Miami cofounder Wayland Lykins knew that the infant town needed railroad service. So he donated $30,000 in land for a right of way which the Kansas City, Ft. Scott, and Memphis Railway would use for tracks, and in 1896 they rolled into town for the first time.
In 1901, they were acquired by Frisco, which continued to service the town and expand operations. Frisco built a bridge across the Neosho and ran tracks to Afton that year, and Miami became an artery, with 25-30 trains passing through daily.
In 1908, the Oklahoma, Kansas, and Missouri Inter-Urban Railway Company built four miles of line heading from Miami north to Hattonville, which was later renamed Commerce. More track was soon added to access the burgeoning mine fields.
There was a trolley in place on Main in 1909, but very little is known about it. A photo shows tracks which look pretty primitive.
In June, 1916, they began laying new trolley tracks up Main Street connecting to the interurban tracks. The first car ran on Thursday, October 12 of that year, entering Main at N 3rd Avenue, and turning around at S 3rd. The non-electrical cars were less than reliable, and the Herald-Record bemoaned their less-than-stellar service record.
In 1919, Miami stockholders purchased the railroad and renamed it the NEO some time afterwards. Besides making freight and passenger runs, the NEO also ran an electrified trolley from SE 3rd all the way to Picher. The trolley would make the trip every 30 minutes, generally. There, customers could debark and jump on a Southwest Electric Railway trolley and ride to Joplin. The trolley service was discontinued in 1934, and the tracks were removed, some sections being simply paved over.
The NEO Railroad was purchased by Eagle-Picher in 1938.
NEO got a shot in the arm when the Goodrich plant went in in 1943, it hauled materials in and tires out until it closed in 1986. Goodrich kept them busy long after the mining industry staggered to a stop.
The third supplier of train service was the Missouri, Oklahoma, and Gulf Railway. They were in business in Miami, using the line that ran along SE H and which crossed the Neosho just south of Riverview Park, since 1913. In 1919, they filed bankruptcy and were reorganized and the Kansas, Oklahoma and Gulf Railway took over their holdings. They lasted until 1964, when they were purchased by Texas and Pacific, under the auspices of Missouri-Pacific. They evidently ceased service to Miami at that time, and their roadbed was abandoned.
A fourth railroad company formed in 1917 which deserves a mention: the Miami Mineral Belt Railroad. They were a freight/passenger line which ran from Picher to Quapaw, and terminated at Baxter Springs. In 1923, they leased to Frisco.
While they had Miami in their name, they didn’t actually haul here. It appears that their purpose in life was to give Frisco a shot at the lucrative ore and freight hauling in and out of the mining area. NEO had a virtual monopoly on the business there, but little MMB’s 14.137 miles of track was Frisco’s way of getting in on the fun. In 1950, they were fully absorbed by Frisco and ceased to exist.
Frisco ceased offering passenger service to Miami in 1960. It hadn’t been profitable for at least three years. NEO had already stopped their passenger runs, I have been unable to determine exactly when, probably a year or two earlier.
In 1963, Frisco purchased NEO, but the company retained its name until 1967, when it was dissolved, and Miami was served by one railroad, until Frisco itself was taken over by Burlington-Northern in 1980.
One thought on “Miami’s Railroads”
I am editor of the Scrambler, the monthly online newsletter of the Arkansas−Boston Mountains Chapter of National Railway Historical Society . With information and contributed photographs from local historical groups, the newsletter is currently running a series of monthly articles about far-northeastern Oklahoma railroad history. If you will furnish an email address, I will send you the May issue, focused on Bartlesville, to show an example.
I am writing to request assistance related to Ottawa County.
A. Are any former railroad stations in the county still standing? I did find the former KO&G Neosho River bridge downstream from the Frisco/BNSF bridge.
B. Do any local museums have a display of historical railroad artifacts?
C. Does BNSF operate locomotives for switching on the former NEO tracks in Miami, or does a shortline operator do that?
D. Wish to obtain permission to print photos in the Scrambler. If permission is granted, are there higher quality versions available that you can send me?
1. The “Frisco Bridge, Neosho River, Miami, Okla.” photo appears to be an early 1900s picture postcard, and thus would no longer be copyrighted.
2. Wish to contact person who has rights to “NEO trolley car. Click to enlarge”, and request permission.
3. Wish to use either “The first KC,FS,&M train rolls into town, September 12, 1896” or “Drawing a crowd, the first MO&G …” , Marjorie Prince. Do you have any insights on copyright, which would be easiest to obtain rights to use?