Bald Knob, AR

Bald Knob, AR

The city slogan for Bald Knob is, "Where the Ozarks meet the Delta." Bald Knob is located on the southern edge of the Ozarks, and was named for a large outcropping of layered stone that was a natural landmark. The coming of the St. Louis, Iron Mountain and Southern Railroad in 1872 triggered economic development in the region.

With the railroad’s arrival in 1872, officials became interested in quarrying the 'bald knob' rock for railroad bed ballast. Work in the quarry began in 1877 and by 1880, 56 of the town’s 221 people worked there. More than half of the quarry workers were foreign born, most from Ireland. The importance of rock quarrying continued as the knob furnished ballast for Jay Gould’s Bald Knob Memphis Railroad, from 1886 to 1888 to make an east-west connection for the St. Louis, Iron Mountain and Southern.

In 1881, a section house was built at Bald Knob. The section house brought more new families to the area, since it was a fairly permanent job. Another interesting note of the Bald Knob-Memphis Railroad was the check for $1,500,000 which Jay Gould wrote on January 4, 1887, to pay for the building of the railroad. The Memphis Daily Avalanche reported it was the largest check written up to that time.

Sometime around 1873, Benjamin Franklin Brown, one of Bald Knob’s founding fathers, posted a sign beside the railroad tracks labeling the area Bald Knob.

Another economic surge for Bald Knob occurred because of the strawberry. The sandy, upland soil was ideal for the fruit, which was introduced in neighboring Judsonia (White County) in the 1870s. In 1921, Brown, June "Jim" Collison, and Ernest R. Wynn organized The Strawberry Company. They built the longest strawberry shed in the world, a three-quarter-mile structure parallel to the tracks of the Missouri Pacific Railroad. In the peak year of 1951, Bald Knob growers sold $3.5 million worth of strawberries and Bald Knob became the "Strawberry Capital of the World." This described the city until the 1960s, when berries ceased to be a major crop because of changing market and labor conditions. During its height, there were three switch engines working around the clock to serve local commerce.

Today, Bald Knob celebrates its relationship with the Union Pacific Railroad and it's railroad heritage. The 1915 Depot has been remodeled and houses a Model Train Store and growing Railroad Museum, including historic cabooses and an 1894 RPO coach. The community works with Union Pacific to host successful Operation Lifesaver events and mounted a campaign to bring the magnificent Living Legend steam locomotive No. 844 to Bald Knob as part of the Little Rock Express.

Bald Knob is at a unique junction of the powerful Union Pacific Railroad. The Depot is located at the exact division of the Memphis and Chicago lines from Little Rock. This location provides dedicated railfans from around the world, a central location to see over 60 trains a day. This is advertised in International magazines and promotes safe railfanning for guests of all ages. From School Groups to the Arkansas' Visitor's Bureau, bus loads of visitors come to learn more about Bald Knob's connection to railroading.

A core group, of dedicated enthusiast, is committed to developing awareness of the Union Pacific's importance, both historically and the impact the railroads play in today's economy. Train horns here are a constant reminder to the residents of their heritage with the railroad. To them it is a link with the past and an announcement of the future. Bald Knob is truly Train Town USA!