AMTRAK ROUTE GUIDE #50a -- St. Louis, Missouri to San Antonio, Texas
Part 3 - Poplar Bluff to Little Rock
Arcadia to Poplar Bluff
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165    POPLAR BLUFF station, 400 S. Main Street.  Elevation approximately 354.  The Poplar Bluff AMTRAK station is located on the boundary between the Ozark Plateau, which we have been traversing since St. Louis, and the Mississippi Alluvial Plain, a subprovince of the Gulf Coastal Plain geomorphic province,

         Poplar Bluff was named for the abundance of poplar trees overlooking the bluffs of the Black River and the Mississippi Valley. The city was founded in 1850, but first explored in 1539 by the Hernando de Soto Expedition.  The city was incorporated on February 9, 1870.  Starting in 1873, the railroad encouraged the development of the lumbering industry in the area for a few years; however, in the early 20th Century, when the lumbering business began to decline, the economy changed to agriculture.

         Poplar Bluff today is a wholesale and retail center for southeastern Missouri.  It is the home of the Margaret Harwell Art Museum and Mingo National Wildlife Refuge.

          We will be traveling along the border between the Ozark Plateau and the Mississippi Alluvial Plain for several miles now.  The geology of the Alluvial Plain consists of very young alluvial sediments deposited by the Mississippi River.

168    On the right (southbound), the low hills in the distance are composed of the Early Ordovician-aged Roubidoux Formation, which consists of sandstone, chert, and dolomite.  We are traveling across Holocene-aged (less than 10 thousand years old) alluvial deposits.

172    Cross Cane Creek.

172.5 Pass through the unincorporated community of Harviell, which was founded in 1873 and named after Simeon Harviell, an early landowner.

180   Pass through Neelyville, the last town in Missouri we will be passing through.  Neelyville was laid out in 1870, and naked after a local family.

          We are still traversing the Mississippi Alluvial Plain. The Ordovician-aged sedimentary rocks of the Ozark Plateau are visible on the right (southbound) in the far distance.

184.5 Enter CLAY County, ARKANSAS.  This county was created in March, 1873, from parts of Greene and Randolph Counties.  It was originally named Clayton County, after either John M. Clayton, a member of the Arkansas State Senate at the time, or his brother Powell Clayton, a U.S. Senator at the time.  In 1875, the county name was changed to Clay County, in honor of Kentucky Senator and statesman Henry Clay.  There are two county seats in Clay County – Corning, the seat of the Western District of the County, and Piggott, the seat of the Eastern District.

          NOTE: The Texas Eagle passes through many of the smaller communities in the State of Arkansas.  There is very little published information available for most of these smaller communities.  We apologize for not being able to bring you a comprehensive railroad guide through this state.

 

185.5 Pass through Moark, named after its location near the border of Missouri (abbreviation MO) and Arkansas (abbreviation Ark.)

         We will be traveling across Quaternary-aged alluvial (deposited by rivers) and sand dune deposits (deposited by wind) for several miles now.  We are crossing the Mississippi Alluvial Plain.

191-192.5 Pass through Corning, one of the two Clay County seats (see MP 184.5 above).  Corning was originally a logging town, and the railroad first named the settlement Carpenter’s Station, after the station agent.  On February 8, 1873, the name was changed to Corning, named after H.D. Corning, an engineer for the St. Louis, Iron Mountain, and Southern Railroad (later part of Missouri Pacific; now a part of Union Pacific), who was also a friend of railroad financier Jay Gould.

          Corning was the site of a large explosion on Wednesday, March 9, 1966.  The pre-dawn explosion originated in a munitions railcar, and fortunately resulted in only one minor injury in the small town.  The explosion was widely reported in the surrounding region.

192.5 Cross Corning Lake, which is actually a smallyazoo lake within the flood plain of the Mississippi River.

194.5 Class Black River, which was the river responsible for the establishment of dual county seats in Clay County (see MP 184.5 above).  During times of flood, people in the western part of the county were unable to cross the Black River to get to the eastern side of the county where Piggot, the eastern county seat, was located.

198   Pass through Knobel, named after Gus Knobel, an engineer for the Missouri Pacific Railroad.

202-203 Pass through Peach Orchard.

203.5 Enter GREENE County, named after Revolutionary War hero General Nathaniel Greene.  The county was created in November of 1833 from a part of Lawrence County.  The first settler in the area was Kentuckian Benjamin Crowley.  In 1836, when Arkansas was admitted to the Union, the county seat was a town known as Paris; however, in 1848, when a national highway came through the county, the seat was moved to Gainesville.  In 1888, the county seat was finally moved to Paragould.  The city of Paragould was named after two railroad barons, J.W. Paramore, and Jay Gould.

