Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture

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After Arthur Stilwell, the builder of the Kansas City Southern, had been ousted from the management of that company in 1900, he formulated a plan for a sixteen-hundred-mile railway from Kansas City through Oklahoma and Texas all the way to the Mexican Pacific port of Topolobampo. The Kansas City, Mexico and Orient Railway (KCMO) was incorporated in 1900,and Stilwell found financial backing both in America and England. For construction across the rugged Sierra Madre mountain region a most favorable agreement was drawn up with the Mexican government of Pres. Porfirio Diaz. Actual construction started near Sweetwater, Texas, in 1900, and in 1903 the tracks had been constructed from Wichita, Kansas, to Fairview, Oklahoma Territory. Construction proceeded slowly due to lack of funds, but in 1909 the line stretched from Wichita all the way through Oklahoma by way of Clinton and Altus into Texas as far as San Angelo. Alpine, Texas, where a connection was made with the Southern Pacific, was reached in 1913.

By then disaster had already struck in the shape of the revolution in Mexico. Much of the KCMO tracks in that nation were destroyed, traffic was disrupted, and income plummeted. In 1912 the bondholders threw the company into receivership. In 1914 the road was sold to the bondholders, and Stilwell was ousted from the presidency. Oil in West Texas provided some new income and led to the sale in 1928 of the American lines of the Orient to the Santa Fe. Most of the line through Oklahoma is still operated by that company, but only as a branch, not as the main line that Stilwell had in mind.


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). John L. Kerr and Frank Donovan, Destination Topolobampo; The Kansas City, Mexico and Orient Railway (San Marino, Calif.: Golden West Books, 1968).

Augustus J. Veenendaal, Jr.

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