The Frisco

What's On This Site | Photographs | Postcards
Employee Magazines | More About Frisco | Bibliography | Acknowledgements | Copyright


The 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 it provided.

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 industrialists."

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.


Photograph Collections

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 control.


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.


Post Cards

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 State Library.

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.

Copyright Statement

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.

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