Bauxite and Northern Railroad

The Bauxite and Northern Railroad (B&N) is a short, three-mile railway built in 1906 by a subsidiary of Alcoa called the American Bauxite Company in what is now Bauxite (Saline County). The B&N transports hundreds of tons of alumina, a key ingredient in the production of aluminum, from the former Alcoa processing plant to Bauxite Junction, where the B&N connects with the Union Pacific. In 2012, the Bauxite and Northern Railroad and its parent company at the time, RailAmerica, Inc., were purchased by Genesee & Wyoming Inc.

Bauxite deposits were discovered outside Little Rock (Pulaski County) during road construction in 1887 and were publically identified by State Geologist John C. Branner in 1891. In 1900, Colonel John Rison Gibbons and his son, J. Felton Gibbons, were sent by the Pittsburgh Reduction Company, later called Alcoa, to investigate, survey, and map the newly discovered bauxite deposits in what became the town of Bauxite. In addition to his work on the town, Col. Gibbons conducted surveys for and superintended the construction of the three-mile-long Bauxite and Northern Railroad. The Bauxite and Northern Railway Company was incorporated on November 13, 1906.

By 1915, the Bauxite and Northern Railway Company was holding annual stockholders’ meetings to elect new officers at Bauxite, with G. R. Gibbons as its secretary. Each meeting was announced in the Arkansas Gazette. On August 9, 1941, the Gazette announced that “a 500-acre site near Bauxite” had been chosen for a new $21,000,000 alumina plant to be operated by Alcoa. The site was built between Bauxite and Bryant (Saline County) approximately five miles from Benton (Saline County) on Hurricane Creek at the junction of the Rock Island lines and the Bauxite and Northern Railroad. The Hurricane Creek plant, which employed 300 to 500, produced 400 million pounds of alumina annually. On December 20, 1942, a representative from Missouri Pacific was sent to Bauxite to survey the area for a proposed joint interchange railyard with the Bauxite and Northern Railroad. The proposed yard had a 384-car capacity.

On July 3, 1952, the Alcoa Mining Company shipped its last trainload (2,600 tons) of bauxite ore out of Arkansas using the Bauxite and Northern Railroad. It was reported that all future ore mined there would be shipped by the Aluminum Ore Company from its newly completed $54 million plant at Bauxite.

Bauxite as a company town was abolished by Alcoa in July 1969, and many of Alcoa’s facilities were abandoned or sold. The town reincorporated in 1973. In 1990, the bauxite mines in Saline County were shut down. In 2004, Alcoa divested its Bauxite site to Almatis Inc., which began using the B&N to transport its alumina to its connection at Bauxite Junction. In 2005, the B&N and four other railroads were purchased from Alcoa by RailAmerica, Inc., which was purchased by railroad giant Genesee & Wyoming Inc. in 2012.

For additional information:
“Bauxite and Northern Railway (BXN).” Genesee & Wyoming Inc. https://www.gwrr.com/railroads/north_america/bauxite_northern_railway#m_tab-one-panel (accessed January 9, 2020).

“Bauxite & Northern Railway Co. Notice of Annual Stockholders’ Meeting.” Arkansas Gazette, January 17, 1915, p. 11.

“Bauxite to Get New $21,000,000 Alumina Plant.” Arkansas Gazette, August 9, 1941, p. 1.

“Last Load of Bauxite Leaves State.” Arkansas Gazette, July 4, 1952, p. 9.

“RailAmerica Selected to Acquire Four Railroads from Alcoa.” Businesswire.com, September 9, 2005. https://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20050909005310/en/RailAmerica-Selected-Acquire-Railroads-Alcoa-Additionally-Announces (accessed January 9, 2020).

“Survey Begun for Yard at Bauxite.” Arkansas Gazette, December 20, 1942, p. 40.

Cody Lynn Berry
Benton, Arkansas

Last Updated: 01/09/2020