The Gateway Western Railway

While the Gateway Western Railway (GWWR) 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 a New York investment firm step in and pick up part of the property from St. Louis to Kansas City via Springfield.  The GWWR became successful largely due to the Santa Fe which sent significant business over the railroad to reach St. Louis.  With the Burlington Northern Santa Fe merger in the mid-1990s the GWWR line was no longer needed to reach the Gateway City and Kansas City Southern stepped in to purchase the railroad during May of 1997.  Today, the KCS continues to use the GWWR as a vital link within its system and still subletters equipment in the railroad's name. 

The 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.  

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 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 a New York firm purchased the remainder from Kansas City to St. Louis, agreeing to allow Santa Fe to move freight over the line.  

Diesel Locomotive Roster

Builder Model Type Road Number Notes Quantity
EMDSW12001201-1204Ex-Kansas City Terminal4
EMDMP15AC1510Ex-Kansas City Terminal1
EMDGP382000-2047Ex-Penn Central48

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).   The GWRR saw prodigious levels of intermodal business moving over its rails towards St. Louis thanks to the Santa Fe, via a connection at Kansas City (by the 1990s the Santa Fe was moving more and more containers of its Chicago - Los Angeles main line).   With a former Burlington Northern route (the St. Louis-San Francisco Railway, or Frisco) already reaching St. Louis, the new BNSF no longer needed trackage rights over the GWWR.  As a result, Kansas City Southern, eyeing a further reach into the Midwest picked up the property on May 5, 1997. 

Related Reading You May Enjoy

Top Of Page

› Gateway Western Railway

Popular Topics