Forgotten Landmark-St. Louis & San Francisco Railway, Oklahoma Highway 2 and U.S. Highway 271 between Poteau and Antlers
The “Frisco” had its origin as the South West Branch of the Pacific Railroad, building southwest from St. Louis in the 1850s. War and financial difficulties plagued the road in its several early incarnations, including John C. Frémont’s South West Pacific (1866-1868), the South Pacific (1868-1870), and as part of the Atlantic & Pacific Railroad (1870-1876). The modern history of the “Frisco” can be dated from the organization of the St. Louis and San Francisco Railway Company in 1876. This road fell into receivership in 1893, emerging in 1896 as the new St. Louis and San Francisco Railroad Company. This firm likewise failed, in 1913, being reorganized in 1916 as the St. Louis-San Francisco Railway Company. This corporate identification was retained, despite further financial difficulties, until it was absorbed by the Burlington Northern in 1980. Headquartered in St. Louis, the “Frisco” served a wide area, with terminals in St. Louis, Kansas City (Mo.), Dallas, Memphis, Birmingham, Mobile, and Pensacola (Fla.). The “X-shaped” system maintained a primary junction at Springfield (Mo.). At its peak, in the 1930s, the road operated on over 5,000 miles of track.
The Great Depression of the 1930s made revenues disastrously fall. However, no large-scale abandonments took place before 1940, although the company was again in receivership since 1932. On its feet again by 1947, the Frisco struggled on with growing competition of road and air, and most passenger services were cut back or ended. Several branches were closed, but of the old main lines only this line, from Poteau to Hugo, was closed by the end of the twentieth century.