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Amtrak

Amtrak, with a name derived from the words “America” and “track,” is a partially government-funded American passenger rail service. Its parent enterprise is the National Railroad Passenger Corporation. Amtrak was created in 1970 to provide medium- and long-distance intercity service through the consolidation of existing U.S. passenger rail companies. Sharing track with freight trains, Amtrak officially took over most U.S. interstate passenger rail service on May 1, 1971. However, Amtrak’s regular passenger rail service did not begin to serve Arkansas until 1974, when service on the Inter-American train was extended northward from Fort Worth, Texas, to St. Louis, Missouri. Amtrak is the most recent phase in America’s passenger railroad history, in which Arkansas has played a significant part. From the …

Arkansas and Oklahoma Western Railroad

  The Arkansas and Oklahoma Western Railroad (A&OW), based in Rogers (Benton County), was incorporated on June 25, 1907, with capital stock of $3,000,000. The standard gauge railroad, previously named the Rogers Southwestern, had twenty-one miles of track built between Rogers and Springtown (Benton County) by the Rogers Southwestern Railroad. The change in the corporate name reflected an intention to build to Siloam Springs (Benton County), as a connection to the Kansas City Southern Railway, and Pryor Creek, Oklahoma, as a connection to the Missouri, Kansas and Texas Railway. The A&OW also announced plans for a thirty-mile extension from Rogers to the health resort of Eureka Springs (Carroll County). The A&OW, assuming it had been built as planned, would have …

Arkansas Department of Transportation

The Arkansas Department of Transportation oversees the planning, maintenance, and policing of state roads and highways. Act 302 of 1913 established the State Highway Commission and renamed the Department of State Lands as the Department of State Lands, Highways and Improvements. However, there remained no designated highway system in the state. In 1921, a federal law required states to designate a system of state highways, to be managed by a state highway department. In 1923, a few months following the closure of the Department of State Lands, Highways and Improvements due to the Arkansas General Assembly’s failure to appropriate money for the agency, the governor called a special session of the legislature to deal with the resulting problems, eventually signing …

Arkansas Highway Commission

In the early part of the twentieth century, Arkansas’s roads were not designed for the arrival of the automobile. The state’s roads were rough and dusty in dry weather, and were impassable during the rainy season. There was no statewide authority to plan or direct road construction in Arkansas, so road construction was handled at the local level, with county courts in charge of road planning and construction. Most roads were built to serve specific neighborhoods or even individuals, and a connected statewide system of roads was far from a reality. These issues came to a head in 1913 in the Thirty-ninth Arkansas General Assembly, which created the State Highway Commission by Act 302 in response to these transportation issues. …

Arkansas Highway Police

The Arkansas Highway Police is the oldest statewide law enforcement agency in Arkansas and serves as the law enforcement branch of the Arkansas Department of Transportation. The duties of the agency have changed over time, but the emphasis remains on protection of the state’s highway and transportation system. The Highway Police is overseen by an agency director with the rank of chief. The chief serves at the pleasure of the director of the Arkansas Department of Transportation. The Highway Police’s main headquarters are located in Little Rock (Pulaski County) next to the central office of the Department of Transportation. The Highway Police is divided into five districts, each of which is commanded by an officer with the rank of captain. …

Arkansas Railroad Museum

The Arkansas Railroad Museum in Pine Bluff (Jefferson County) grew out of an effort by the Cotton Belt Historical Society to preserve the last steam-powered locomotive built in Arkansas. It has since expanded to include other artifacts of Arkansas’s railroad heritage. The Cotton Belt Rail Historical Society, Inc., was organized on October 18, 1983, primarily for the purpose of saving the Cotton Belt steam locomotive SSW 819, a 4-8-4 Northern-type steam locomotive that was the last steam-powered locomotive constructed in Arkansas. The locomotive had been retired and donated to the City of Pine Bluff in 1955, when machines of its type were being replaced by diesel-burning locomotives. It was placed in a city park, later called the Martin Luther King …

