Login, or register today to interact in our online community, comment on articles, receive our newsletter, manage your account online and more!

Big Saturday night

Cramming 500 soldiers onto Frisco’s Meteor
Frisco 4501, one of the road’s three 4500-series 4-8-4s assigned to passenger service, rolls the Meteor into St. Louis.
Ben F. Cutler
About midnight on a Saturday in 1944 on the station platform in Neosho, Mo., are 500 guys with suntans, each carrying a one-day pass and probably a railway ticket tucked in his wallet. This last fact doesn’t matter, because there will be no room on the train in the conventional sense for even a few of us.

The Frisco’s Meteor from Oklahoma City to St. Louis comes charging in behind a giant Northern type locomotive. The railroad has on this train as many coaches and baggage cars as it could find and as that big beast of a locomotive can pull. We swarm on board, filling every vestibule and every corner of every car.

Then we are off through the night, following the well-known route out of the Ozarks through Springfield, Mo., to St. Louis. There’s some fast running for a single-track railroad: 311 miles in under eight hours. And of course, while the big Northern can run with this train, there are a few times when it has to struggle to start it—there are just too many of us.

For us 500 there is a sense of escape. We are getting away from good old Camp Crowder and its radio transmitters, teletypes, and the code, plus the chow lines and all that, for just a few hours. Yes, the Sunday night Meteor out of St. Louis will be back in Neosho at 2:40 on Monday morning, and I guess we are all going to be tired.

Tired is not important, though, for we have played a role in the last great hurrah of American railroads in these few years of World War II. Our Saturday night was just one of hundreds, our 500 guys were but a few in millions. The Frisco was but one of dozens of railroads, and its people were doing their darnedest. Yes, it was a mighty big Saturday night.

First published in Winter 2003 Classic Trains magazine.


Read and share your comments on this article

Want to leave a comment?

Only registered members of are allowed to leave comments. Registration is FREE and only takes a couple minutes.

Login or Register now.
Free download

Free download

Three stories written and photographed by Jim Shaughnessy.


Get the Classic Trains twice-monthly newsletter

By signing up you may also receive occasional reader surveys and special offers from Classic Trains magazine. Please view our privacy policy