Red River Railroad

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Red River Railroad
Locale Louisiana
Dates of operation 1837[1]–1881
Successor New Orleans Pacific Railway
Track gauge 5 ft (1,524 mm)
Headquarters Alexandria, LA

The Red River Railroad, also known as the Ralph Smith Smith Railroad and the Alexandria and Cheneyville Railroad, was the first railroad in the United States built west of the Mississippi River.

An area engineer, planter and steamboat operator, Ralph Smith Smith, developed 16 miles (26 km) of 5 ft (1,524 mm)[2] gauge railroad line to connect Smith's Landing at Lecompte, Louisiana to the docks at Alexandria, Louisiana, enabling area settlers to have greater opportunity to get their crops to market. Although slow and crudely built, the train was capable of making one round trip daily.[3] Smith Smith also owned three steam boats with which he transported cotton brought to Alexandria on the railroad to New Orleans.

When completed, the line of railroad extended approximately 40 miles (64 km) between Alexandria, Louisiana and Bayou Hauffpaur near Cheneyville, Louisiana.[1] The railroad transported sugar cane and cotton in connection with steamboats on the Red River.[1]

The railroad operated for over twenty years. It was destroyed in 1864 during the Red River Campaign of the American Civil War when Union soldiers used rails, cross ties, bridge timbers, and rolling stock from the railroad as material to dump into the Red River in the construction of Bailey's Dam.[1][4] The car house in Alexandria was burned when the town was destroyed by retreating Union forces on May 13, 1864.[5]

In 1881, the railroad was sold to the New Orleans Pacific Railway Company.[3][6]


  1. ^ a b c d Capace, Nancy. Encyclopedia of Louisiana. St. Clair Shores, MI: Somerset Publishers, 1999. ISBN 978-0-403-09817-0. p. 196.
  2. ^ Confederate Railroads - Red River
  3. ^ a b Historical Plaque located at Smith's Landing, LeCompte, Louisiana, United States
  4. ^ Federal Writers' Project; Louisiana Writers' Project (1947). Louisiana: A guide to the state. US History Publishers. p. 242. ISBN 978-1-60354-017-9. Retrieved 30 March 2011. 
  5. ^ Harry G. Eskew; Elizabeth Eskew (1950). Alexandria 'way down in Dixie: an informal biography of an old Louisiana city. H. G. Eskew. p. 70. Retrieved 30 March 2011. 
  6. ^ Alexandria Louisiana Retrospective. Retrieved January 1, 2014.

External links[edit]

  • [1] History Hunts: What Happened to the Red River Railroad
  • [2] Alexandria Burns: April 28 - May 13, 1864