Hannibal St. Joseph Railroad Locomotive
Missouri State Archives

According to newspaper reports from the time, the first train to arrive in St. Joseph made its inaugural run today on the Hannibal and St. Joseph railroad on this date in 1859. Timetables listed in the paper said that the journey would take 12 hours (today it would be closer to 3 by car).

The railroad received land grants to help complete its route. Before the Civil War these two cities were Missouri the second and third largest in the state, and this train is alleged to have carried the first letter for delivery by Pony Express in 1860. Eventually overland stage routes took over carrying mail from the Pony Express, and onboard mail sorting became a part of the duties of the Hannibal and St. Joseph railroad, in order to cut down on connection times from train to stagecoach. At the time it was completed, this railroad was the farthest west any train in the US traveled.

From the rail line’s inception the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad would use these tracks for through traffic running to and from Chicago, and eventually the company acquired the Hannibal and St. Joseph railroad outright. In the 1980s service was discontinued on the tracks from Brookfield onto St. Joseph, but here and there segments of track that formed the original route remain in use for BNSF, who took over ownership after a merger.