207    Pass through Delaplaine, which was incorporated in April 1912. It is located at the site of an earlier French trading post, and when the railroad first came through, the town was known as Grey’s Station. The name was later changed to De La Plaine (French for “of the plain”) in recognition of the earlier trading post. In those days, the railroad was important to the timber industry.

          We are still traveling across alluvial deposits of the Mississippi Alluvial Plain.

213    Enter RANDOLPH County, named after U.S. Senator John Randolph of Virginia, who was instrumental in the approval of the Louisiana Purchase.  The county was created on October 29, 1835, before Arkansas became a State, as one of the original counties in the State.  The county seat is Pocahontas.

214   Pass through O’Kean, the only town we will pass through in Randolph County.  O’Kean was founded in 1869, and named after Father James P. O'Kean of St. Paul's Catholic Church in Pocahontas.

216    Enter LAWRENCE County, named after famed U.S. Naval officer Capt. James Lawrence, from the War of 1812, whose dying command was “Don’t give up the ship!”.  Lawrence was the commander of the USS. Chesapeake, which battled the British frigate HMS Shannon during the War.  Lawrence County was Arkansas’ second county, created on January 15, 1815.  The Lawrence County seat has moved several times throughout the county’s history.  The county seat was originally Davidsonville, which hosted the first post office in the State,  The county seat was subsequently moved to Smithville (1832), then to Clover Bend (1868), then to Powhatan (1869), then finally to its present location at Walnut Ridge, when the railroad came through.

219    In the distance on the right (southbound) may be seen the Walnut Ridge Municipal Airport.

224   WALNUT RIDGE station, 109 S.W. Front Street.  Elevation approximately 271 ft.  Walnut Ridge was incorporated in 1889 and named after its abundance of walnut trees on a prominent ridge here.  It is the county seat of Lawrence County; however, at one time, the county seat was shared between Walnut Ridge and Powhatan.  Eventually, however, the town of Powhatan began to decline in importance, and Walnut Ridge was named the single county seat.  Walnut Ridge was formally established in 1875 as a result of the railroad coming through the area.  Previously there had been a settlement in the area known as Old Walnut Ridge.

         Williams Baptist College is a private, coeducational 4-year college located near here in College City.  Founded in 1941, this institution began its life as a 2-year college.  It began granting Bachelor's Degrees in 1984.  The name of the school was changed in 1991 from Southern Baptist College to Williams Baptist College, in honor of its founder and first president, Dr. H. E. Williams.

         We are continuing to traverse alluvial deposits of the Mississippi Alluvial Plain.

225.5-227 Pass through Hoxie, which was named after H.M. Hoxie of the Missouri Pacific Railroad, who was influential in bringing rail service to this small community.  The name was suggested by resident Mrs. M.A. Boas.

         The Hoxie School System was the third system in the State to integrate in the summer of 1955, after the 1954 Brown vs. Board of Education ruling, and black students were allowed to attend public schools beginning in September 1955.

         On August 17, 2014, two freight trains collided in Hoxie, killing 2 people and causing the evacuation of about 500 people within a 1.5 square mile radius.

228.5 On the right (southbound) is the Recker Landing Field.

231.5-232 Pass through Minturn.  Cross Village Creek.

233.5 On the right (southbound) is the Bennett Landing Strip.

235    Pass through Calvin.  The area adjacent to the railroad here is composed of wind-blown dune sand of Quaternary age.

238-238.5 Pass through Alicia, reportedly named after the young bride of a railroad contractor who lived near here.

          Surficial deposits on the right (southbound) are Quaternary-aged dune sand.

238.5 Enter JACKSON County, named after President Andrew Jackson.  The county was created on November 5, 1829, and the original county seat was at Litchfield.  The county seat was later moved to Elizabeth (1839), then to Augusta (1852), then to Jacksonport (1854), an finally to Newport (1982), which is the current county seat.

241   The area surrounding the railroad is overlain by Quaternary-aged dune sand.  We are still crossing the Mississippi Alluvial Plain.

243-244 Pass through the small town of Swifton, which was home to Baseball Hall of Famer George Kell.  On August 26, 2010, the post office at Swifton was renamed for George Kell.

248    Pass through the small community of Vance.

250-252 Pass through Tuckerman, which was named in the 1870’s after a pioneer sawmill operator named Tucker, on whose property the town was sited.  Each May, Tuckerman holds the Hometown Days Festival, which also serves as a fundraiser for the Tuckerman Volunteer Ambulance Service.

