Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture

Skip Navigation

Electronic Publishing Center
Oklahoma Historical Society
Encyclopedia Homepage
Search all Volumes
Disclaimer and Usage
© Copyright 2003

Table of Contents Search All Entries Home


Although the Kansas City Southern (KCS) has only a one-hundred-mile stretch of main line through eastern Oklahoma, it still is one of the more important independent railroads in the state. The company was incorporated in 1893 by Kansas City real estate tycoon Arthur E. Stilwell (1859-1928) as the Kansas City, Pittsburgh and Gulf Railroad. By taking over existing small lines and building new stretches, he pieced together a line through Missouri and Arkansas as far south as Siloam Springs, Arkansas. There construction stopped for lack of funding. Stilwell then found new financial backing in Holland and continued construction south through Indian Territory by way of Sallisaw and Poteau. In 1898 a terminus on Lake Sabine, Texas, was reached, which was named Port Arthur.

By then the railroad had overextended itself, and Stilwell was ousted from the management. In 1900 the company was reorganized as the Kansas City Southern Railway, with, among others, Edward H. Harriman as representative of the Dutch interests on the board. Extensive rebuilding and upgrading of the cheaply built line was necessary, but the development of the Texas oil fields provided the railroad with a lot of traffic. Expansion in Oklahoma came in 1904 with the acquisition of the Arkansas Western Railroad, which had been incorporated in 1899 to build a thirty-two-mile line from Waldron, Arkansas, to Heavener, Oklahoma, on the KCS main line. Although owned by the KCS, the Arkansas Western continued to operate under its own name. In 1939 part of the abandoned Fort Smith and Western was acquired as the Fort Smith and Van Buren Railway.

The 1930s were lean years for the company, but wartime traffic soon almost choked the line with the transportation of oil and other commodities. Today the KCS is still one of the few independent railroads in the country. At the end of the twentieth century its main line through Oklahoma still saw a lot of bridge traffic from the Midwest to the Gulf and into Mexico through running rights over the Union Pacific and interchange with Mexican companies.


BIBLIOGRAPHY: Keith L. Bryant, Jr., Arthur E. Stilwell, Promoter with a Hunch (Nashville, Tenn.: Vanderbilt University Press, 1971). Donovan L. Hofsommer, ed., Railroads in Oklahoma (Oklahoma City: Oklahoma Historical Society, 1977). Augustus J. Veenendaal, Jr., "The Kansas City Southern Railway and the Dutch Connection," Business History Review 61 (Summer 1987).

Augustus J. Veenendaal, Jr.

© Oklahoma Historical Society

Return to top

Electronic Publishing Center | OSU Home | Search this Site