Pulaski County cuts through the south central portion of Missouri. The county seems to be separated almost in half by Interstate 44, which eventually runs to St. Louis. The county’s history seems to be divided by that line, as well. The southern half runs along a part of the famous Route 66, which connects several states from Chicago to the Santa Monica Pier in California. Pulaski County communities, such as Waynesville and St. Robert, enjoy the tourism that comes with being located on the “Mother Road.”
In the meantime, railroad history ties the northern Pulaski County towns of Dixon, Crocker and Hancock – among a few other smaller towns. Known as the Frisco Railroad Trail, these communities share the stories of the rail with visitors. The trail offers two routes – 45 miles long or a shorter one of about 27 miles. We drove the long route.
The railroad industry arrived in Pulaski County in 1855. By 1860, the railroad had reached Rolla, northeast of the county. The Civil War erupted soon after, bringing the railroad growth to a halt for the time being.
Construction started again in 1868. The South Pacific Railroad Company endured a lot of debt was later reorganized to become the St. Louis-San Francisco Railway Company – the Frisco.
Communities sprouted along the tracks, including Swedeborg and Richland. The railroad rambled through the area as the Frisco until 1980, when the company merged with Burlington Northern. The freight trains coming through the area now are BNSF (Burlington Northern Santa Fe).
The communities are proud of their rail history. Each town along the trail highlights some aspect of the railroad for the public to see.
Dixon is home to some well-done murals that tell the town’s history through the railroad. Dixon was a boom town during the railroad expansion. Today, the community of about 1,500 still enjoys watching and hearing the trains roll through.
Dixon sits near the Gasconade River valley. The valley is beautiful and offers an impressive view from the Di Trapani’s Italian restaurant. The river flows for about 265 miles and is the longest river in Missouri.
Crocker greets visitors with a small train park. An old caboose stands on a set of old tracks. The town is home a railroad museum at the old depot.
While some of the towns are small and don’t have quite the attractions of Dixon and Crocker, they are worth driving through and seeing the history. They exist because the Frisco was developed in the region. Richland shares its railroad history with a caboose in the city park, located among ball fields, picnic areas and a swimming pool. The town also sports a bicentennial mural downtown.
The drive is beautiful. Rolling hills and deep woods dominate the area. You can tell you’re in the foothills of the Ozark Mountains.
Whether you’re a fan of the railroad, history or beautiful scenery, Pulaski County’s Frisco Railroad Trail offers a nice experience. We recommend driving either route when in the area. You will appreciate it.
For more information on Pulaski County and its attractions, please visit www.visitpulaskicounty.org.