Information on:

Branson Scenic Railway

206 East Main Street
417-334-6110

History:

The comfort of the vintage passenger cars is quite a contrast to the harsh realities the railroad pioneers found when they undertook bringing rail service to the Ozarks. Laying the tracks for the White River Railway was possibly the most difficult construction task ever undertaken in the Ozarks. It meant creating hundreds of miles of level surface where there were only rugged hills and valleys. It meant stretching tall trestles across valleys and blasting long, damp tunnels through mountains of solid rock. The project required thousands more workers and millions more dollars than railroad construction in a more accommodating terrain. But its difficulty is surpassed by the accomplishment and the opportunities the railroad provided the struggling Ozarks pioneers.

The railway was built in two sections: a northward line beginning at Batesville, Arkansas and the other going south from Carthage, Missouri. Construction began in January 1902, and the final spike was driven on December 29, 1905, which joined the northern and southern sections. The 239 miles of track cost more than $12 million—about six times normal rail construction costs. According to the White River Railway, an intricately detailed book by Walter M. Adams, in October 1901, laborers were paid $1.25 to $1.50 per day and men with teams were paid $2.50 to $3.00 per day. This helps to put the total cost of the railway in perspective for that time in history.

The town of Branson is a product of the railroad. Adams writes, “It started out, as did most Ozark towns, as a country store owned by one Rueben S. Branson who was granted a post office in 1882 while on Bull Creek, north or in this case down river from the present location. In 1883 Branson moved to the confluence of Roark Creek and the White River. Here speculators established a small town called ‘Lucia’ and on May 2, 1901, the post office was renamed Lucia. With the arrival of the railroad, rival land speculators got busy and bought up land to the west and north of Lucia. This was the Branson Town Corporation with Charles R. Fulbright as president. Fulbright also held the title as ‘immigration agent’ for the Iron Mountain Railroad. The official plat of Lucia was filed on October 2, 1903 while that of Branson was filed October 26, 1903. When it became obvious that the railroad would run only through the Branson Town Company’s plat the land owners of Lucia sold their interests to the town company. Both ‘towns’ maintained their own newspapers for a time, the Lucia ‘Locomotive’ and the Branson ‘Echo’. On June 11, 1904, the post office was renamed ‘Branson’ and the adjoining communities were finally incorporated as Branson April 1, 1912.”

The construction of the White River Railway in the early 1900s made the area accessible for tourists and is largely responsible for the development of Branson and the Ozarks as a tourism destination. Before the area’s economy was based on tourism, the railroad served a traditional industrial purpose, which continues to this day.

The railroad is known as the White River Route. The route crosses the White River in Branson, now Lake Taneycomo, and then runs along side of it after taking a fifty-mile “short cut” over the Ozark Mountains. This was part of the Missouri Pacific Railroad between Kansas City, Missouri, and Little Rock, Arkansas. It became a part of the Union Pacific after the UP bought the MOPAC. The Missouri and Northern Arkansas Railroad now operates the line. In 1993, the Branson Scenic Railway was formed, and through a lease arrangement with the MNA, runs excursions through this historic route March through December.



Reviews

WA SAWYER JR

Rating:
Friday, June 29, 2018
A leisurely roll through Missouri into north Arkansas. The family enjoyed the views of Forrest, steep hills and Meadows. We saw 3 deer and can only imagine how beautiful the fall foilage trips must be. I am told the "Polar Express" is also wonderful for kids. The train is comfortable, the staff friendly and mingling, answering questions and explaining features and facts of the ride and railroad. The entire family enjoyed our excursion! Try it!

Margaret Cook

Rating:
Friday, June 8, 2018
If they just advertised this as a "train ride" it would be more truthful because there isn't much "scenic" to be found. You can see trees and rock walls alongside the tracks. That's it. Very deceptive. If you just enjoy trains or are a train enthusiast, it might be an enjoyable ride. If you are expecting scenic views, it's very disappointing, and feels like a rip off. Also, the narration was not audible, so couldn't even learn anything about the trip. Staff were all very nice and the cars were clean. Refreshments were reasonably priced. But sorry we spent our money on this and won't be recommending this to anyone.

Stephen Fitts

Rating:
Tuesday, May 29, 2018
Such a fun train ride. The history that they tell you is so interesting. Each car has a story to tell and the conductor can recount them all. Be aware, it doesn't matter to them your XML status, they do not allow firearms or weapons on the premises. While we enjoyed the train, had we know this beforehand, we would not have chosen to ride it.

Kelsey Compton

Rating:
Friday, June 29, 2018
Two stars only because the staff was friendly and helpful. Otherwise this experience was an extremely expensive waste of time. The two scenic views were pretty but were vastly overshadowed by the two straight hours of seeing nothing but trees alongside the tracks. This was a normal train ride converted into a huge tourist trap that is somehow still tricking people. Definitely would not recommend.

Michelle Boles

Rating:
Saturday, June 16, 2018
The scenery was beautiful however it was hard to enjoy it with no air conditioning in the cars. If you are going to brave the ride in the heat of summer be sure to bring plenty of cash on with you. You are not allowed to bring any food or beverages onboard and with the heat inside the cars our cash went quickly buying the expensive bottles of water trying to stay hydrated. They have a strict no refund policy so I would highly suggest just looking for another adventure to spend your money on.

Branson Scenic Railway is not affiliated with AmericanTowns Media