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 …

Beebe, Roswell

Roswell Beebe was the first benefactor of the city of Little Rock (Pulaski County); the town of Beebe (White County) was named after him. In the late 1840s and the 1850s, he was one of the most important businessmen and politicians in Little Rock. He donated several pieces of land to the city. Roswell Beebe was born on December 22, 1795, in Hinsdale, New York, to a wealthy English family. When he was seventeen, he talked his father into letting him go to New Orleans, Louisiana. He was behind the cotton bales with Andrew Jackson when the United States turned back the British at the Battle of New Orleans in 1815. Roswell was successful in several businesses. The 1832 New …

Black River Bridge (Historic)

The Black River Bridge is the name given to a historic bridge spanning the Black River in Randolph County. Built as part of U.S. Highway 67, the Black River Bridge was added to the National Register of Historic Places on April 9, 1990, and maintained by the Arkansas Department of Transportation. The Pocahontas (Randolph County) section of Highway 67 opened in February 1931. The confluence of Highways 90 and 115 with U.S. Highway 67 in Pocahontas required a bridge to provide for safe travel across the Black River. To begin the construction of a bridge, the State Highway Commission needed federal approval through the U.S. Congress and through the War Department. This approval was set in place to ensure that …

Blue Star Memorial Highways

Blue Star Memorial Highways, which honor members of the armed forces, are located along highways across the United States, including several examples in Arkansas. Members of the National Council of State Garden Clubs envisioned creating “living memorials” for members of the armed services who served during World War II, rather than monuments or buildings. The first Blue Star roadway was established in New Jersey in 1945 following work completed the previous year. A five-and-a-half-mile section of road was named Blue Star Drive, and dogwood trees were planted along the road. The state legislature designated the roadway a memorial and banned the posting of billboards along the route. The project was well received and approved by the National Council in 1945 …

Bobby Hopper Tunnel

Arkansas has seven railroad tunnels but only one highway tunnel. Named for the Arkansas Highway Commission director at the time of the tunnel’s construction, Bobby Hopper, the northwest Arkansas commission representative from Springdale (Washington County), the Bobby Hopper Tunnel is located on Interstate 49 in Washington County just north of the Crawford County line with its closest exit at Winslow (Washington County). U.S. Highway 71, once classified by Reader’s Digest as “one of the most dangerous highways in America,” includes a perilous stretch between Alma (Crawford County) and Fayetteville (Washington County) through the Ozark Plateau. Thus, construction of an alternate route was designed to make the trip safer, as well as reduce travel time. Approved in 1987 and completed in …

Broadway Bridge

The Broadway Bridge was originally constructed in 1923 as a vehicular structure and replaced in 2017; it is one of six bridges linking the downtown areas of Little Rock (Pulaski County) and North Little Rock (Pulaski County). As the downtown areas of Little Rock and Argenta (present-day North Little Rock) developed in the 1880s, it became apparent that a toll-free bridge independent of the railroad bridges across the Arkansas River was needed. Some people supported the idea of a bridge at the foot of Little Rock’s Main Street, while others thought it should start at Broadway. After years of debate and a series of bridge commissions, the Main Street site was adopted, and the Groton Bridge Company of Groton, New …

Butterfield’s Overland Mail Company

aka: Overland Mail Company
Butterfield’s Overland Mail Company carried the first successful overland transcontinental mail by stagecoach through Arkansas as it went from the Mississippi River to California. Though only running from 1858 through 1861, it was the longest stagecoach line in world history at approximately 2,812 miles and was a major factor in the settlement and development of Arkansas and the American West before the Civil War. Its two main routes ran through Arkansas, westward from Memphis and south from Missouri, connecting in Fort Smith (Sebastian County). Many sites in Arkansas, such as Butterfield Trails Village in Fayetteville (Washington County), still reflect the era of Butterfield’s Overland Mail Company. Before modern technology, the mail was America’s lifeblood. “Post roads” were created in the …

