Frisco System

By: George C. Werner

Type: General Entry

Published: 1952

Updated: September 1, 1995

The St. Louis-San Francisco Railway Company, commonly called the Frisco, was a major railroad serving nine states. One main route extended from St. Louis across Missouri and Oklahoma with lines entering Texas at four points. The second main route ran from Kansas City to Memphis, Tennessee; Birmingham, Alabama; and Pensacola, Florida. The two lines crossed at Springfield, Missouri. Another line followed the Mississippi River between St. Louis and Memphis. At the end of 1933 the Frisco system, including independently operated subsidiaries, totaled 5,839 miles of main track. Over 56 percent of this mileage was located in Missouri and Oklahoma and only 622 miles was in Texas. The Paris and Great Northern Railroad Company, chartered on July 28, 1881, was the first Frisco property in the state. It was projected to run from Paris to a connection with a Frisco predecessor at Red River. Construction began in February 1886, and the line was placed in operation in January 1888. The sixteen mile long Paris and Great Northern was merged into the St. Louis, San Francisco and Texas Railway Company on June 1, 1928. The St. Louis, San Francisco and Texas was chartered on March 9, 1900, to build from the Red River to Denison, a distance of slightly over five miles. Another Frisco property, the Red River, Texas and Southern Railway Company was chartered on February 4, 1901, and built a line from Sherman to Carrollton. Trackage rights extended operations to Dallas and Fort Worth. This line was merged with the St. Louis, San Francisco and Texas on June 25, 1904. Two other lines completed the Frisco construction in North Texas. The Blackwell, Enid and Texas Railway Company, chartered on July 2, 1901, operated a line from Red River to Vernon, while the Oklahoma City and Texas Railroad Company, chartered on December 26, 1901, built from Red River to Quanah. These companies were merged into the St. Louis, San Francisco, and Texas on June 30 and July 25, 1904, respectively. With the inclusion of the Paris and Great Northern, the St. Louis, San Francisco and Texas operated 158 miles of main track including leased lines and trackage rights. The four lines entering Texas all connected with lines of the Frisco. The St. Louis, San Francisco and Texas was merged into the St. Louis-San Francisco on January 1, 1964. Under the direction of Benjamin F. Yoakum, the Frisco became a major Texas railroad when it financed the construction of a series of companies running along the Gulf Coast from Brownsville to New Orleans. In Texas the railroads included the St. Louis, Brownsville and Mexico Railway Company, the San Benito and Rio Grande Valley Railway Company, and the Beaumont, Sour Lake and Western Railway Company. The sections between Brownsville and Houston and between Houston and Beaumont opened in 1907. However, the Frisco lost control of its properties in South Texas when it entered receivership in 1913. The Frisco subsequently attempted to rebuild a Texas system by acquiring the International-Great Northern Railroad Company. However, in 1923 the Interstate Commerce Commission refused to allow the purchase.

The Frisco also owned several railroads in Texas that were operated independently, the largest of which was the Fort Worth and Rio Grande Railway Company with 233 miles of track between Fort Worth and Menard. This company, chartered on June 1, 1885, was built between 1886 and 1911. It was acquired by the Frisco in 1901. On March 1, 1937, it was sold to the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway Company. The Brownwood North and South Railway Company was chartered on January 29, 1910, and completed a line from a connection with the Fort Worth and Rio Grande at Brownwood to May, a distance of eighteen miles, in 1911. This line was acquired by the Frisco shortly after construction began in 1910 and was abandoned in 1927. On July 1, 1930, the Frisco acquired the Gulf, Texas and Western Railway Company, which operated over 107 miles of main track between Seymour and Mineral Wells. This company had been chartered on November 2, 1908, and was constructed between 1908 and 1913. The Frisco bought the Gulf, Texas and Western to form part of a proposed route between Vernon and Fort Worth, but the line was a victim of the Great Depression and was not built. The Gulf, Texas and Western was abandoned in 1939, but the physical property was sold to the Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railway Company. The Quanah, Acme and Pacific Railway Company was chartered on May 3, 1902, as the Acme, Red River and Northern Railway Company, and owned a 111 mile line from Quanah to Floydada. The Frisco acquired an interest in the Quanah, as the line was called, in 1911, and it was still an active subsidiary of the Frisco when the parent company was merged into the Burlington Northern Railroad Company on November 21, 1980.

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

George C. Werner, “Frisco System,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed August 14, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

September 1, 1995