

 

 

 

New Union Station, Alexandria, LA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The end of the line for Alexandria Union Station

February 11, 1978, prior to demolition for I-49

Photos by the Author

 

 

New Union Station, Alexandria, LA

Abandoned Alexandria Louisiana Union Station prior to demolition for Interstate 49

Abandoned Alexandria Louisiana Union Station prior to demolition for Interstate 49

 

 

 

 

Officials discuss the fate of the former Missouri-Pacific Railroad depot, which is in the path of the proposed Alternate A route of Interstate 49. It is also possibly eligible to be deemed a "historic" place by the National Register of Historic Places. Examining the depot are (from left) Duke Rivet, State Department of Transportation & Development (DOTD), Dave Cox of the Federal Highway Administration, and Jonathan Fricker of the state division on historic sites.

Town Talk Photo

Officials discuss the fate of the former Missouri-Pacific Railroad depot, which is in the path of the proposed Alternate A route of Interstate 49. It is also possibly eligible to be deemed a "historic" place by the National Register of Historic Places. Examining the depot are (from left) Duke Rivet, State Department of Transportation & Development (DOTD), Dave Cox of the Federal Highway Administration, and Jonathan Fricker of the state division on historic sites.

The old Missouri-Pacific depot in Alexandria, Louisiana on Jackson Street could hold up a decision on Interstate 49's Alternate A route if the building is considered historic and should be preserved. The building is directly in the path of the proposed interstate through the city.

Town Talk Phot0, July 22, 1979

The old Missouri-Pacific depot in Alexandria, Louisiana on Jackson Street could hold up a decision on Interstate 49's Alternate A route if the building is considered historic and should be preserved. The building is directly in the path of the proposed interstate through the city.

Railroad depot, Third Street at the levee, Alexandria, Louisiana

August, 1976

Photo by the Author

Railroad depot, Third Street at the levee, Alexandria, Louisiana

Close-up, railroad depot, Third Street at the levee, Alexandria, Louisiana

February 11, 1978

Photo by the Author

Railroad depot, Third Street at the levee, Alexandria, Louisiana

Union Station, Alexandria, Louisiana, circa 1910-15, with horse-drawn wagons meeting the train

Courtesy of the Louisiana History Museum

Union Station, Alexandria, Louisiana, circa 1910-15, with horse-drawn wagons meeting the train

Union Station, Alexandria, Louisiana, circa 1910-15, with Wells Fargo & Co. wagon meeting the northbound train

Courtesy of the Louisiana History Museum

Union Station, Alexandria, Louisiana, circa 1910-15, with horse-drawn wagons meeting the train

Steam engine at Union Station railroad depot, Alexandria, Louisiana

Courtesy of the Louisiana History Museum

Steam engine at Union Station railroad depot, Alexandria, Louisiana

Texas & Pacific steam engine No. 712 at Jackson Street crossing at Union Station railroad depot, Alexandria, Louisiana

Courtesy of the Louisiana History Museum

Texas & Pacific steam engine No. 712 at Jackson Street crossing at Union Station railroad depot, Alexandria, Louisiana

Bentley, Louisiana railroad station, just outside Alexandria

Circa 1910-1915

Courtesy of the Louisiana History Museum

Bentley, Louisiana railroad station, just outside Alexandria

Missouri Pacific Alco PA-1 Diesel Engine #8011

Missouri Pacific Alco PA-1 Diesel Engine #8011

Missouri Pacific
Alco PA-3 Diesel

MP Alco PA-3 diesel

 

 

KCS passenger depot in Alexandria, LA

February 11, 1978, prior to demolition

Photo by the Author

 

KCS "Meridian", seen in Baton Rouge

Photo by the Author

 

 

 

KCS Ticket Office in Alexandria - Telephone 2-3386

From the archives of the author

KCS Station in Alexandria

KCS "Meridian", seen in Baton Rouge

 

KCS and L&A Southern Belle Timetable, 1943

Route of the Southern Belle matchbook cover

Railroad Links of Interest

Missouri-Pacific Historical Society

Rock Island in Arkansas

KCS Railway and Missouri-Pacific in Hope Arkansas

Texas & Pacific Railway History and Photos

KCS Historical Society

Kansas City Southern Railway Corporate Website

St. Louis Southwestern Railway - Cotton Belt Route - in Tyler Texas

Tyler Southeastern Railway and Cotton Belt in Gresham, Flint, Bullard and Jacksonville Texas

Abandoned Railroads in Louisiana - Searching for the L&A

Southern Forest Heritage Museum - Long Leaf, Louisiana