Freight Car Friday – Freight Cars of St. Louis

11 01 2013

Few cities in the world can hold a candle to St. Louis when it comes to railroading. St. Louis marks the dividing line between east and west for railroad shipments across the United States. Many railroads called this city home, but few called it an intermediate stop.

Illinois Terminal

The Illinois Terminal, now part of Norfolk Southern, had both traditional railroad operations and traction lines throughout the region.

So many railroads called upon the Gateway City that to look at each individually would take more than a blog – it would fill a large book. From the east, the big roads included the New York Central, Pennsylvania, Baltimore and Ohio, Nickel Plate, Burlington, Illinois Central, Southern, Gulf Mobile & Ohio, L&N, Chicago Northwestern, Cotton Belt (although it’s line stretched southwest, it’s connection was in East St. Louis.) From the west, the Missouri Pacific, Frisco, Rock Island, Wabash and Katy.

X31 boxcar

The Pennsy’s Rose Lake Yard in East St. Louis was one of the furthest outposts on the railroad but an important interchange point.

Connecting all of these roads were a pair of belt lines which circled the city. The Terminal Railroad of St. Louis  connected many of these carriers’ freight yards and also operated the immense Union Station downtown. Once the largest station of its kind in the world, it remains an iconic railroad and local landmark today.


The MoPac’s climb up Kirkwood Hill on the west side of the city was one of the steepest grades on the system

The Alton and Southern also surrounded the city. Together with the TRRA, these roads operated dozens of daily transfer trains between the various yards within and around the city.  So for example, a westbound Pennsylvania freight train would terminate in their yard in East St. Louis (on the Illinois side of the Mississippi) with cars for the Wabash, MP, Southern, etc. These would be sorted in their yard and then picked up by the A&S to be transferred to their respective interchange.


The St. Louis Car Company produced subway, trolley, interurban cars and more used in cities all around the world.

In addition to all of this, the Illinois Terminal Company ran an extensive network of trolley and interurban trains in addition to its own “heavy rail” operations. And one of the largest employers in town, Anheuser Busch, also ran their own railroad, the Manufacturers Railway. And there was the St. Louis Car company which specialized in trolley, subway and interurban cars.

Today you’ll find equipment from all of the major North American railroads operating in and around the city, often on multiple lines. Transfer runs between yards remain a common sight, with the TRRA still playing an active role.

If you’re the type of modeler who just can’t pick a favorite railroad, just model St. Louis! It’s the type of town where if you don’t like the train you see, all you have to do is wait ten minutes or drive ten blocks.



One response

11 01 2013
Phil deVaney

I think this was a good perspective on having all kinds of lines on your layout

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