On the Centennial Trail…
Train No. One, the first passenger train from St. Louis, Mo. to Little Rock, Ark., left St. Louis from a depot one-fourth mile North of Fourth Street, February 25, 1873, at 8 a.m. The route was over the St. Louis Iron Mountain Lines to Iron Mountain, built in 1853, and South to Poplar Bluff over a line built in 1872 to connect with the Cairo & Fulton at that point. No. One stopped, at Ironton for lunch at noon and arrived in Poplar Bluff for a dinner stop at 7:00 p.m. From Poplar Bluff the route was over the just opened Cairo and Fulton to Little Rock.
Moark, the division point under the contract that required the division point located on the first high ground in Arkansas, was a thriving town with round house, railroad yards, boarding house for railroad men, and saloons! No. One arrived at 8:30 p.m. Crews and engines changed and its headlight showed around the Moark curve to arrive in Corning and make its first stop at the brand new, just painted depot! The hour 9 p.m. and every able bodied inhabitant of the town was on the platform to witness the beginning of the railroad era! The postmaster of Hecht City was there to get the first mail addressed to Corning and mail the last sack of mail bearing the Hecht City postmark. The Post Office had been set up, in 1872 when Cairo and Fulton was being built, in the Hecht Brothers Commissary that had been moved in from the Hecht Sawmill on the west bank of Black River, a mile East of the settlement. To accommodate workers on the line, a caboose had been set at the South end of the passing tract at the Olive Street crossing. James Carpenter was in charge and the settlement was known locally as Carpenter Station!
With the departure of No. One, the male citizens adjourned to the three saloons on First Street to discuss the rosy prospects for the town that would become the county seat of Clayton County on March 23, 1873 when the legislature welded the East half of Randolph and the North half of Greene into a new political unit.
The White River bridge at Newport was not finished until February 10, so the first passengers ferried the river and boarded a shuttle train to the North bank of the Arkansas which was also crossed by ferry until the Fall of the year! The first train arrived in Little Rock on the morning of February 6th after an approximate 24 hour journey!
The earliest time table for the Iron Mountain (in 1874) available is of 1886 vintage. Passenger trains in service-No. One departed St. Louis at 9:10 a.m., arrived in Poplar Bluff division point after 1874 at 4:10 p.m. and arrived in Corning at 5:48 p.m., 192 miles in eight hours, speed 25 miles per hour. Little Rock was reached at midnight, 300 miles in 15 hours, dropping the Arkansas speed to 20 miles per hour. The Slow Train through Arkansas was not 100 percent fiction! It is interesting to note that Peach Orchard was not a stop until in the 1890's. The Texas Eagle cut the hours from 24, St. Louis to Little Rock, in 1873 to seven in 1950!