Interest in Ava’s Former Railroad Picks Up Steam
by Michael Boyink
Foamer. Gricer. Anorak. Gunzel.
Odd words here in Missouri in 2019. While those words don’t originate from the same time periods or the same countries, they all mean the same thing.
Whether it’s train photography, railroad history, train simulations, model railroading, or train restoration that interests you, it all rolls up to that one word.
And there are railfans interested in Ava and Douglas County.
Because Ava used to have a railroad.
Formally known as the Kansas City Ozark & Southern Railroad, the line’s shortened name was the KCO&S. Locally people also called it the “Ava Southern Railroad”.
They also may or may not have called it the “Kissing Coons, Owls and Shoats” railroad.
The KCO&S operated from 1910 to 1935, running all of 15 miles between Ava and Mansfield. It was the second shortest route in Missouri. Only the five mile train from Cassville to Exeter was shorter.
The railroad’s main load was railroad ties. Douglas County was a large supplier of hand-hewn ties and at its peak in 1915 the KCO&S carried 131 cars loaded full of them.
Other loads detailed in a 1916 manifest were 13 cars of cattle and 9 cars of walnut logs. In loads measured by the pound, live poultry, game, and junk were the most-carried by the railroad.
In later years the railroad would be crucial to Douglas County’s canned tomato production.
And it wasn’t just stuff. The KCO&S also transported people.
Passengers were carried both by regular train and self-powered coaches – basically buses adapted to ride on the rails.
With names like “The Bluebird” and “The Yellowjacket” the sights and sounds of these vehicles are still impressed upon the memories of some Douglas County residents.
The Ava Depot was a two-story building, located where the high school parking lot is today. There were other whistle stops along the route to Mansfield.
There’s more known history about the KCO&S. There are photos of the depot, some of the equipment, and local folks in and around the depot and train. There are documents about the cost of the line, who the different owners were, and where some of the remnants of the tracks remain to this day.
But there are details slipping away with the passing of time.
To help slow that loss of history, local railfans recently created an Ava Southern Railroad Facebook group.
The group description reads “Many love the discovery of new places, for some it has been getting there by train. The Ava Southern Railroad certainly was the heart of transportation and the mode that provided access to the outside world in Ava for many years.
This page is intended to be a gathering place for members to share photos, stories and reference material that begin to put the pieces of the local railroad history back together and make it available to feel, hear & see again.”
If you are a foamer that knows anything about the Ava Southern Railroad, or budding gunzel who wants to learn more about it, please join the Facebook Group at facebook.com/groups/AvaRY.