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Railroads page Railroad schedule.jpg
Railroads page Map Missouri Pacific and
early MK&T slogan..jpg

Research by Harold Kerr II


In the mid 1800’s, railroads became very important for the economic growth of many communities. The people in Cooper County knew they needed railroads to grow and prosper. They eagerly voted bonds to aid in constructing railroads, and land was purchased for four main railroad lines.  If a railroad went through a town, the town usually gained population and businesses.  The trains were fast and comfortable, making stage coaches unnecessary and soon after trains arrived in the County, stagecoaches ceased to be needed.


There have been two major railroads that have gone through Cooper County through the years. The major, longest lived and last railroad, was the Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad, also called the MKT, and the more minor railroad was the Osage Valley and Southern Kansas Railroad.


The MKT, first known as the southern branch of the Union Pacific, was organized at Emporia in 1867. Work was begun on the road at Junction City, Kansas, in the summer of 1869, and in November the line was completed to Council Grove, Kansas, a distance of 37 miles; in December it was finished to Emporia, Kansas, 24 miles farther; in Feb., 1870, it was completed to Burlington, Kansas, 30 miles farther down the Neosho valley; in April another 30 miles took the road to Humboldt, Kansas,  and on June 6 the line entered the Indian Territory, (present day Oklahoma), thus securing the sole right of way, with a land grant, through that territory.


The Osage Division of the MKT Railroad began as a railroad known as the St. Louis and Santa Fe Railroad, Missouri Division which was incorporated on April 20th, 1869. Completed in 1871, the railroad was a single-track, standard gauge steam railroad that ran approximately 38 miles from Holden, Missouri (in Johnson County) to the Missouri/Kansas state line. As St. Louis and Santa Fe Railroad, Missouri Division quickly went bankrupt; the Katy Railroad officially completed the purchase of the charter on May 29th, 1872.


However, involvement may have dated back to 1870 (at the inception of the line) when Levi Parson and Francis Skiddy set into motion their plan to see that the Katy Railroad would be the first to reach Indian Territory, and the only one allowed to tap the riches of Texas and the Southwest. To this end, Parson and Skiddy set into motion a much larger plan that included the chartering of the Neosho Valley and Holden Railroad in Kansas. The charter for the Neosho Valley and Holden Railroad in Kansas was issued on May 7th, 1870. On the same day, the Neosho Valley and Holden Railroad entered into an agreement allowing for the merger and consolidation of the company with the KATY Railroad. The Neosho Valley and Holden Railway Company was effectively a paper railroad and did not construct any railroad. The original plan of the Neosho Valley and Holden Railroad was to connect in the east with the St. Louis and Santa Fe Railroad, Missouri Division, and continue west To Emporia. However, the rail line never reached Emporia; it only reached Paola, Kansas (where it connected with the Missouri Pacific Railroad). This created an orphan line with no connection to the main lines at either Emporia, Kansas or Sedalia, Missouri.


The MKT comes to Cooper County

As for development in Cooper County Missouri, on January 1, 1872 a contract was awarded for building the Northeastern Extension— under the name of the Tebo Neosho Railway—to Boonville in Cooper County, to Fayette in Howard County, and on to a junction with the North Missouri (Wabash) at Moberly, in Randolph County, Missouri.


The MKT track reached Pleasant Green in Cooper County on April  24, 1873 and by May 18 it reached Pilot Grove. The end-of-track reached Boonville on May 31, 1873. A celebration to mark the completion of the Northeastern Extension was held in Boonville on July 4, 1873, after the rail reached Fayette, Missouri on June 20, 1873. United States Congressman John Cosgrove was on hand for this celebration.


Before 1870, between Sedalia and Boonville, a span of thirty-four miles, there was hardly a house to be seen. Pilot Grove was laid out very soon after the railroad arrived, on May 30, 1873. Pleasant Green came into being on June 28. Clifton City, on September 29, 1873. These three towns became busy major centers of commerce for several years until the railroad was disbanded.  Once the railroad no longer came through the towns, population dropped and businesses closed.


