St. Louis-San Francisco Railway, known as the Frisco, was a dominant
railroad throughout the south central United States, primarily
in Missouri, Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Kansas. It played an important
role in the lives of people all along the rails. The Frisco had
acquired rights of way through much of the region and had an interest
in the development of that land, which would eventually bring people
to an area, people who would use the services of the railroad.
Many of the towns began initially as a result of a depot or station
needed by the Frisco for fuel and water. The population also expanded
along the railroad as a result of the opportunities for employment
The Frisco was particularly influential to the Springfield, Missouri
area because its operational center was located there for many
years. This included headquarters, major assembly and repair shops,
and support activities of all kinds. The Frisco was the major employer
and the key to twentieth century development in the area. Ozarks
residents became trades people, office workers, executives, depot
workers and operating personnel. Employees relied on the Frisco
for employment and local business relied on the Frisco employees
for their livelihood.
For many years the Frisco provided a primary link between small
towns in the South and Midwest to the rest of the country. The
Frisco shipped products to market, brought goods in for local consumption,
and provided reliable mail, package, and passenger service. Expansion
of service into branch lines enabled local development which in
turn helped the railroad prosper.
Author Craig Miner abbreviated the impact of the St. Louis-San
Francisco in the preface of his book, The St. Louis-San Francisco
Transcontinental Railroad: the thirty-fifth parallel project, 1853-1890:
"The St. Louis-San Francisco transcontinental was the
serious continental railway which was the longest before
the public eye. It was one of the first routes to be seriously
considered and the last great trunk line to resolve its fate.
Men died of old age working on it and men spent careers working
on it. Five corporations ran the cycle from organization
to bankruptcy, and the Indian nations through which it ran
evolved from primitive agriculturalists to sophisticated
This brief history of the Frisco was found at the Burlington
Northern Santa Fe web
"The Saint Louis-San Francisco Railway Company, known
in the Midwest and Southwest as the “Frisco” has
a history that developed with, and sometimes led the way for,
westward expansion in the second half of the nineteenth century.
What became the Frisco was chartered in 1849 as the Pacific Railroad
of Missouri. Construction began in 1855, but was later slowed
with the advent of the United States Civil War, 1861-1865.
In 1876, the southwest branch of the Pacific was purchased by the Saint Louis-San
Francisco Railway; the road was extended into Oklahoma and Kansas, and by the
1880s was complete through Tulsa to Sapulpa, Oklahoma. After the turn of the
century the Frisco completed the line though Kansas and Oklahoma and into Texas.
In 1901 the Railway expanded to the Southeast and by the 1920s had reached the
Gulf of Mexico at Pensacola, Florida."
The Frisco became part of the Burlington Northern Railroad
system in 1978, which in turn joined with the Santa Fe Railroad
to become the Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) in 1995."
What's On This Site
This digital collection presents several groups of records which
were previously held by the now defunct Frisco Museum in Springfield,
Missouri. Postcards, employee information cards, Frisco employee
magazines, and photographs have been chosen to tell the story of
the railroad. The Museum collection is privately owned and not
available for public research.
The Frisco Museum was started by Allen Schmidt, a history teacher
and railroad enthusiast who amassed a sizeable private collection
and opened the first Frisco Museum in Ash Grove, Missouri, in 1984.
The Museum later formed an association and in 1994 leased a former
Frisco traffic control building on Commercial Street in Springfield.
In 2000, the Museum closed and later the collection was sold to
Springfield Underground. Springfield Underground has made this
material available to the Springfield-Greene County Library. Funded
by a digital imaging grant from the state of Missouri, the Library
has created this educational web site of special interest to railroad
hobbyists, historians, genealogists, and others seeking information
about the history of the region.
Many of the photographs were created by the Frisco for internal
purposes by staff photographers from the company’s testing
lab. These include interiors and exteriors of various cars during
construction and outfitting. They also recorded company events
involving employees from various departments. We have included
a variety of these to represent various aspects of company life.
While the photos are well documented, they do not always identify
individuals. Some appear to have been taken for the employee
magazine or for a promotion, others for record keeping and quality
Depot Photos:The FRISCO Museum maintained
a Depot file on for most of the stops on the Frisco Line. We
have supplied at least one photo of each Missouri Depot that
was included in the file. Generally there is not supporting information
beyond what was found on the photograph and the file folder created
by the Museum. When there was a modern building that replaced
a more historic structure, we tended to include the earlier photo.
In some cases there may be more that one image presented.
Locomotive Photos: This collection
includes representative images from steam and diesel locomotives.
The information that accompanies them is generally what was provided
on the photograph. The source of this information varies: Frisco
provided notations on some of the photos; the FRISCO Museum added
data for filing purposes; the original photographer made notes,
or in some cases information was provided by an unknown collector.