255   We are still traveling across alluvial deposits of the Mississippi Alluvial Plain.

256    Pass through Campbell Station

258.5 Pass through Diaz, which is a suburb of Newport.

260-262 Pass through Newport.  At MP 261, the White River is adjacent to the railroad on the right (southbound).  Newport is the county seat of Jackson County, and was formerly a stop on AMTRAK’s Texas Eagle.

         The Jackson County seat was formerly Jacksonport; however, when the railroad came through in the 1870’s, the main line bypassed Jacksonport, located a few miles to the north, and passed through the “new port” city; thus the name of the city.

         Newport is the home of a campus of Arkansas State University, which specializes in transportation-related degrees,  Newport was also the home of Sam Walton, who owned a Ben Franklin store here before he began the Wal-Mart Empire.

         Newport is the home of the legendary “White River monster,” an elephant seal-like creature called “Whitey,” which has reportedly been spotted several times in the White River here over the last 100 years or so.

263.5 Cross White River, which flows into the Mississippi River south of here.  The river begins in the Ozarks of northwestern Arkansas, flows north into Missouri, then back to the south through this portion of Arkansas.  The river is more than 720 miles long.

268    Cross into INDEPENDENCE County for approximately one mile.  Independence County was created in October 1820 from Lawrence County.  The county seat is Batesville.

269   Cross back into JACKSON County (see MP 238.5 above), and pass thro0ugh Olyphant.

271    At this point, the railroad is still traversing the Mississippi Alluvial Plain; however, between here and Little Rock, we will again be traveling along the edge of the Ozark Mountains, visible on the right (southbound).  The hills near the railroad here are composed of Mississippian- and Pennsylvanian-aged sandstone, limestone, and shale of the Ozark Mountains.

271.5 Pass through the unincorporated community of Coffeeville.

273   Pass through the unincorporated community of Possum Grape, formerly known as Grand Glaise.

276    Enter WHITE County, named after Hugh Lawson White, a Whig candidate for President, who was defeated by Martin Van Buren.  The county was organized October 23, 1835.  The county seat is Searcy.

277-278 Pass through Bradford, named after an early settler in the area.  Bradford is located in the Mississippi Alluvial Plain; however, the low hills on the right (southbound) are composed of sandstone and shale from the Middle Pennsylvanian-aged (approximately 300 million years old) Hale Formation, and are a part of the Arkansas Valley section of the Ozark Plateaus physiographic province.

282-283 Pass through Russell, which was named after W.T. Russell, an Irish construction worker for the Ironton Railroad.

284    Hills in the right distance (southbound) mark the edge of the Ozark Escarpment, and are composed of Middle Pennsylvanian-aged shale and sandstone of the Hale Formation.

287-288 Pass beneath U.S. 64 and 67, and pass through Bald Knob, named after a prominent rock in the vicinity.  The city was incorporated in 1881.  Prior to the coming of the railroad in the 1870’s, the area was largely isolated, and most residents lived northwest of town around the Shady Grove Church. Farming was the primary occupation at that time.  Between 1876 and 1878, the prominent rock at Bald Knob was quarried.

         Bald Knob is a leading strawberry producer in the state, known for its yearly Strawberry Fest held during Mother's Day weekend. It was once known as the leading strawberry producer in the world.  Bald Knob is also the home of the Campbell-Chrisp House, built in 1899, which is on the National Register of Historic Places.  Bald Knob is also the home of Arkansas Traveler Hobbies, which is housed in the old Missouri Pacific Railroad depot.  Antique passenger cars and an antique caboose are on display on the grounds, and are currently being restored.  The hobby shop also houses a museum which chronicles the history of Bald Knob, the Missouri Pacific Railroad, and White County.

289    Cross Overflow Creek

291.5-292.5 Pass through Judsonia, which was founded in 1840 by Erastus Gregory, and named Prospect Bluff.  In the 1860’s, new settlers in the area changed the name to Judsonia, in honor of Adroniram Judson, a Baptist missionary to Burma.  In 1871, a Baptist school called Judson University was started here.  The school only lasted until 1883, however.  On the evening of March 21, 1952, tornadoes swept Arkansas leaving 111 dead.  50 of those fatalities were in Judsonia and the near vicinity.  It was reported that the only building in the town not damaged was the Methodist Church, which stands today in the city's downtown area.

         Judsonia is home to a yearly festival called Prospect Bluff Days in honor of the towns origins.

