OTRR History

Please Note:  The following is a work of fiction.

The History of the Owensville Terminal Railroad

THE BEGINNING: A man by the name of Reginald Bailey sought to build a railroad through the center of the state of Missouri. The Missouri Northern(MN) was chartered in 1896, and the original plan was to build from Cuba to Des Moines, Iowa. Funding for the MN was severely limited, so the idea was to build the rail line in stages and as funds became available the line would be lengthened until it reached Des Moines. In 1900, the MN began laying track from Cuba. The first section was to be built to Montgomery City, Missouri. The construction of the rail line encountered problems right from the start. Rail, ties, and men were in short supply and the Saint Louis San Francisco(SLSF) Railroad delayed many of the shipments to the construction site. On some days, the supply of rails and ties never made it. SLSF gave low priority to all shipments to the sight. Men were brought in from as far away as Springfield to work on the line, but again this had to fit into SLSF's schedule. 
THE RACE TO OWENSVILLE: Construction of the line progressed slowly and by late 1900 the MN had laid only twelve miles of rail. The St. Louis, Kansas City, & Colorado (STLKC&C) began laying rails west of Union with plans to go through the town of Owensville. The MN desperately sought to reach Owensville first. Construction began to pick up, but soon the same old supply problems caused more construction delays. The STLKC&C reached Owensville in the early part of 1901 and the MN finally reached Owensville (a distance of only twenty-five miles from Cuba) by December of 1901.

THE END OF THE MISSOURI NORTHERN: By the time the MN reached Owensville it was flat broke. The idea of building to Des Moines had quickly faded and eventually the entire dream died. The MN filed for bankruptcy in 1902 without ever running a single revenue train. It looked like the line might be scrapped.

THE BATTLE FOR CONTROL: The CRI&P wanted to purchase the bankrupt MN line but so did the SLSF. Each company sought to outbid the other, but the entrance of a third party would eventually lead to the line's independence. The bankrupt MN's unfinished right of way extended to the Missouri Pacific's (MP) line at Hermann, Missouri. The Missouri Pacific saw an opportunity to reach south of Hermann, and it entered the bidding for the bankrupt MN. The CRI&P gained a controlling interest in the SLSF, and not wanting to enter a bidding war with the MP, backed out of the bidding. The MP purchased the bankrupt line and built track from Hermann to Owensville.
THE OWENSVILLE TERMINAL RAILROAD IS BORN: The Owensville Terminal Railroad (OTRR) was formed by the MP to operate the completed line. The line would be used to interchange freight between the MP, CRI&P, and the SLSF. Operations began in 1905 with the MP being the majority share holder of OTRR stock.  The CRI&P and SLSF invested in the OTRR as well and were minority share holders. Traffic on the line was heavy, and many businesses located along the right of way. The OTRR achieved independence in 1920 when the MP sold its controlling interest in the company. Karl Das, a businessman from St Louis, became majority owner of the newly independent line. The MP, CRI&P, and SLSF remained part of the new railroad company as minority share holders. 

The OTRR began construction of a new mainline to straighten out a route that contained sharp curves and steep grades in 1962.  The new mainline was constructed between Das Station and Bem.  The old mainline was cut at Bem and removed from Bem all the way to Oak Hill.  The section from Oak Hill to Das Station was retained for service  to several customers located along this section of track.  The old mainline was changed in official timetables to The Stephenson Branch.

(OASIS v 4.1)
The construction of a new classification yard (South Owensville Yard--S.O.Y.) at Owensville, Missouri in 1964 moved the mainline to the southeast part of the town.  The realignment was needed due to traffic congestion at the crossing of the OTRR and the CRI&P.  Both railroads continued to maintain their small yards at the old junction. The OTRR renamed the old alignment the Owensville Agricultural Switching & Industrial Services (OASIS) in 1972.  Joint trackage rights are shared between the OTRR and the CRI&P.  The Rock Island still maintains control of the crossing, but the tower is no longer in use.    

(4 x 6 Layout-dismantled)
The OTRR has changed little over the last 59 years, and the future of the line looks very bright. The line never attempted to expand and its owners and investors are satisfied with the revenue from interchange and transfer traffic. The success of the line is due mainly to its location. The class 1 railroads avoid the congestion of the St. Louis terminal by using the OTRR. The OTRR of 1979 still conducts interchange and transfer work for the MP, CRI&P, and SLSF.  Transfer work and the majority of switching is done by the OTRR on the OASIS portion located in Owensville, Missouri. Unfortunately, the Rock Island's days are numbered. 

Copyright © 2003, 2008, 2016 D. Tom Conboy

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