Mississippi River, Hamburg & Western Railway

2012 by Bill Pollard

1901 map showing MRH&W Railway and connections.

The Mississippi River, Hamburg & Western was incorporated under the general railroad laws of Arkansas and articles of association were filed with the Secretary of State in June 1897. Missouri Pacific's 1915 corporate history gives a date of June 3, but the 1899 Arkansas Railroad Commission report lists June 18 as the date of filing. The MRH&W was incorporated by outside parties (i.e.-individuals not associated with MP-Iron Mountain), with primary officers located in New York and Colorado Springs. A primary goal seems to have been to provide rail access to the Mississippi River at Luna Landing. Construction of the railroad may have been aided by land grant legislation passed by the Arkansas General Assembly in 1897. On this 1901 map, the MRH&W is shown as completed to Petersburg (southwest of Crossett) but in actuality, the trackage west of Hamburg was still under construction. The Iron Mountain's north-south line through Lake Village would not be completed until mid-1903, four years after the MRH&W arrived in town.

The first annual report of the Arkansas Railroad Commission (1899-1900) provides some description of the railroad as of that date, and the identity of the original officers and promoters of the line.

Timetable effective July 19, 1899, appearing in September 1899 issue of the Official Guide of the Railways.

Timetable effective December 30, 1900, appearing in 1901 issues of the Official Guide. In these earlier timetables, Luna Landing was given greater prominence than Lake Village. The Iron Mountain (Memphis, Helena & Louisiana) line between Halley and the Louisiana border was not placed in service until July 1903. Until that line was opened, the river transfer at Luna was of considerably greater importance than the town of Lake Village.

The Iron Mountain acquired all capital stock of MRH&W in 1901, and thereafter operated the property as a subsidiary corporation until formally purchasing it by deed dated September 1, 1909, executed and acknowledged February 2, 1910. After the conveyance of its property to the Iron Mountain, the corporate organization of the Mississippi River, Hamburg & Western Railway was no longer maintained and ceased to exist.

According to the Missouri Pacific-St. Louis, Iron Mountain & Southern corporate history prepared in 1915, the MRH&W was completed as follows:

Timetable effective September 15, 1902, showing service to Crossett. The November 1902 issue of the Official Guide of the Railways has an entry on page XXXVIII detailing the expansion of service to Crossett, corroborating the September 15 starting date.

The November 1902 Official Guide entry still carried an effective date of December 30, 1900, but the officers of the railroad have been changed to reflect the StLIM&S ownership. A new September 15, 1902 entry appeared in subsequent Guides. Based on these timetables, the railroad was definitely open to Crossett by September 1902, and local newspaper accounts suggest that the line actually opened a few months earlier.

MRH&W entry appearing in the February 1, 1906 system (Form 5) timetable. Note that the MRH&W timetable itself had not been updated since November 1903.

MRH&W entry appearing in the December 1905 Official Guide of the Railways.

A series of employee timetables from 1903-1909 have been identified, showing the MRH&W as a separate subsidiary. It is presumed that the MRH&W trackage was merged into the StLIM&S Valley Division after 1909. The subsequent division assignment of this trackage is unknown - it does not appear in 1924 employee timetables of the Arkansas, Louisiana or Memphis Divisions. Possibly the line was assigned to the Natchez Division, or possibly it kept a separate timetable, but both of these scenarios seem unlikely.

Known employee timetable dates below are provided by the National Association of Timetable Collectors. Please consider joining this group if you have an interest in timetables or timetable research. This is only a partial list, and the exact transition to the StLIM&S Valley Division remains to be determined.

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In this 1906 schedule, note that the eastbound passenger train, upon arrival at Luna, made a round trip as a mixed train between Luna and Lake Village, before beginning its westbound return trip from Luna to Crossett. The local freight train also originated out of Crossett.

MRH&W locomotive #3, a Baldwin 4-4-0, at Hamburg circa 1900. This locomotive reportedly became MP-Iron Mountain 8732 in 1905. (Collection of Russell Tedder)

According to Missouri Pacific roster information, the following MRH&W locomotives were renumbered into the MP roster.

Arkansas, Louisiana & Gulf train crew poses at the Iron Mountain station at Hamburg, circa 1911. (Collection of Russell Tedder)

The August 1923 issue of the Missouri Pacific Magazine (page 28) carried a photograph of the "new" Hamburg station, which had been constructed in the fall of 1912. It appears that the MP Magazine photo was actually derived from a postcard, such as the identical view below which was miscaptioned as Northern Pacific. The postcard was produced for the Eagle Newsstand in Hamburg by the Albertype Company, a post card manufacturer in Brooklyn, New York.

1924 map showing MRH&W trackage as part of Missouri Pacific branchline network in the Arkansas delta.

During much of this line's existence, a single passenger train was operated between Hamburg (later Crossett) and Luna Landing. At Luna Landing, connections were made with steamboats to Greenville, MS. The MRH&W crossed MP-IM tracks at Montrose and (after 1903) at Lake City. Connections were available with Iron Mountain passenger trains at those points. There was apparently no railway post office service on the MRH&W, although closed pouch service connecting with RPO service on the two Iron Mountain mainlines was likely. In the earliest years, passenger trains were scheduled to leave their origin terminals early in the day, meet at Montrose, and then arrive at endpoint terminals in late afternoon. In 1906, however, sechedules were rearranged so that a single train could make the round trip from Crossett to Luna and return to Crossett in the same day, with only a short layover in Luna. In the 1907 and 1909 timetables below, note that the railroad is still identified as the Mississippi River, Hamburg & Western, but in 1910 and thereafter, as a branchline of the Iron Mountain.