292.5 Cross Little Red River

295-296 Pass through Kensett, likely named after Thomas Harrison Kensett II of Connecticut, an investor in the Cairo & Fulton Railroad, which once ran through the town.  Another legend states that an Irish railroad boss was once asked, during construction of the railroad, where to set the station, and his reply was “You ken set it here or you can ken set it over here.”  Noted Democratic Congressman Wilbur Mills was from Kensett.  Mills was the Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee in the 1950’s, 60’s, and 70’s.

299   Pass through Higginson, which is known for disbanding its volunteer police department in 2008. We are continuing to cross the Mississippi Alluvial Plain.

301.5 Cross Des Arc River.

304.5 Pass through Garner.

307-308 Pass through McRae, named after Confederate Brigadier General Dandridge McRae, a Tennessean who was admitted to the bar in nearby Searcy. Earlier, McRae led troops in several Civil War battles west of the Mississippi River, including the July 4, 1863, Battle of Helena, under General Thomas Hindman, in which McRae’s brigade unsuccessfully prevented eastern Arkansas from being taken by Maj. Gen. Benjamin A. Prentiss’s Union forces.. Later McRae was also Vice President of the Arkansas Bureau of Immigration.

310   Cross Bull Creek

311.5-313 Pass through Beebe, named after Roswell Beebe, the first President of the Cairo & Fulton Railroad. The railroad came through in 1872, bypassing Stony Point to the west.  Beebe was incorporated in 1875.  In the 1920’s, the Beebe Junior Agricultural College was established here.  The college eventually became a branch of Arkansas State University.

         Beebe made international news in early January, 2011, following the death of more than 3000 red-winged blackbirds and European starlings over the community.  The birds fell over a one square mile area of Beebe, and were sent to laboratories in Georgia and Wisconsin for necropsies to determine the cause of death.  On January 5, the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission confirmed that the incident was caused by a resident setting off professional-grade fireworks, startling the birds into a panic flight.

315    Cross Cypress Bayou and enter LONOKE County.  The county was created in April of 1867, from parts of Pulaski and Prairie Counties. The county seat is Lonoke, which is the only county seat in Arkansas which has the same name as the county.  The county was named after a large solitary oak tree (a “lone oak”), which was a landmark to the surveyors who built the railroad through the area. The county seat was originally called “Lone Oak.”  The largest city in the county is Cabot.

         We continue to traverse alluvial deposits of the Mississippi Alluvial Plain.

316-317 Pass through Ward, the 4th largest city in Lonoke County.

319-320 Pass through Austin.  The railroad is still traversing alluvial deposits of the Mississippi Alluvial Plain; however, the hills along either side of the railroad are composed of Paleocene-aged (58 to 66 million years old) clays and sandstones of the Midway Group.

321.5-323 Pass through Cabot, likely named after a railroad surveyor.  Cabot was born in 1873 as a water and fuel stop for the railroad.  Most of the early residents were railroad workers, and the city was incorporated in 1891.  Cabot then became an agricultural town, with cotton being the most significant crop.  In the 1940’s, cotton was replaced by dairy farms.

         On March 29, 1976, a devastating tornado blew through town destroying about 200 homes and most of the downtown area, but the residents soon rebuilt.

327    On the right is Pickthorne Lake, a man-impounded lake, which is part of the Holland Bottoms State Wildlife Management Area.

328.5 Enter PULASKI County, named after Count Casimir Pulaski, a Polish Nobleman who emigrated to the United States and became a  Brigadier General in the Continental Army, and served in the American Revolution with George Washington. The county was created on December 15, 1818, by the Territorial Legislature of Missouri, when the Arkansas Territory was part of the Missouri Territory then.  The Pulaski County seat is Little Rock.

330-333 Pass through Jacksonville, a suburb of Little Rock which is named after Nicholas W. Jackson, a landowner who deeded the land for the railroad right-of-way to the Cairo & Fulton Railroad in 1870. The community evolved from the settlement surrounding the railroad depot, eventually incorporating in 1941.  In 1941, construction began on the Arkansas Ordnance Plant, which served as the primary facility for the development of fuses and detonators for World War II.  Following the war, the Plant ceased operations and the land was sold for commercial interests, including the development of the Little Rock Air Force Base in 1955.

          We are again traveling along the geologic boundary between the Mississippi Alluvial Plain and the Ouachita Mountains section of the Ozark Plateau. Hills on either side of the railroad are a mixture of Paleocene- (60-66 million years old) and Eocene-aged (36.5-60 million years old) Midway and Wilcox Groups, composed of sandstone, shale, and clay, which are underlain by sandstone and shale of the Middle Pennsylvanian-aged (300 million years old) Atoka Group.

