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Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Transportation changes everything

When I visit a new area, I am fascinated by the local history. When I spent a week in Pulaski County MO (I-44 runs through it), I learned a tiny bit of its history.

Waynesville prospered and declined based largely on transportation routes. The Wire Road, the stagecoach route and Route 66 each contributed to years of growth. War has played its role with the Civil War (the Stagecoach Stop became a Union hospital) and WWII (the construction of Ft. Leonard Wood).
Old Frisco Caboose in Crocker

The railroad in southern Missouri contributed to a long period of decline for Waynesville. Each new and better mode of transportation ushered in the downfall of the previous mode. In the Ozarks, the lay of the land and the conditions of the soil determined the new railroad routes.

The original plan in the 1850s by the South Pacific Railroad Company called for the tracks to be laid roughly along the stagecoach route. The Civil War added to the woes of the company and when the construction began after the war, the company reorganized and became the St. Louis-San Francisco Railway Company - known as the Frisco.

A change in the proposed route - to the top of the plateau rather than through the valleys - moved the railroad north and created new towns. Dixon and Crocker grew rapidly. The towns are proud of their history. The Crocker Museum is in the old train depot. A caboose is the main attraction in the city park.

However, when Ft Leonard Wood was built, a railroad became a necessity in the area. Today you can see an old railroad bridge spanning the hills near Route 66 and Devil's Elbow.

1941 railroad bridge from below

Scenic view of the railroad bridge on the old Route 66

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