Generally we have attempted to represent each series of locomotives,
and have arranged them numerically. If there were several photos
of the same locomotive available, what appeared to be the best
quality image, or a unique view was chosen. An interesting historical
note: The Meteor Diesel (Frisco E-7/E-8) passenger locomotives
were named for famous racehorses. Beginning in 1950 these locomotives
were named after Kentucky Derby winners between 1925 and 1940;
these are sometimes referred to as the "Racehorses".
Some of these units were: Fair Play, Jet Pilot, Flying Ebony,
Sea Biscuit, Citation, and Big Red.
Presented here are eighty-two postcards depicting Frisco scenes,
primarily between 1920 and 1960. Many are images of some of the
more impressive depots and other structures associated with the
Frisco, especially the buildings in St. Louis, Kansas City, and
Springfield, Missouri. In addition, there are some trackside
scenes and interiors of cars. Some may have been done to promote
towns along the way, while others are clearly promotional souvenirs
created specifically for the Frisco. Information from the cards
is noted when available. The text of the message, sender, and
recipient are included if they were legible on the original.
The dates noted are not necessarily the date of the image, but
the date of the postmark found on the original.
Frisco Employee Magazines
" The FRISCO Employes' Magazine was a monthly publication
devoted primarily to interests of active and retired employes
of the Frisco Lines. It contains stories, items of current news,
personal notes about employes and their families, articles dealing
with various phases of railroad work….” (FRISCO Employes'
Magazine, April 1933)
The magazine had local reporters who filed stories about the activities of employee
groups and individuals. Employees had musical groups, baseball and bowling teams,
picnics, luncheons etc. These articles reflect what was of interest to the employees
and what was popular throughout the region.
The Frisco Employee magazine was published regularly from 1908
until 1978. 1902-1935 are currently available online. The magazine
was at various times also called FRISCO Man, and later All Aboard
(this is not the same publication as the All Aboard that was
published by the Frisco Museum Association 1986-2001)
For More Information
For more about the Frisco, the importance to the area and the
development of the collection see: “FRISCO
Family of Railroads”,
Alan Schmitt, Ozarkswatch Fall 1993.
In 2005 some corporate records and ICC reports are held by Western Historical
Manuscript collection, in Rolla, Missouri.
The Duane G. Meyer Library Special Collections Department at
Southwest Missouri State University has some materials as outlined
in a January 2005 news release:
[Records of the St. Louis – San Francisco Railway Company (FRISCO) have
been acquired by Southwest Missouri State University’s University Libraries.
The collection consists primarily of over 1,000 bound volumes of Frisco Interstate
Commerce Commission (ICC) reports and Record of Property Change (RPC) books from
1918 to 1974 and over 100 c.f. of shop files from the 1940s to the 1970s. The
RPC volumes cover a wide geographical area including Florida, Alabama, Mississippi,
Arkansas, Tennessee, Texas, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Missouri. The shop files include
diagrams and schematics (including painting diagrams) for a broad range of railroad
equipment from railroad cars to tools and fittings. Other materials donated include
maps, stationary, labor agreements, and publications. The FRISCO Railway, although
never reaching California, laid its first tracks in the 1850s. The railroad eventually
had over 5000 miles of track from Florida to St. Louis and from St. Louis to
Texas and Kansas. Springfield served as the railroad’s hub where repairs
were made to the trains from the four corners of the FRISCO line. The FRISCO
Railroad merged with the Burlington Northern Railroad in 1980.
SMSU Duane G. Meyer Library Special Collections and Archives
also hold the Records of the United Transportation Union (UTU).
These institutions do not hold any personnel records.
Springfield Underground and Louis Griesemer for providing access
to this remarkable collection.
Funding for this project was provided by a grant from the federal
Institute of Museum and Library Services through the Library
Services and Technology Act (LSTA) administered by the Missouri
Many of the photos were taken by Arthur and Allen Johnson. Arthur
was a long time Frisco employee who was also an avid photographer,
and took many Frisco related photos from the late 1930’s
until about 1960. According to a former co-worker, Mr. Johnson
worked in Springfield as a clerk in Freight Car Management, tracking
movement of freight cars in the system. In 1989 (1) he donated
his photos and many of the negatives to the Frisco Museum. Arthur’s
brother Allen Johnson holds copyright to many of these and similar
photos. Questions regarding photo quality images may be sent
to: Mr. Allen Johnson., 1642 Evelyn Street, San Angelo, Texas.
A number of photographs are attributed to Howard Killam, or his collection, and
these are held by the Spencer Research Library at the University of Kansas.
The text and images contained in this collection are intended
for research and educational use only. Duplication of any of
these images for commercial use without express written consent
is expressly prohibited. Please contact the copyright holder.