Texarkana and Fort Smith Railway

By: Cecil Harper, Jr.

Type: General Entry

Published: 1952

Updated: July 1, 1995

The Texarkana and Fort Smith Railway Company was chartered on June 18, 1885, as the Texarkana and Northern Railway Company, with authority to build from Texarkana north to the Red River, a distance of ten miles. This line was built in 1885 and used for logging purposes. On July 9, 1889, the charter was amended by changing the name of the railroad to the T&FS with authority to build north of the Red River to Fort Smith, Arkansas. In that year the company built an additional ten miles from the Red River to Ashdown, Arkansas, and completed another six miles to Wilton, Arkansas, in 1892. On December 13, 1892, control of the T&FS was acquired by the Arkansas Construction Company acting on behalf of the Kansas City, Pittsburgh and Gulf Railroad Company. The KCP&G was being promoted by Arthur E. Stilwell as a short route from Kansas City to the Gulf of Mexico. On May 10, 1893, the T&FS charter was again amended to allow the company to build south of Texarkana through the states of Arkansas, Texas, and Louisiana to a point on the Gulf of Mexico. By March 1897 the T&FS had constructed an additional 85½ miles between Wilton and Mena, Arkansas. Stilwell originally planned to use Galveston as his Gulf port and secured an option on the Houston East and West Texas Railway Company. However, he subsequently decided to reach the Gulf farther east and bought 40,000 acres on the north bank of Sabine Lake. Here he laid out Port Arthur, which he named for himself, as the terminus of the railroad. The T&FS had completed twenty-nine miles of track between Texarkana and the Arkansas-Louisiana border by April 15, 1896, and on June 1, 1896, opened the nineteen miles between Port Arthur and Beaumont. The final link in the T&FS between Beaumont and the Sabine River was completed on September 11, 1897. The entire KCP&G route from Kansas City to the Gulf opened on November 1, 1897. When completed, the T&FS had 105 miles of main line in Arkansas and seventy-nine miles in Texas. The company built no track in Louisiana. Much of the financing for the KCP&G system came from Holland, and Stilwell honored the Dutch investors in the names selected for several towns along the T&FS such as Mena and DeQueen, Arkansas, and Nederland, Texas. The KCP&G was sold under foreclosure to the Kansas City Southern Railway Company. The T&FS lines in Arkansas were leased to the KCS, but the Texas mileage, as required by Texas law, was operated separately. In 1933 the Interstate Commerce Commission overrode the Texas statute and authorized the KCS to operate the Texas lines of the T&FS. This was the first time that the ICC had used its authority to override the Texas law, and the State of Texas appealed the ruling. However, on February 1, 1934, the KCS leased the T&FS under the ICC decision, which was subsequently upheld by the United States Supreme Court in June 1934. On December 31, 1943, the T&FS was merged into the parent company and dissolved.

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

Cecil Harper, Jr., “Texarkana and Fort Smith Railway,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed August 13, 2022, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/texarkana-and-fort-smith-railway.

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

July 1, 1995