The Mississippi River transfer service was a critical component of intermodal travel between Crossett, Hamburg and Greenville. During most of the years that a transfer service was in place, steamboats were operated by the Lyons Packet Company, owned by Captains Frank and William Lyons of Greenville, Mississippi. Seven boats operated by this company are identified in Way's Packet Directory, 1848-1944, the definitive reference source for operations on the Mississippi River and other inland waterways. Boats known to have been in the service of Lyons Packet Company are listed below; the number is an identification number assigned by author Frederick Way.

In the summer of 1917, the separate Crossett to Lake Village local freight and Crossett to Luna passenger schedules were consolidated into a daily mixed train, with a provision to hold train 851 for up to 15 minutes at Luna for the Lyon Packet Company steamer from Greenville. In October 1917, times were modified to reduce the need to hold for the steamer at Luna, and Sunday service to Luna was discontinued, probably as a consequence of reduced steamer connecting service. Service was provided to Luna Monday through Saturday, with service only as far east as Lake Village on Sunday.

The interchange arrangement between railroad and packet boat at Luna remains a mystery. The nearest actual car ferry operation was at Helena, operated by the Y&MV to Trotters Point, Mississippi and connecting with the Y&MV mainline at Lula. In prior years, a ferry operation from Arkansas City to Huntingdon, MS had been jointly operated by the Iron Mountain and the Louisville, New Orleans & Texas (a Y&MV subsidiary), but this operation had been discontinued about five years before the opening of the MRH&W. The earliest timetables show Luna as being a telegraph office, but the actual track layout to allow transfer of passengers and freight is uncertain. By the date of the 1928 employee timetable (below), Luna had only a wye and a six car siding.

Separate passenger and freight trains were restored by the USRA on June 29, 1919. Mixed trains 851-852 now operated Lake Village to Crossett and return, daily except Sunday, while Sunday only passenger trains 848-849 were expanded to daily frequency.

The timetable effective May 6, 1923 (which did not appear in MP public timetables until the August 15 issue), reflected a change in the packet steamer operating company, from Lyon Packet Company to Arkansas Steamship Company. Lyon, and the connecting packet steamer schedules to and from Greenville, had been shown in MP-IM public timetables since 1910.

The June 7, 1925 Missouri Pacific public timetable shows a passenger train between Luna Landing and Crossett. The next timetable, July 26, 1925, shows mixed train service only between these points. The effective date on the mixed train timetable is July 6, 1925, so it is presumed that passenger service ended on July 5, 1925. The next public timetable, November 1, 1925, shows the mixed train operating only between Lake Village and Crossett, with only unscheduled freight service between Lake Village and Luna. The mixed train service was initially daily, but starting with the March 1927 public timetable, shows one mixed daily except Sunday and a second mixed Sunday only, on a slightly faster schedule. By June 1927, the Sunday only service was shown as a passenger train rather than a mixed train, and this service lasted until the June 1929 timetable, when servic reverted back to a daily except Sunday mixed train. A note advised that additional service was available between Lake Village and Crossett via Missouri Pacific Transportation Company.

Crossett-Lake Village bus service first appeared in the June 9, 1929 MP Transportation timetable, with an effective date of May 1, 1929. Two bus round trips were operated between Lake Village and Crossett, and a third round trip operated Sunday only. The arrival of bus service eliminated the need for the Sunday passenger train, and further reduced the number of passengers riding the mixed train.

The MRH&W was abandoned in segments, with the section east from Lake Village to Luna Landing being the first to go. Logs and lumber were the predominant commodoties carried, other than one-time gravel shipments for highway construction, and even these shipments had dwindled to almost nothing. Making a bleak outlook even worse, this segment was flooded to a depth of 12 feet during the floods of 1927, resulting in heavily damaged track and bridges washed away. Because freight traffic had already declined to marginal levels, the track was never restored after the 1927 flood. An abandonment petition was filed on January 4, 1929, no objections were offered by local residents, and Interstate Commerce Commission Finance Docket 7351 authorized Missouri Pacific to dismantle this trackage.

Daily except Sunday mixed train service continued between Lake Village and Crossett, and several Missouri Pacific bus schedules offered passenger service between the endpoint terminals. Freight traffic east of Montrose was negligible, and after gravel movements for a highway project were completed, an application to abandon the Montrose to Lake Village segment was filed on September 8, 1932. Once again, no objections were offered by those served by the line, and ICC approval for the abandonment was granted in Finance Docket 9617 in November 1932.

During the final years of MP service into Crossett, service on the Hamburg Subdivision was provided by a side trip of the Little Rock-Monroe local. During busy periods, service was daily, and during lighter traffic periods, service was tri-weekly. Most outbound loads from Georgia-Pacific in Crossett were routed over the AD&N to Monticello to take advantage of rate divisions. The primary interchange traffic into Crossett was pulpwood and wood chips which had originated at various mills and wood yards on the Missouri Pacific. MP also provided a steady stream of empty boxcars which were used for outbound shipments (via Monticello) from the Crossett mills.

By the mid-1970s, track conditions were being allowed to deteriorate, and it seemed inevitable that the line would eventually be abandoned. The Hamburg Subdivision last appeared in system timetable 16; regular service had apparently ended by the time system timetable 17 was issued on June 28, 1981.

The primary shipper on the line was Georgia-Pacific in Crossett, and at the time of abandonment, the line was offered to G-P at a fairly reasonable scrap value. The cost of rehabilitation, however, was more than G-P wished to invest, and the trackage was apparently removed during 1982. General Order #14, reissued January 1, 1982 (originally issued in 1981) advised that all highway grade crossing signals had been taken out of service, requiring all trains to stop and flag major highway crossings. This was likely the last general order issued for this trackage before the line was dismantled.

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