One interesting spot along the rail was south of Boonville, a place called “Lard Hill.” Old timers in the area described how this came to be known by this colorful name: an old Irish lady who was untidy in appearance, had a shack full of children and no husband. Allegedly, a KATY train killed the family pig one day, and, since the pig was in an area where it had no business being, and was a terrible looking thing, the claims agent valued the loss at $5.00.  The woman was extremely upset about this and went about to get revenge. She rendered the fat from the pig and every time she heard the train whistle for the Boonville train, she would send her children out to put lard on the tracks. After several times of the train slipping and sliding to make its way, the railroad gave the woman more money for her loss.


Yet, nothing appears in the records to validate this story. Another story holds that disgruntled farmers in the area larded the rails as they were unhappy with the rail coming through their land.


The MKT ran until 1989 when it was succeeded by the Missouri Pacific Railroad (a/k/a MoPac). In 1997 the MoPac became the Union Pacific.





There is a Katy Railroad Historical Society Museum located in Denison, Texas. They are a 501c3 organization.  Memberships are available on the website.  Their webpage is Their phone number is 903-327-5966.


The other line that came to Cooper County was the Osage Valley and Southern Kansas Railroad.

The Southern Kansas was one of five railroads to receive their charter from the first legislature in Kansas in 1855. The capital stock of the Southern Kansas was fixed at $3,000,000, and the company was given a franchise to build a road "from the Missouri state line due west of Springfield to the west line of Kansas Territory." A. J. Dorn, William J. Godfroy, James M. Linn, Joseph C. Anderson and others were named as the incorporators, and the act stipulated that work was to begin on the road within nine years.

On October 17, 1860 a convention met at Topeka with about 125 delegates present, representing 20 counties of the territory. The principal work of the convention was the adoption of a resolution to the effect that a petition be presented to Congress asking an appropriation of public lands to aid in the construction of railroads in Kansas as follows: A railroad from the western boundary of the State of Missouri, where the Osage Valley & Southern Kansas railroad terminates, westwardly via Emporia, Fremont and Council Grove, to the Fort Riley Military Reservation, among other issues.

In 1867 a company was organized under the name of the Osage Valley & Southern Kansas Railroad Company, proposing to construct a railroad from Boonville on the Missouri river to Fort Scott and $100,000 in bonds was asked of Bates County with a donation of the right of way. Chicago was to be the northern terminus, an "air line" to "just where you like it." The county officials did not seem to catch onto this scheme and no action of the bond question was taken.


The Osage Valley and Southern Kansas Railroad was chartered in 1857 by the Missouri Legislature to run from a point on the Pacific Railroad near present day Tipton, Missouri, to Emporia, Kansas. The charter was modified in 1858 to include an extension north to Boonville, Missouri. Grading on the line was completed to Versailles, Missouri, in 1861, but was halted due to the American Civil War. After the war the Boonville to Tipton portion was completed in 1868 and leased to the Pacific Railroad. In 1870, portions of the line were graded from Warsaw, Missouri, north to Cole Camp, Missouri.

Construction ended in 1872, when the line defaulted on bond payments. The Warsaw portion became the property of Benton County, Missouri, and was later used, in 1880, as the roadbed for the narrow-gauge Sedalia, Warsaw and Southern Railway between Sedalia and Warsaw.


The line between Tipton and Versailles, Missouri, was reorganized in 1880 and 1881, as the Boonville, St. Louis and Southern Railway, and was then leased to Jay Gould's Missouri Pacific Railway.


On January 13, 1880, a train wreck occurred on the Boonville Branch. The wreck occurred at 4:30 in the afternoon about three miles north of Tipton. Five box cars next to the engine jumped the track, tearing up the rails for about a hundred yards. There were passengers and baggage, as well as empty cars on the train, but these did not come off the track. No one was injured. The engineer, named Rosenhahn, gave the engine full steam when he saw that the head box car was trying to come onto his tender. This caused the coupling to break and the car broke away. Four of the broken cars were empty and one was full of merchandise headed to Boonville. No passenger or merchandise was late to arrive, due to good management of the situation.


The line operated until June 1935, when successor Missouri Pacific Railroad asked permission of the Interstate Commerce Commission to abandon the line. The last train operated was to Versailles on April 30, 1936, and the entire property was torn up except for a bit at the Boonville end, which followed 2nd Street.