Cairo and Fulton Railroad

Today’s Union Pacific Railroad line from the Missouri state line through Little Rock (Pulaski County) to Texarkana (Miller County) was constructed by the Cairo and Fulton Railroad. Over a period of more than 100 years, the Cairo and Fulton merged first into the St. Louis, Iron Mountain and Southern (StLIM&S), then into the Missouri Pacific, and finally into today’s Union Pacific. As the first railroad to connect Arkansas to Missouri and the eastern United States, the Cairo and Fulton opened up the state for development. The Cairo and Fulton Railroad was chartered by the State of Arkansas on February 9, 1853, to build a railroad line from the Arkansas-Missouri state line across Arkansas to Texas. The State of Missouri, on …

Camden to Washington Road, Rosston Segment

The Camden to Washington Road formerly connected the towns of Camden (Ouachita County) and Washington (Hempstead County). Some sections of the road still exist in the twenty-first century, including a segment near Rosston (Nevada County) that is part of Nevada County Road 10. This portion of the road was added to the National Register of Historic Places on January 29, 2009. The first effort to create the road began in 1821 when residents of Hempstead County petitioned the Court of Common Pleas to construct a road linking their county with a point on the Ouachita River. This would allow farmers to transport their crops to the nearest navigable river. A map drawn that same year shows a road leaving Ecore …

Carrollton Road

The Carrollton Road was part of an east-west road that crossed northern Arkansas in the 1830s and is noteworthy as one of the few documented roads used by the John Benge Detachment of Cherokee during the Indian Removal of the late 1830s. A segment of the road survives today. The Cherokee Removal detachment led by Captain John Benge initially consisted of 1,079 people and seventy wagons, though others would join the group as it headed west. The detachment departed from Fort Payne, Alabama, in late September and early October 1838. It crossed into Tennessee and later crossed the Mississippi River at Iron Banks in Kentucky. Traveling west and southwest through Missouri on the Military Road, the detachment crossed into Arkansas …

Central Delta Depot Museum

The Central Delta Depot Museum in Brinkley (Monroe County) is an initiative of the Central Delta Historical Society, which was organized in the 1990s to preserve the history and heritage of the central Delta area. The museum’s scope covers all of Monroe and parts of Woodruff, St. Francis, Prairie, Lee, Phillips, and Arkansas counties. Louise Mitchell, a Kingsland (Cleveland County) native who had taught at Brinkley High School, served as the first president of the Central Delta Historical Society and editor of its journal from 1997 to 2001. In 1999, she led a letter-writing campaign—directed to Union Pacific officials, President Bill Clinton, the area’s congressmen, and others—to save Brinkley’s Union Train Station from destruction so a museum could be established. …

Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railway

The Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railroad (commonly called the Rock Island) was an Illinois railroad that gained access to Arkansas in 1902. Its purchase of the Choctaw, Oklahoma and Gulf Railroad gave it the beginnings of a transcontinental route along the thirty-fifth parallel and the beginnings of a route to the Gulf of Mexico at New Orleans. Ultimately, the railroad would purchase more than thirty-two separate railroads to create a network in Arkansas that was more than 700 miles long, with railroad lines in the Mississippi River Delta and the Arkansas Grand Prairie representing the importance of agricultural products to its business. Oil from southern Arkansas, coal from western Arkansas, and lumber products from central and southern Arkansas were …

Choctaw Freight Terminal

The Choctaw Freight Terminal served the Choctaw and Memphis Railroad Company (originally the Memphis and Little Rock Railroad) as a hub for the transportation of goods to and from Little Rock (Pulaski County). Located in the eastern part of the city, it was covered over by a superstructure in the 1960s and then razed in 2001 to make way for the construction of the William J. Clinton Presidential Center and Park. At the time of its demolition, it was the last surviving example of a traditional two-story brick freight station in Arkansas. When the Choctaw and Memphis Railroad Company began freight and passenger service from Little Rock to Memphis, Tennessee, in 1899, a depot for passengers stood on the Little …