This site is dedicated to preserving and promoting the history of the Columbia Branch Railroad. This site was also created, in part, to promote the current operations that exist on the Columbia Branch. To achieve both of these objectives, the initial purpose of this site is to promote the new book, The Columbia Branch Railroad and to make it available for purchase on-line. In the near future, the content on this site will be updated and expanded to provide much more information regarding the history of the Columbia Branch and the present day operations and events occurring on its line. Thank you for visiting.

COLT train at Hallsville, MissouriSouthbound COLT train passes through Hallsville
Marty Paten Photo


The Columbia Branch is a 21.7 mile short line railroad running from Centralia, Missouri to Columbia, Missouri. The line was originally built by the Boone County & Jefferson City Railroad Company, which was incorporated in 1857. Construction of the Branch, however, did not begin until 1866 shortly after the civil war had ended. The line was completed on October 29, 1867 at a cost of $520,000. During its history the Columbia Branch has been owned, leased and operated by many railroad companies including: The Boone County & Jefferson City Railroad; The North Missouri Railroad; The St. Louis, Kansas City & Northern Railroad; The Wabash, St. Louis & Pacific Railroad; The Wabash Western Railway; The Boone County & Boonville Railway; The Columbia & St. Louis Railroad;The Wabash Railroad; The Norfolk & Western Railroad; The Norfolk Southern Railroad; and currently, the Columbia Terminal Railroad (COLT).


Wabash derailment on Columbia Branch

Wabash derailment near Brown's Station

                                                                                                                                            For most of its history the Columbia Branch was operated under the control of the Wabash Railroad. In its heyday the Wabash was operating up to eight scheduled trains on the Columbia Branch each day making it one of the busiest short line railroads in the mid-west. Known for its mixed trains the Columbia Branch served a variety of customers throughout its long and fascinating history. Commodities transported down its line included most everything conceivable. Common shipments were coal, livestock, lumber, general merchandise and agriculture equipment. Some of the uncommon shipments were such commodities as milk, honey and GOLD! What made this branch so unique though, was its passenger service. Among its customers were students and faculty of the University of Missouri, Stephens College, and Christian College.  No other branch railroad in the country provided more passenger service for college students than the Columbia Branch. Other unique events and people associated with the Columbia Branch ranged from the Civil War, murders, sabotage, and bank robberies to bushwhackers, Jesse James, ghosts and Sasquatch (Bigfoot). Though the Columbia Branch was generally a safe railroad, its history does include over 300 significant accidents including many tragic deaths. Today, the Columbia Branch serves the COLT Railroad and provides rail service for the Columbia Star Dinner Train. It also provides annual excursion entertainment for members of the North American Rail Car Operators Association (NARCOA). To learn more about this important American short line railroad please order a copy of the book, The Columbia Branch Railroad.


Columbia Branch Railroad College Town USA Timetable

A Wabash Railroad Columbia Branch TimetableMarty Paten collection