|The Hannibal & St. Joseph Railroad was the first railroad to cross Missouri starting in Hannibal in the |
northeast and going to St. Joseph, Missouri, in the northwest. It is most famous for delivering the first letter
to the Pony Express on April 3, 1860, from a railway post office car pulled behind the locomotive Missouri.
The line connected the second and third largest cities in the state of Missouri prior to the American Civil War.
The stage route that it paralleled previously had been called the "Hound Dog Trail."
Construction on the railroad, which originally started during an 1846 meeting at the Hannibal office of John
Marshall Clemens, the father of Mark Twain, began in 1851 from both cities. Bonds from counties along the
route along with the donation of 600,000 acres in land voted by Congress paid for construction. The lines met
in Chillicothe, Missouri, on February 13, 1859.
The line started westward from Hannibal and ran through the Missouri cities of Palmyra, Monroe City,
Shelbina, Clarence, Anabel, Macon, Bevier, Callao, New Cambria, Bucklin, Brookfield, Laclede, Meadville,
Wheeling, Chillicothe, Mooresville, Breckenridge, Nettleton, Hamilton, Kidder, Cameron, Cameron Junction,
Osborn, Stewartsville, Hemple, Easton, before arriving in St. Joseph.
The first assignment of Col. Ulysses S. Grant during the American Civil War was protecting the railroad and
Pony Express mail. Grant was promoted to brigadier general in August 1861 after the assignment. Shortly after
Grant left his assignment, the railroad experienced its worst disaster of the war on September 3, 1861, when
bushwhackers burned a bridge over the Platte River, causing a derailment that killed between 17 and 20 and
injured 100 in the Platte Bridge Railroad Tragedy.
The first experiment in distributing mails in so-called "post offices on wheels" was made in 1862 by William A.
Davis between Hannibal and St. Joseph, Missouri. It was intended to expedite the connection at St. Joseph
with the overland stage, which had replaced the Pony Express routes to the West a year earlier. The Hannibal
& St Joseph furnished a baggage car, altered to Davis' specifications. Similar to a postal route agent's car, it
had a table and a 65-pigeon-hole letter case, but no pouch rack. Davis boarded the westbound train at Palmyra,
Missouri, with authority to open the sacks and letter packages which were addressed to the St. Joseph
District Post Office, to remove all California letters, and to make up and sort the mail in a manner identical to
the way the St. Joseph D. P. O. would have dispatched it. Davis was paid at the rate of $100.00 per month. The
railroad was harassed by guerrillas and by lack of maintenance, resulting in several suspensions and finally
abandonment of the experiment. After the Civil War, Railway Post Office service was re-established on this
line, and it became known as the Chicago & Kansas City Railway Post Office.
In 1867 a consortium of Charles E. Kearney, Robert T. Van Horn, and Kersey Coates persuaded the railroad
to build a cutoff at Cameron (Cameron Junction) to Kansas City, Missouri. The railroad, through its
subsidiary Kansas City and Cameron Railroad, built a shortcut and the 1,371-foot Hannibal Bridge over the
Missouri River in downtown Kansas City. The bridge established a direct link between Chicago and Texas. It was
the first rail bridge across the Missouri River when it opened July 3, 1869, and established Kansas City rather
than Leavenworth or St. Joseph as the dominant city in the region.
The Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad had used the railroad for through traffic to Chicago almost from
the start and in 1883 it formally acquired it. The connection by rail between Hannibal and St. Joseph remained
in place for about 125 years. On March 2, 1970, the railroad became the property of the Burlington Northern
Railroad after the Chicago Burlington & Quincy merged with three other railroads to form the new company.
However during the mid-1980s, the railroad discontinued service from Brookfield westward to St. Joseph.
Today, a four mile stretch of track between Brookfield and Laclede remains in place and is primarily used for
surplus railroad cars along what is now the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad which instead of running
west to St. Joseph now runs southwest toward Kansas City. The tracks from Laclede westward to St. Joseph
are no longer in place, while the tracks from Brookfield eastward toward the Mississippi River are still in use
today by the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad .
Terminals in blue above are locations where Robert E Jacobs worked for the Chicago Burlington & Quincy as a
relief operator between 1945 and 1956.