The Missouri Pacific Railroad, Route of the Eagles
The Missouri Pacific Railroad, better known by railroaders and railfans
as the “MoPac,” was never a strong company financially but it was always
a fighter. The railroad was the first to be built west of the
Mississippi River and would eventually come under the Jay Gould empire,
who owned scores of railroads in the 19th century. The railroad is also
well remembered for its beautiful paint scheme
of blue and gray with an eagle adorning the flanks of locomotives.
The MP, like many now-fallen flags, was actually a
hodgepodge of over smaller railroads put together throughout the years,
even after the MP name was born. The MoPac's original
predecessor was the Pacific Railroad, chartered in 1849 by the state of Missouri
to connect St. Louis with the Missouri River. Construction on the
railroad began just three years later but due to the topography (which
was quite rugged west of St. Louis) and the Civil War it was not able to
reach present-day Kansas City until 1865.
Three MoPac locomotives are assisted by an ICG GP10 as they hustle a freight through Gurdon, Arkansas on September 23, 1983. By this date the MoPac was a subsidiary of the Union Pacific.
The Pacific Railroad, however, struggled after completing its original
main line and was leased by the Atlantic & Pacific Railroad in 1872,
which would later come under the control of Jay Gould after it
defaulted, and the mogul purchased controlling interest in the company.
Gould would in turn reorganize all of the railroads into simply the
Missouri Pacific, which would quickly stretch throughout the west with
acquisitions in Missouri, Nebraska, and Kansas. After Gould was also
able to snatch up a somewhat parallel route of the St. Louis, Iron
Mountain & Southern the MoPac stretched into Texas.
By also owning the Texas & Pacific the MP reached
nearly all of Texas’s major cities and by the early 20th century it had
stretched across 11 Midwestern and Western states from New Orleans and
Memphis to Denver, Colorado and El Paso, Texas. For all of the
railroad’s mileage and size this did not necessarily turn into
substantial profits and earnings. Between its earliest beginnings and the mid-1950s the railroad witnessed over a half-dozen bankruptcies and reorganizations (the final one being in 1956). Perhaps most interesting about the MoPac was that for the railroad’s
large size, over 11,000 miles before it vanished as an independent
entity, it would not own a direct line into Chicago until the late 1960s
when it acquired the Chicago & Eastern Illinois. For all of these
drawbacks, however, the railroad was beloved wherever it went and its
famous eagle emblem, especially emblazoned on its fleet of Eagle passenger trains, was instantly recognized.
The MoPac’s fleet of passenger trains are also well remembered. The railroad operated a significant number
of popular trains but perhaps is most renowned for its fleet of Eagles; the Aztec Eagle, Colorado Eagle, Missouri River Eagle, Valley Eagle, Louisiana Eagle, and most famous of all the Texas Eagle. These trains and others reached across all stretches of the system but like most other Class I railroads many had been downgraded or discontinued altogether by the 1960s. Even the MoPac’s famous Texas Eagle
was reduced to a coach-only operation by the very early 1970s, although
Amtrak revived the train and continues to operate it today.
Being that the railroad was always short on cash
the Missouri Pacific was constantly looking for ways to cut costs.
With the advent of diesel power and the efficiencies it provided the MP
was quick to purchase the new motive power and had completely dieselized
by 1953. Likewise, the railroad ended the beautiful blue and gray
passenger livery in the 1960s instead opting for a much simpler solid
blue with white trim although locomotives continued to adorn an
adaptation of the MoPac’s famous eagle. Interestingly for railfans the
railroad purchased a wide variety of early diesel locomotives from Geeps
(EMDs) to the handsome Alco PAs although it would eventually settle on
EMDs for its second-generation diesels.
A side-profile of MoPac SD40 #3071 as the unit lays over at the yard in Dolton, Illinois on April 3, 1977.
Due to the railroad’s financial
situation it is not surprising that it would be purchased by another
railroad, which happened in 1982 when the Union Pacific merged the
railroad into its system. Interestingly when the UP purchased the MoPac
the latter was much larger in both terms of route miles and
locomotives. Similarly, for years the MoPac name continued
to flank locomotives albeit in the Armour Yellow and Gray of Union
Pacific, and the MoPac’s corporate identity was not officially dissolved
until as late as 1997.
A MoPac Class P-73 4-6-2, #6423, appears to be pulling its train out of Memphis, Tennessee on June 6, 1940.
Steam Locomotive Roster
6, 12, 2208, 2502, 8510, 8552, 8562, 8601, E (Various)
801, 851, C (Various)
1699, M (Various), MK (Various)
6000, 6001, P (Various)
One of the MoPac's largest steam locomotive designs was its fleet of 4-8-4 Northerns, rebuilt from its 2-8-4 Berkshires during the early 1940s. Seen here is #2204 sitting at the shop track in Jefferson City, Missouri on July 25, 1950.
Louisiana Sunshine Special: (Little Rock - Lake Charles)
Missouri River Eagle: (St. Louis - Omaha)
Missourian: (St. Louis - Kansas City/Wichita)
Orleanean: (Houston - New Orleans)
Ozarker: (St. Louis - Little Rock)
A southbound MoPac local freight led by GP9 #1746 is about to pass through the signals at Bay City, Texas during March of 1978.
Pioneer: (Houston - Brownsville)
Rainbow Special: (Kansas City - Little Rock)
Royal Gorge: (Kansas City - Pueblo)
Southerner: (St. Louis - El Paso/San Antonio/New Orleans)
Southern Scenic: (Kansas City - Memphis)
Sunflower: (St. Louis - Kansas City/Wichita)
Sunshine Special: (St. Louis - Hot Springs/San Antonio)
Texan: (St. Louis - Fort Worth)
Valley Eagle: (Houston - Brownsville)
GP15-1 #1700 works alone doing switching work at Pine Bluff, Arkansas on September 23, 1983. The railroad found this model very useful, owning more than 100 examples of the just over 300 built altogether by EMD.
Although the MP was just one of several railroads
to eventually be merged into Union Pacific its legacy will certainly
forever be remembered. Along with Amtrak continuing to operate its Texas Eagle,
the Union Pacific recently paid homage to several of its predecessors,
including the MoPac, by painting one of its new EMD SD70ACe locomotives
into a version of the railroad’s famous blue and gray passenger livery
complete with an eagle adorning the locomotive’s nose. The unit debuted
during the summer of 2005 and it received a number recognizing the
Missouri Pacific’s final year of independence, 1982.