The first railroad through Shreveport
entered from the West when the Vicksburg, Shreveport, &
Texas Railroad Company planned to connect Marshall,
Texas to Shreveport and head east, eventually connecting
Shreveport to Monroe and then to Delta, Louisiana.
The route was surveyed in 1853 and construction on the
Delta-Monroe section began in 1854.
Work began from the west to connect Marshall and
Shreveport. The Southern Pacific Railroad Company (not
related to the present day company of the same name) had
completed the first ten miles of the western track by
early 1857 and soon reached Jonesville. The Texas
Legislature chartered a railroad line from North
Louisiana to El Paso, Texas.
However, the Civil War caused all work on
the railroads to cease. The work from Delta to Monroe
had been completed and the section from Marshall to
Shreveport had been graded.
By 1861 trains ran regularly through the
seventy-five-mile Madison Parish section of the
The connecting rail from Shreveport had not been
finished, so the track was extended to the north to
Swanson’s Landing, a Texas port on Caddo Lake. With the
Civil War’s progression, the need for the railroad’s
completion increased. The metal in the tracks was
highly important, and General John Bankhead Magruder, a
Confederate commander of the District of Texas, had the
tracks between Jonesville and Swanson’s Landing
removed. Some of these were sent to Shreveport and used
to construct the ironclad, the
General Edmund Kirby Smith tried to find more rails for
the tracks to complete the railroad. The tracks had been
laid as far as Greenwood by 1864.
By 1866 the Southern Pacific Railroad tracks
had deteriorated and had to be rebuilt, but by late 1866
the tracks reached Shreveport.
With the railroad’s completion that year, the city
became the hub of railroad transportation, as it was
soon to give access to Dallas, Little Rock, and St.
Three engines arrived to operate the Southern Pacific
line: Ben Johnson, Scott, and Marshall.
The Ben Johnson, named for an early banker, was
the first train to head west from Shreveport.
By 1868 one trip from Marshall to Shreveport and back
was made each day, except for Sunday. The trip took
three-and-one-half-hours one way. The Southern Pacific
line went bankrupt by 1869, and Hall Syndicate of
Louisville, Kentucky bought it under foreclosure.
The Vicksburg, Shreveport, & Pacific Railroad eventually
built a bridge crossing the Red River at Cotton Street
and gave access to the East.
The bridge carried local traffic, but was also able to
swing open to allow boats to pass beneath it.
The Texas & Pacific Railroad Company
completed their line between Shreveport and Dallas in
Texas Western Railroad, established in 1852, was
reorganized as Southern Pacific Railroad. In 1871
Southern Pacific sold to Texas and Pacific, and Jay
Gould became president in 1881. Texas and Pacific bought
the short line railroad that ran between Shreveport,
Texarkana, and Natchitoches. They built a new track
between Shreveport and Waskom. The old Vicksburg,
Shreveport, and Pacific line was leased to Missouri,
Kansas, and Texas Railroad, giving Shreveport a direct
route to Dallas.
also ran from Shreveport to New Orleans. In 1880 Jay
Gould, the chairman of the board of Texas & Pacific,
along with Thomas A. Scott, the president of the
railroad, began negotiating to complete a railroad
between Shreveport and New Orleans. On April 3, 1880
they made a proposal to E. B. Wheelock, the president of
the New Orleans Pacific Railway, to complete the New
Orleans Pacific line from the Texas-Louisiana border to
New Orleans. The line then opened from Shreveport to
Provencal on May 1, 1881 and to Cheneyville on May 1,
1882, and finally to New Orleans on September 12, 1882.
The first train on the tracks was the Louisiana.
This woodburning locomotive had a diamond-shaped
smokestack and was painted bright red with brass inlays.
In the 1880’s the rate of construction of
railroads set records for the South. Two more lines were
constructed: Shreveport could then reach Houston, Texas;
Memphis, Tennessee; and St. Louis, Missouri.
1882 Texas and Pacific linked with Southern Pacific in
order to reach the West Coast.
The Vicksburg, Shreveport, and Pacific Company sold out
to Erlanger Interests of Europe. In 1882 funds were
given to reconstruct the railroad that ran between
Shreveport and Monroe. A toll bridge was completed in
July of 1884, but apart from tracks to support train
traffic, the bridge also had room for pedestrians and a
double track wagon road.
In 1883 and 1884 at least twenty steamers
still ran between Shreveport and New Orleans, but by
1894 only seven traveled between the cities. The
railroads had taken over. In 1884 the Vicksburg,
Shreveport, and Pacific line built the first bridge
across the Red River from the east.
1881 until 1884 a line was constructed from Monroe to
Shreveport, and the track from Meridian, Mississippi to
Shreveport became part of the Queen and Crescent route.
The Queen and Crescent passenger trains
had Pullman cars, day coaches, fine dining, parlors, and
ran between Shreveport and Vicksburg in October of 1900.