This line came up from Moniteau County through Kelly Township, where there was a station called Vermont Station. The name “Vermont” may have come from the fact that Nathaniel Leonard, a large property owner in southern Cooper County (over 1,500 acres in 1877) was born in the State of Vermont. The line went up through present-day Bunceton, Speed, and into Boonville.


The Osage Valley and Southern Kansas was succeeded by the Boonville, St Louis and Southern Railway in 1881. This railroad was then succeeded by the MoPac in 1956, which was then succeeded by the Union Pacific in 1997.



Osage Valley and Southern Kansas Railroad

Legends of Kansas

Genealogy Trails


The Tipton (MO) Times, January 15, 1880


The Missouri Pacific built a route from St. Louis to Kansas City, which came through the     southern part of Cooper County. The line was completed through Otterville in 1860.

The second railroad to come through Cooper County was the Osage Valley and Southern Kansas Railroad, a branch line of the Missouri Pacific. It ran from Boonville to Versailles, with stops at Billingsville, Jo Town, New Palestine, Petersburg, Bunceton and Vermont. It was   completed in 1868. This line was abandoned in 1937.


The third railroad was originally called the Tebo and Neosho, and later the Missouri, Kansas and Texas (shortened to “KATY” or “MKT”). It was built through Cooper County in the early 1870s and crossed the Missouri River at Boonville going through Prairie Lick, Pilot Grove, Harriston, Pleasant Green, and Clifton City. It ceased operation in 1986. The tracks have been removed and it  has been converted to a recreation bike trail and is now called the Katy Trail


Prairie Lick and Harriston are now extinct, and Pleasant Green and Clifton City are now just settlements with a few homes.  Pilot Grove, although not the large thriving city it once was, is now the second largest town in Cooper County.

The fourth railroad to come through Cooper County was called the River Route because it followed along the Missouri River. It was built by the Missouri Pacific and is now the Union Pacific. It was completed as far as Boonville in the early 1890s and then extended downriver to St. Louis in the early 1900s. It goes through Overton, Wooldridge, Boonville, Lamine, and Blackwater, but does not stop.  All the above towns became prosperous while the trains regularly stopped there, but  once the railroads left, so did business and the population.  Today, Overton, Wooldridge, Lamine and Speed have no businesses, but there are still a few homes there.  The Union Pacific railroad still carries coal and other freight, especially coal, on a regular basis as it travels past Boonville.

RAILROAD BRIDGES over the Missouri River


In 1869 people began talking about building a railroad bridge over the Missouri River at Boonville, but it was not until 1870 that steps were taken to build one.  Once the Tebo and Neosho railroad was turned over to the Missouri, Kansas and Texas Railroad, a charter was obtained for the building of the bridge, plus with an act of Congress, the building began is 1872.  The bridge was completed in January, 1874.


The first bridge was a swing-span bridge which was replaced a few years later by a lift-span bridge, which is the type that still stands.


This is the Union Pacific coal train #6040 going east through Boonville from the west on Feb. 5th, 2015 at 9:50 AM. It came from the coal fields in Colorado. We don't see as many of them here these days. They are using other sources of fuel nowadays in the power plants.  This train does not stop in Boonville.

UP Engine # 601 at sper Aug. 1998.jpeg

Union Pacific RR spur at Boonville, August 1998, way before Isle of 

Capri Casino Hotel. By Wayne Lammers. 

An etching of the original   Boonville bridge, 9-1874.Chris Cruzjpg.jpg
Bridges page Katy Bridge 1874.jpg

First Katy Bridge

MK&T_Railroad_Bridge_Construction 1896 -

Third Katy Bridge in 1880

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Katy Bridge 1950's

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Barge passing through bridge. - Version

View from under the Katy Bridge

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Bridges of Boonville.



By Wayne Lammers


Kids from the west side of town crossed the Katy Railroad tracks on an unprotected path from Haller Street to Kemper, and on Spring and Morgan Streets, near the Katy Depot, at crossings protected by bright flashing red lights and loud warning bells, sometimes we counted 100 cars as we waited.  Even though tragedy struck at Morgan Street in 1953, some still caught a short ride from Spring to Haller on the ladder of a slow-moving boxcar as a long train lumbered southwest up Lard Hill.


