Poplar Bluff was built around two mainline railroads: the Frisco and the Missouri Pacific. The MoPac, originally the St. Louis, Iron Mountain, Southern Railroad, was the first railroad completed through Poplar Bluff in 1872.
L to R: Darlene Suter - Depot Committee; Penelope McGath - Director DPB; Ken Clanahan - Depot Board; Sharon Fraser - Depot Board; Ben Jones - UP director-Public Affairs; Poplar Bluff Mayor Ed DeGaris; Jim Chrisman - Depot Board; Shirley Davenport - Depot Board
A frame depot was built around 1873, though replaced in 1890 with a structure that burned shortly after completion. The railroad then used old boxcars for baggage and express facilities, and operated a ticket office in the Crown Hotel on South Broadway. The present station was built in 1910, with wide ornate concrete steps from Main Street to the station. Though the station’s address is on Main Street, it is situated below and east of the street and the steps give access directly from the station to the street.
The rail line runs north and south out of Poplar Bluff to St.. Louis and Little Rock, Ark. With multiple rail connections, Poplar Bluff became a center for the shipment of wood-related products as well as the wheat, cotton and corn grown in the area.
The St. Louis, Iron Mountain, Southern Railroad merged with the Missouri Pacific in 1917. The railroad built a roundhouse on the property adjoining the depot, and all servicing of trains on this route was done here. This brought a large number of railroad employees into the town as well as furnished employment to others who already lived there.
In 1986, the Missouri Pacific Railroad joined the Union Pacific Railroad. Today the station is used as a freight depot and as a crew changing point. Amtrak also uses the station for stops.
The second main line in Poplar Bluff was the Frisco line. In 1901, the Southern Missouri and Arkansas Railroad built a line through Poplar Bluff and in the same year sold it to the St. Louis-San Francisco railroad (the Frisco). This service ran from Hoxie, Ark., through Poplar Bluff to Cape Girardeau, opening up connections for smaller communities to major cities such as Memphis, St. Louis, Chicago and Kansas City.
The first Frisco depot was built at 303 Moran Street . The brick building was badly damaged in the tornado of 1927, and had to be razed>The present building was built on the same site in 1928. The new depot was of Spanish design, believed to have been chosen to draw attention to the railroad’s then-new service to Florida. The Spanish Mission style also was used in building depots in Springfield, Pensacola, Fla., and Fayetteville, Ark.
Following World War II, passenger service decreased significantly and by 1965, the Frisco had ended operations in Poplar Bluff. The building was acquired by the city and now houses the Moark Regional Railroad Museum.