The Meridian-Vicksburg line was known as the Alabama &
Vicksburg Railway and the Delta-Shreveport line was
Vicksburg, Shreveport, and Pacific. These railways were
under the same management from 1889 until they became
part of the Illinois Central System on June 2, 1926. The
first trains burned coal and had steam engines. The
older trains were not taken off the track until 1952.
Kansas City, Pittsburg, and Gulf Railroad
completed a line from Kansas City, Missouri to
Shreveport. This railroad company was renamed Kansas
City Southern in 1893. In 1898 Kansas City Southern
connected to Port Arthur, Texas and Lake Charles.
By 1897 Kansas City Southern had a
560-mile track between Shreveport and Kansas City,
Missouri. Shreveport was connected to Coushatta by 1898
and to Alexandria by 1902.24
L&A Railroad connected Shreveport to Minden and
Gould bought the St. Louis, Arkansas, and
Texas Railroad line that ran from Shreveport to
Lewisville, Arkansas. He renamed it the St. Louis and
Southwestern Railroad, which is better known as the
Cotton Belt Railroad. Southern Pacific bought Cotton
Belt in the early 1900’s. Shreveport was then on the
main track that ran from St. Louis to Houston and on to
1920s a lone bandit got on the Illinois Central
passenger train in Monroe and walked down the aisle,
robbing every passenger.
The Texas & Pacific Railroad
Company abandoned its right of way from Shreveport to
Cypress in Natchitoches Parish for a modern railroad on
Highway 1 in May of 1964. They removed the sixty-seven
miles of old track.
The Texas & Pacific Railroad depot at 104
Market Street closed in 1964. Plans were made to open a
railroad museum in the Art Deco depot, but these never
saw fruition. The station, a three-story structure, had
marble trim around the doors, the original chandelier,
three-color terrazzo floors, and a thirty-foot ticket
counter made of black builder’s glass. The city bought
the station from the James S. Noel Foundation in 1996.
Up to that point, the station had housed Noel’s 200,000
book collection that is now contained in the library of
the Louisiana State University of Shreveport. At one
time the station had six railroad operations meeting
here: Texas & Pacific, Cotton Belt, Kansas City
Southern, Southern Pacific, Illinois Central, and
Louisiana & Arkansas.
Illinois Central Railroad asked permission to
discontinue their passenger service, and once their
request was granted, their last train, the Illinois
Central No. 208, left Union Station for Vicksburg,
Mississippi in March of 1968.
ILLINOIS CENTRAL STATION AND CENTRAL
Pete Waldron with Brown Paving Company
was working on Commerce Street when he uncovered the
building foundations and sections of tracks near the old
Illinois Central freight station, which was used before
1870. The track uncovered may possibly be part of the
Civil War track. Much of the railroad track at that time
was used to plate the ironclad Missouri, which
was armored at a yard on the south bank of Cross Bayou
during the Civil War. City maps, dating to 1850, show a
railroad cut at the site.
Built in 1912 at 1025
Marshall Street, Central Station served as a passenger
terminus until 1955 when Kansas City Southern moved to
The upstairs held offices for the Louisiana and Arkansas
Railroad and St. Louis Southwestern Railroad lines. The
station had separate waiting rooms for blacks and whites
It served as a warehouse for several years, but was
vacant in the late 1970’s until Joe Fertitta, a local
businessman, bought the place and opened it as a seafood
and steak restaurant. He made no interior alterations.
Carl Jones owned the station in the 1980’s, using it as
a restaurant. When he removed the carpet, the original
tile flooring was revealed. The stained glass windows
on the front of the station came from St. Vincent’s
Today it houses a nightclub.
Union Station, formerly called Union
Depot, began as a 124-foot- by forty-five-foot building
with a covered walk at the rear that ran the full
distance to Lake Street. A 215-foot- by thirty-foot
baggage and excess department was constructed under
Mayor Reuben N. McKellar. The brick depot with its
eighty-foot tower served Shreveport until 1921. At that
time an addition was made. All of the lines serving the
area – Kansas City, Pittsburg, and Gulf; Texas &
Pacific; Cotton Belt; Queen & Crescent; and Houston,
East and West Texas – met at this station. Two wings
were later constructed.
city gave the Kansas City Southern Railroad Company a
section of Snow Street, and the street was relocated to
give more room for the addition. The addition on Snow
Street was thirty-two- by thirty-six-feet, and the Lake
Street addition measured thirty- by forty-one-feet. A
new terminal was planned, and the old one was to be used
as a lunch room; this new terminal was never built,
however. The interior was modernized with air
conditioning and waiting rooms. Its new look contained
the colors of the streamline train Southern Belle.
The steeple was modernized with a neon sign. All of the
train companies continued to use this station, except
for Texas & Pacific, which built its own depot at 104
Market Street and transferred its business there.37
In March of 1968 the Illinois Central No.
208 train left Union Station for Vicksburg, Mississippi,
as Illinois Central discontinued their passenger train
In 1969 Union Station closed its doors, and on November
3 of that year the Southern Belle made its last
run, leaving Union Station for Kansas City, Missouri.
The end of Shreveport golden era of the railroad was
further finalized by the fire that gutted the station on
November 5, 1969.
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