The first railroad in Arkansas began as a small part of the Memphis & Little Rock in 1857, with a train loaded with 6 bales of cotton pulled by the engine Little Rock. The nations last regularly scheduled steam-powered mixed train was run by the Arkansas Reader Railroad and ended operations in 1973. Today, Arkansas has 17 steam locomotives in various conditions on display in parks and museums around the state. The last steam locomotive to run excursions was the St. Louis Southwestern Railway Company (Cotton Belt Route) 4-8-4 No.819 and is now on display at the Arkansas Railroad Museum.
Arkansas has over 2700 miles of trackage that are dominated by the Union Pacific Railroad. Other rail lines that also serve Arkansas are the Kansas City Southern and BNSF. There are 22 smaller railroads, ranging from the longest, the 540 mile Missouri & Northern Arkansas, down to the shortest, the 2 mile Delta Valley Southern. Amtrak’s Texas Eagle makes 5 stops across the state. The Union Pacific’s largest locomotive repair facility is located in North Little Rock.
One of the Ozarks’ largest collection of vintage rolling stock is on display at the Eureka Springs & North Arkansas Railway. In this re-created turn-of-the-century railroading experience, modern visitors get a taste of how it was in Eureka Springs back in 1883 when rail service first arrived. The four and a half mile train ride through the Ozark hills from April through October. The 1 1/2 hour train rides run Tuesdays through Saturdays and include lunch and dinner trains. Working turntable.
The Frisco Depot Museum is a beautifully-restored Victorian depot housing a collection of railroad memorabilia. The baggage room displays local history exhibits, and just outside is a Frisco caboose. The 1886 Frisco Depot takes you back in time to a bustling 1800s train depot. Guided and self guided tours as well as short films are available. The Mammoth Springs Depot is one of only a few depots in the nation that have been restored as museums dedicated to interpreting their roles as train depots. Closed on Mondays.
The Arkansas Railroad Museum is located in the former Cotten Belt locomotive shops. Two Cotten Belt Railroad steam engines are on display, the 1942 St Louis Southwestern Railway Co. 4-8-4 No 819 along with the SSW 2-6-0 No. 336. Open Monday through Saturday.
The Arkansas & Missouri Railroad operates 139 miles of former St Louis San Francisco trackage from Monett, Mo. to Ft Smith, Ark. through the Boston Mountains of northwest Arkansas. Relax as you ride in style on meticulously restored air conditioned antique passenger cars, that include a first-class parlor car and a 1940’s caboose. Your scenic train ride will wind through river valleys, traverse 3 high trestles, and cut into a 1702 foot tunnel. Enjoy the story telling and rich historical anecdotes as told by your friendly and fun-loving conductors while tending to your safety and other needs you may require. Several Special Departures are scheduled each year – either as part of area celebrations such as Bikes, Blues and Barbeque festival; elegant black-tie service dinner excursions or other special occasions. Spring Foliage Specials begin in April and run on weekends. Fall Foliage Specials are very popular and sell out quickly. Stop overs include a 1901 Frisco depot for shopping or dining.