The busy Katy bridge across the Missouri River provided crossings for Katy trains carrying freight from near St. Louis to Galveston, and for boys from Boonville carrying .22 rifles to the sloughs and sand bars along the north shore to shoot cans and bottles.  Crossings by the latter were sometimes sanctioned and sometimes stealthy, depending on the operator on duty in the shanty on the Boonville side.  There was no walkway, and if you were caught on the bridge by a train, it was loud and shaky holding onto a beam as the train roared past.


My friend Kenny and I tried another crossing method, riding his motorcycle across from the north approach.  Bump-bump, bump-bump, bump-bump across the ties.  No trains came.  The operator in the shanty just shook his head as we passed.  He didn’t need to tell us not to do it again.



Old MKT Caboose


Visitors' side of Katy Bridge

Bridges page Katy Bridge Dedication.JPG

Ribbon Cutting of the Katy Bridge on April 2, 2016

Governor Jay Nixon and Ann Betteridge

Katy Bridge reopening celebrated during Boonville Ceremony


By Rudi Keller / | 815-1709

Posted Apr 3, 2016 at 12:01 AM

BOONVILLE -- When the last train crossed the MKT Railroad bridge at Boonville in May 1986, Dennis Huff was the engineer and he called his friend Wayne Lammers to record it.

The five-minute video explores the 1932 bridge and shows the 408-foot lift span in the up position, then cuts to the locomotive, with Huff hanging his arm out the window, as it approaches and passes. The 16 tanker, gondola and hopper cars pass within a few inches of the camera lens.

On Saturday, Huff, Lammers and hundreds of others from Boonville and beyond returned to the bridge to celebrate its resurrection as part of the Katy Trail State Park.

“It is nice to see a piece of history be preserved and put to some useful purpose,” Huff said before the festivities began.

During the short ceremony, Gov. Jay Nixon was praised as the savior of the bridge by former Columbia Mayor Darwin Hindman, who in turn was dubbed Mayor of the Katy Trail by Boonville Mayor Julie Thacher.

Nixon was attorney general in 2005 when then-Gov. Matt Blunt approved plans for the Union Pacific Railroad to dismantle the bridge for use as a second span at the Osage River for its line south of the Missouri River. Nixon took “the unusual and extremely brave step of suing the governor to set aside the decision,” Hindman told the gathering.

Nixon argued the bridge was part of the deal that transferred the rail line to the state for trail use in 1990. The lawsuit ultimately was unsuccessful, but it delayed demolition until after Nixon became governor in 2009. Union Pacific’s second span at the Osage River was built with federal stimulus funds, and the Boonville bridge was deeded to the state.

“This is really a fun day for me,” Nixon said before crossing the bridge with his wife Georgeanne Nixon.

“I am not as excited about suing governors as I used to be,” he joked.

Saturday’s ceremony celebrated the first phase of the bridge rehabilitation, costing about $900,000 and financed with a combination of private donations, city revenue and federal block grant funds. Visitors can walk about a third of the way across the river for views up- and downstream and a close-up look at the lift span.

The next two phases are to complete a similar walkway on the Howard County side and, eventually, finish the crossing by putting the lift span into regular operation, said Paula Shannon, executive director of the Katy Bridge Coalition. The project cost is estimated to be $3.4 million.

The ceremony brought many former residents back to Boonville to be part of the crowd of about 400 who attended the ceremony.

“It is like going to a class reunion, almost,” Shannon said.

The MKT’s days were numbered when Huff guided his locomotive over the river on May 23, 1986. The railroad had been in on-and-off merger negotiations with the Union Pacific for several years. A flood in October 1986 knocked the line north of the Missouri River out of commission. it was abandoned after the merger was approved by federal regulators.

The state acquired the line under federal rail banking laws, and the trail now extends for 240 miles from Machens in St. Charles County to Clinton in Henry County. Because the bridge was left in the up position after it ceased being used, trail traffic goes over the river on a walkway attached to the Highway 40 bridge.

The completion of the first phase is the realization of a dream, Lammers said.

“It is a glorious day,” Lammers said. “It is one we have been working toward for years and years.”

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This is the Rocheport Bridge in Boone County with the Katy RR below. 

Photographer unknown, October 8, 1960.

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