Information on:

Branson - 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

Neil Sawford

Rating:
Monday, April 2, 2018
Boy, this one is tough. I wavered between 3 & 4 stars. You see, the thing is this tour goes south a lot of times, and it goes north some of the time. On the day I went, we went north. And while north had it's own scenery & stories, I suspect strongly that the southern trip is noticeably more spectacular scenery wise (not to mention, you'll likely spend less time of your two hours waiting on switches and sidings through town). And overall this tour has two things going for it--the fact that you are riding a train, and the fact that you get to see some scenery you don't normally see. So I would give my tour to the north 3 stars, but I might have rated it 4 in the belief that the more common southern route would be better. Also--I'm not a fan of the strictness of their policy on outside food & drink. I understand that they want to sell concessions and that there might be a concern about the mess however if a 10 year old can't bring a sealed water bottle on board (they did let the 3 year old) especially with the price that tickets are, that bothers me a little. It's a minor complaint, but something to be aware of.

3bzs burgee

Rating:
Saturday, April 14, 2018
Great time on the Branson Scenic Railway! Informative ride that took us from Branson, Missouri and into Arkansas. All the cars are different some have luxury seats others with tables and chairs and the top view cars have booths. They even have a car serving nachos, chicken salad croissants, mini corndogs, candy bars, water, coffee, hot chocolate and pop.

Bijay Dixit

Rating:
Monday, April 2, 2018
Fun...fun...fun! It was almost 20+ years since we rode train, ride was exciting. Make sure to get there early and buy sequentially numbered tickets immediately IF you want to ride in dome car. They call starting numbers to enter first.

Trisha Wheatley

Rating:
Thursday, March 29, 2018
We enjoyed it! It is like riding in an antique! Nice scenery. It rained most of our trip so we needed something where we could stay dry. We would do it again!

Kenn Stewart

Rating:
Wednesday, April 11, 2018
Great ride through the woods and back. Clean train with lots of space and viewing options. We got there early to get seats in the "bubble" car.

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