Central Arkansas & Eastern Railroad
In Arkansas, one company was absorbed by the St. Louis Southwestern Railroad Company via a thirty year lease. It was the Central Arkansas and Eastern Railroad Company, which was incorporated May 18, 1901, under the general laws of the State of Arkansas for the purpose of constructing a railroad from England to Ryan, Arkansas. An amendment to the original charter provided for extension from Ryan to Stuttgart, and from Rice Junction (just north of Stuttgart) to Hazen, Arkansas. The original company constituted only nine miles of track linking the towns of England and Ryan before the St. Louis Southwestern leased the property on July 1, 1910. The traffic of this small road consisted of rice, lumber and hay, which its one locomotive was quite able to handle over the low grades. R.M.Foster was its first and only president. When the Cotton Belt took charge, it completed construction of the two branch lines and opened the entire line (identified as the Hazen Sub-Division and the England-Stuttgart part of the Little Rock Sub-Division) for operation on
October 22, 1911, which continued until both branch lines were abandoned in June of 1937.
Following are remarks by President Edwin Gould at the Nineteenth Annual Report of the STLSW Fiscal Year, ending June 30, 1910:
Central Arkansas and Eastern Railroad Company Lease "Subject to the ratification by the Stockholders, control of the Central Arkansas and Eastern Railroad had been acquired through a thirty year lease dated July 1, 1910. under the terms of which, the StLSW is given the right, at any time during the life of the lease, to purchase and acquire all of the railway and property of said company, and guarantees the payment, both as to principal and interest of that Company's First Mortgage, Five Per Cent, Thirty Year, Gold Bonds to be issued at the rate of S25,000 per mile of main track or extensions now owned or hereafter constructed or acquired. The Central Arkansas and Eastern Railroad Company now has in operation nine and one-half miles of railroad extending from England Lonoke County, Arkansas, to McGregor (later Ryan), in the same county and is constructing an extension from McGregor to Stuttgart, Arkansas, a distance of thirteen and one-half miles. and a further extension from a point near Stuttgart in a northerly direction of about seventeen miles. The line as now constructed, as well as the proposed extensions, pass through a virgin forest of fine timber and a good agricultural country producing cotton and rice in abundance."
President Edwin Gould made this statement at the Twentieth Annual Report of the STLSW Fiscal Year, ending June 30, 1911:
By July 1929 there were no passenger rail schedules shown in the Cotton Belt Route Public Time Table for the Stuttgart-England line: both it and the Hazen line were now considered freight only. Newly introduced Southwestern Transportation Company highway motor coaches replaced the North Little Rock-England-Stuttgart-Gillett passenger rail schedule. Hazen and Slovak were stops on SWT motor coach schedules between Memphis and Stuttgart.
As late as 1934 the 'local' was still shown operating (but down to three days a week) between Stuttgart (Rice Junction) and Hazen. The Cotton Belt rail map continued to show both the England and the Hazen lines, but by 1937 the revised Cotton Belt map no longer included these two former CA&E branches, reflecting the abandonment of these lines in June of that year.
In his book, Cotton Belt Locomotives, published by Shade Tree Books in 1977, Joseph A. Strapac wrote:
Central Arkansas & Eastern Railroad Co."The construction of the Central Arkansas & Eastern R.R.. consisting of 43.9 miles, was completed during the fiscal year and taken over for operation by this company on October 22, 1911 under the terms of a thirty year lease."
CENTRAL ARKANSAS AND EASTERN RAILROAD (Leased 1910)
Incorporated May 18, 1901, the original goal of the Central Arkansas & Eastern was to build a rail line from England (on the Cotton Belt's branch line to North Little Rock) due east to Ryan (then McGregor). Soon though, the promoters sought to expand further east to Stuttgart and north to Hazen, but the CA&E itself was only able to construct nine miles of track linking the towns of England and Ryan before the Cotton Belt stepped in with a lease on July 1, 1910. When the Cotton Belt took charge, it gave substance to the proposals by constructing the extensions and opening the greater CA&E for operation on October 22, 1911. The net result was to provide a short cut into the Little Rock area from northern points, eliminating the run southwest to Altheimer and then back northwest on the original North Little Rock line. Twenty-six years later, however, in June of 1937, this justification had evaporated and the entire Central Arkansas & Eastern was abandoned.
Only one locomotive is known to have been owned by the Central Arkansas & Eastern, and its ancestry is a mystery. In fact, it is within the realm of possibility that the engine was purchased "thirdhand" from neighboring Stuttgart & Arkansas River (which became the Gillett Branch of the Cotton Belt), which disposed of their Baldwin 4-4-0 (oo 00) about the time the CA&E was buying an 1880 Baldwin 4-4-0, specifications unknown. Regardless, one fact is known: the CA&E sold its #1 in March , 1911.
Today, little remains of these interesting Cotton Belt branch lines. Former depot structures at Humnoke (now a dwelling) and at Coy (now a storage shed) in addition to the still-standing Rock Island Depot at Hazen are the only structures left to remind ns of the two branch lines. Some industrial trackage at Stuttgart (largely unusable) still exists as well as traces of the old right-of-way, such as a few rare, rusty spikes and bits and pieces here and there of the remains of old cross ties. paved Highway 165 between Stuttgart and England largely runs over the old roadbed or otherwise closely parallels it. Traces of the former roadbed of the Hazen branch can be found, particularly as it runs through Slovak, being used as a farm road adjacent to that community, and as a field road leading north out of Stuttgart. A business structure in Hazen (built alongside the curving east leg of the wye as the branch connected with the Rock Island there) can be seen standing today as the line entered town from the south along what today is Chester Street. Evidence of both legs of the old wye can be clearly seen at England just south of the location of the former Cotton Belt depot there. Evidently, the Cotton Belt felt its lease and later purchase of the Central Arkansas & Eastern was a wise investment, for it operated the two branches at a reasonable profit during the early years. Improved highways and road conditions brought about the introduction in the early 1930's of its wholly-owned bus and truck subsidiary, The Southwestern Transportation Company, which provided passenger motor coach and truck "Coordinated Road and Rail Service" to the area. This bold and progressive move by the Cotton Belt no doubt hastened the railroad's decision to apply to the ICC for authority in 1937 to abandon what were plainly becoming unprofitable branch lines.
Researched and mapped by Railroad Historians:
Jim Bennett and Glenn Mosenthin - March 28th, 1997