Memphis and Little Rock Railroad
The Memphis and Little Rock Railroad was the first railroad connecting central Arkansas to the rail network of the nation.
Charter and Construction
The Memphis and Little Rock was chartered by an act of the Arkansas General Assembly on January 11, 1853. The railroad company began surveying and laying track on a five-and-a-half foot gauge at West Memphis on the Mississippi River in 1854. The Little Rock locomotive crossed the Mississippi for the first time on September 12, 1857. Iron rails reached Madison, Arkansas, in 1858. By the outbreak of the Civil War, the railroad was still only operating thirty-eight miles of track between Hopefield on the Mississippi River to Madison on the St. Francis. The bridge at the St. Francis River required a 600 foot span and a 200 foot revolving central drawbridge for steamships passing on the river.
In March 1861 the railroad began laying track in the opposite direction from the village of Huntersville on the right bank of the Arkansas River across from Little Rock. The western division of the railroad reached the Bayou Meto by January 1862 and on January 26 Arkansas Gazette owner William E. Woodruff drove in the ceremonial last spike. Ten locomotives and ninety-eight cars ran between Little Rock and DeValls Bluff on the Bayou Meto by 1865.
A forty-five mile section between De Valls Bluff and Madison proved difficult to cross due to the presence of the L'Anguille River, the Bayou Deview, and the Cache River. The railroad bridged the White River, a key gap in the route, near DeValls Bluff in 1871. On April 11, 1871, locomotives began moving freely from Memphis to Little Rock.
The depot for the railway was at the west end of Water Street. The administrative offices were located at 102 1/2 West Markham Avenue.
- F. E. Hastings
General Passenger and Freight Agents
- H. W. Morrison
Sale to the Choctaw, Oklahoma & Gulf Railroad
The Choctaw, Oklahoma & Gulf Railroad bought the Memphis & Little Rock in 1898, and built what is now known as the Rock Island Bridge across the Arkansas River. The Choctaw, Oklahoma, and Gulf Railroad was purchased by the Rock Island Railroad in April 1, 1904.
- Tom W. Dillard, "On a Slow Road Through Arkansas," Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, August 9, 2009.
- Dow v. Memphis & Little Rock R. Co., 124 U.S. 652 (1888).
- Gene Hull, "First Iron Horse Runs on Memphis & Little Rock," Arkansas Railroader 37.7 (July 2006): 4.
- Memphis & L.R. R. Co. v. Railroad Commissioners, 112 U.S. 609 (1884).
- "Memphis and Little Rock Railroad Submerged," New York Times, April 24, 1874.
- "The Memphis and Little Rock Railroad Troubles," New York Times, July 1, 1875.