St. Louis Southwestern Railway Joins with Southern Pacific Lines


The St. Louis Southwestern Railway (SSW), known by its nickname of "The Cotton Belt Route" or simply Cotton Belt, was organized on January 15, 1891, with its beginnings traced back to the Tyler Tap Railroad. From Tyler, the railroad expanded into Northeast Texas, thru Arkansas, and up to St. Louis.

Southern Pacific Lines ... parent company of the Cotton Belt beginning in 1932

Since the St. Louis Southwestern Railway connected with the Southern Pacific in many locations in eastern Texas, the Southern Pacific (SP) Company gained Interstate Commerce Commission approval to control the Cotton Belt system on April 14, 1932.

SP (aka "Espee") continued to operate the Cotton Belt as a separate company until 1992.

While the railroad was controlled by the Southern Pacific, the Cotton Belt maintained its own identity and operations until the early 1990s when it was finally formally merged into the SP system. The railroad also maintained its own paint scheme, although it was essentially a version of the SP livery with SSW markings.

Shown below is a map of the stages of railroad construction over the decades by the Cotton Belt.

Map showing the Cotton Belt construction history
Cotton Belt construction history

Cotton Belt Route overpass on Front Street, Tyler, Texas
Cotton Belt Route overpass on Front Street, Tyler, Texas
(Photograph by the author)

St. Louis Southwestern Railway Station Wagon
St. Louis Southwestern Railway Engineering Department Station Wagon
(Reprinted with permission of the Doyle S. Gibson Collection)

Brochure documenting 80 Years of Transportation Progress ... A History of the St. Louis Southwestern Railway
Brochure documenting 80 Years of Transportation Progress ... A History of the St. Louis Southwestern Railway
(Reprinted with permission of the Doyle S. Gibson Collection)

 

Article about the retirement of William J. Lacy, senior vice present of operations, from the Cotton Belt Route
Article about the retirement of  William J Lacy, senior vice present of operations, from the Cotton Belt Route

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