335.5 Pass beneath Highway 440 (not shown on map) and pass through Valentine.  Note Waste Management’s Two Pine Landfill on the right (southbound).

336-337 Pass through Rixey and McAlmont, two small suburbs of Little Rock. Mc Almont is also known as “Mac Side.”

338-339 Pass through the Little Rock suburb of Booker.  The hills in the right distance are composed of Early Pennsylvanian-aged Jackfork Sandstone.

339.5 Pass beneath Interstate 40, which connects Barstow, California, with Wilmington, North Carolina.  The hills on the right (southbound) are composed of Jackfork Sandstone.

340-341 On the right (southbound) is Union Pacific’s North Little Rock Hump Yard.

342-344 Pass through North Little Rock, so named since it is located across the Arkansas River from Little Rock, the State Capital (see MP 344.5 below).  North Little Rock was originally known as De Cantillon, after a U.S. Army officer stationed at Little Rock.  It was later known as Hunterville, when the Memphis & Little Rock Railroad came through in the 1850’s, then Baring Cross, after banker Alexander Baring, who financed the railroad bridge, then later as Argenta, so named because it was believed that the nearby Ouachita Mountains contained silver.  The Argenta name was first used in 1866, but currently “Argenta” only refers to the downtown area.  In 1890, the community of Argenta was annexed by Little Rock as its 8th Ward.  In 1917, the North Little Rock name was adopted, thanks to William C. Faucette, loser of the 1903 Mayoral election in Little Rock.  Faucette then became the first mayor of the new city of North Little Rock.

         North Little Rock’s Old Mill appeared in the opening scene of the 1939 movie Gone With the Wind.

344.5 Cross Arkansas River, which is known as David T. Terry Lake here, then pull into the LITTLE ROCK station, 1400 W. Markham Street.  Elevation approximately 274 ft. Little Rock is the capital of the State of Arkansas, and also the State’s largest city.  It is also the county seat of Pulaski County.

          The city was originally inhabited by the Quapaw Indians, and the oldest part of present-day Little Rock is known as the Quapaw Quarter.  The settlement was named in 1722 by French explorer Jean-Baptiste Bernard de la Harpe, for a “little rock” on the bank of the Arkansas River, which was a landmark for early explorers. The rock was called Le Petit Rocher, and is located on the edge of the Ouachita Escarpment.  Little Rock is located at this escarpment , which marks the boundary between the Mississippi Alluvial Plain and the Ouachita Mountains section of the Ozark Plateau.  Just upstream from the “little rock” is another outcropping known as Le Rocher Français, the “big rock” (literally, the “French rock.”) The first settlers in the area did not arrive until 1806. however, almost 100 years after the place was named.  The early settlers came here from the Carolinas.  The site became the home of the Arkansas Territorial Government in 1820, and the city of Little Rock was incorporated in 1831.

          Little Rock is now a major cultural, economic, government and transportation center within Arkansas, the South and the nation.  It is the home of the University of Arkansas Little Rock campus, the Arkansas Baptist College, and the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.  It is also the home of Riverfront Park, the Arkansas Arts Center, the Little Rock Zoo, and the Villa Marre, an 1881 Victorian home which was one of the most luxurious homes in the city at the dawn of the 20th Century.  The city is the headquarters of Dillard's, Windstream Communications, Axiom, Stephens Inc., Heifer International, the Clinton Foundation, the Rose Law Firm, and the American Taekwando Association. Little Rock was also the home of Governor Bill Clinton before he became President of the United States, and the Clinton Presidential Library is located here.  Notable U.S. General Douglas Mac Arthur was born in Little Rock.  In addition, Cosmopolitan Editor and Publisher Helen Gurly Brown was from Little Rock.

          To the west of downtown Little Rock, not quite visible from the train, the Ouachita Mountains subprovince of the Ozark Plateau begins.  The mountains are composed of Ordovician- to Pennsylvanian-aged (320-500 million years old) sedimentary rocks, primarily sandstone and shale. These sedimentary rocks are extensively folded and faulted.  Between here and Texarkana, the railroad line will pass near the Ouachita Mountains, but not through them.  The mountains may be visible to the west (right if southbound) at several locations.

               We have now left the Mississippi Alluvial Plain section, and will now be traversing the West Gulf Coastal Plain section between here and Dallas.  The topography visible from the train will appear very much like the topography we have been traversing, the primary difference between the two sections being there are more faults and escarpments in the West Gulf Coastal Plain than there are in the Mississippi Alluvial Plain, since the section is older.