While the Gateway Western Railway name may seem like a classic line that
dates back to the 19th century the company was actually a relatively
recent creation which dates back only to 1990. The earliest, recent
history of the property was the Chicago, Missouri & Western Railway
formed in the late 1980s through redundant trackage between St. Louis
and Kansas sold off by then Illinois Central Gulf. The CM&W
quickly, folded however which saw the Santa Fe
come in, purchase the property, and establish its own subsidiary to
operate the route with an interestingly attractive but simple paint scheme.
During the AT&SF tenure the GWWR predominantly carried high profit
traffic, point to point between the two cities. With the Burlington
Northern Santa Fe merger in the mid-1990s the line was no longer needed
and sold to the Kansas City Southern. Today, the KCS continues to use
the GWWR as a vital link within its system and still subletters
equipment in the railroad's name.
GP38 #2044 works the yard at Kansas City, Missouri on January 20, 1995.
Gateway Western has a catchy name that makes it seem like it's a
company which has been around for many years. Heck, I myself thought
that it was a classic fallen flag until reading up on the actual history
of the line. The earliest predecessor to the route was the Kansas
City, St. Louis & Chicago Railroad, a Chicago & Alton Railway
subsidiary by 1879 to give that road a connection into Kansas City. The
C&A, or simply the Alton Railroad as it is commonly known, operated
the route for many years, along with its connection to Chicago although
surprisingly the KCStL&C had trouble sustaining profitability. In
1931 the C&A was purchased by eastern trunk line Baltimore &
Ohio which hoped to use its Kansas City connection as leverage against
its major competitors (the Pennsylvania and New York Central) since it
would open an additional gateway with western carriers like the Rock
Island, Missouri Pacific, St. Louis-San Francisco (Frisco), and others.
Unfortunately, the B&O's hopes never materialized, even after going so far as debuting a new streamliner, the Abraham Lincoln
on the route. On May 31, 1947 the property was sold to the Gulf,
Mobile & Ohio Railroad, a line formed in 1938 through the merger of
the Gulf, Mobile & Northern and Mobile & Ohio. In 1972 the
GM&O merged with the Illinois Central which briefly formed the
Illinois Central Gulf Railroad, a line that never saw a particularly
high level of success considering both properties paralleled one another
in several locations. By the 1980s the ICG began selling off thousands
of miles of its property in an attempt to stop the red ink and again
return to a level of profitability. The former C&A main line
between Chicago, St. Louis, and Kansas City was one attempt at doing so,
creating the Chicago, Missouri & Western Railway on April 28, 1987.
An SW1200 lays over at the yard in Kansas City on January 21, 1995.
The new CM&W was 633 miles in length making it an instant Class II,
regional. However, the railroad quickly fell onto hard times not so
much because it could not turn a profit but the fact that the owners
paid too much for the property and could not meet loan
payments. During its operations the CM&W had a myriad of freight
traffic from interchanges with virtually every Class I of the day as
well as intermodal/TOFC service and even hosted Amtrak's St. Louis to
Chicago operations, which were still known as the Abraham Lincoln (today it is known simply as the "Lincoln Service"). After just two years the CM&W was in over its head and declared
bankruptcy. Naturally, its lines were quite attractive and were
purchased by two railroads; the Southern Pacific picked up the route
between Chicago and St. Louis through its Cotton Belt subsidiary (today
owned by Union Pacific) while the Santa Fe purchased the Kansas City to St. Louis.
A GWWR GP40 assists a train through Granite City, Illinois on December 10, 1995.
This new line became known as the Gateway Western Railway and
officially began service on January 9, 1990 (the SP's route was
purchased on April 28, 1987). Under the AT&SF the GWRR saw
prodigious numbers of intermodal traffic moving over its rails towards
St. Louis via the parent's connection at Kansas City (by the 1990s the
was moving more and more containers of its Chicago - Los Angeles main
line). Perhaps most fascinating about the regional was that even at its
late date of startup, the Santa Fe chose to give the carrier a separate
paint scheme, which was a classy but simple gold and yellow. In any
event, after operating for just five years the Burlington Northern Santa
Fe Railroad merger of 1995 spelled the end for the railroad.
An SW1200 takes a break at the yard in Kansas City on January 20, 1995.
With a former Burlington Northern route (the St. Louis-San Francisco
Railway, or Frisco) already reaching St. Louis, the new BNSF no longer
needed a secondary line and sold the GWWR to the Kansas City Southern
Railway on May 5, 1997. It completed its purchase in 2001 but today
still retains it as a separate entity with some units sporting the
standard KCS grey and yellow with "GWWR" in big red letters on the long
hood. For power, the railroad actually operated a rather
substantial fleet consisting of numerous EMD switchers and four-axle
road switchers, mostly GP38s and GP40s.