The origin of the Chillicothe and Brunswick Railroad dates to January 26, 1864 when the Missouri state legislature incorporated the line to operate between Chillicothe (Livingston County) and Brunswick (Chariton County). The Chillicothe and Brunswick Railroad was finically tied to the existing North Missouri Railroad which it joined at Brunswick (Chariton County). The initial board of directors was composed of J. B. Leeper, J. B. Bell, Benj. Berry, D. G. Saunders, S. K. Alexander, Thos. T. Eagles, W. A. Love, W. S. Davis, S. B. Deland and John Smith, of Livingston County; W. H. Plunkett, Thos. Anderson, John H. Blue, Adamantine Johnson, W. E. Moberly, John Ballentine, John H. Davis, James McFarren and David Loud, of Chariton County; and W. R. Creel and W. A. Delany, of Carroll County.
On May 15th, 1866, Livingston county voted on the question of taking $200,000 stock in the Chillicothe and Brunswick Railroad, and the proposition was defeated: for taking stock, 451; and against, 536. However, on April 25, 1867, another election was held to decide whether or not the county should take stock in the road to the amount of $150,000, and the proposition carried by: 1,064 to 678. The county court made the subscription on May 7, 1867, agreeing to issue 8 per cent bonds of the county as follows: When the first ten miles of track shall be completed, $25,000; and $25,000 for every additional five miles of track. The bonds were dated August, 1, 1868, and not signed or issued till that time. The last of the bonds were paid by the county in 1885.
In 1867, citizens of Chariton County vote in favor of $100,000 worth of bonds to build the railroad. However, it was not until 1870 that the railroad was actually built. The southern terminus (at Brunswick, Chariton County) was at the North Missouri Railroad (after 1871 the St. Louis, Kansas City, and Northern Railway), who provided partial finical assistance and additional aid. Towns along the railroad were as follows (northwest to southeast).
The railroad was built during 1869 and 1870. Upon the line's completion to Chillicothe, there was great celebration, and a large excursion to Brunswick. Towns along the railroad were as follows:
- Chillicothe (Livingston County)
- Norville (Livingston County)
- Bedford Station (Livingston County)
- Fountain Grove (Linn County)
- Sumner (Chariton County)
- Cunningham (Crossland, Stanley, Stanley City) [Chariton County]
- Triplett (Triplettville, Tripletts) [Chariton County]
- Whitham (Chariton County)
- Brunswick (Chariton County)
In 1871, the North Missouri railroad corporation went bankrupt, and sold its property to M. K. Jessup, of New York. What happened next varies by source.
- According to the 1883 History of Chariton County and the 1886 History of Livingston County: the St. Louis, Kansas City and Northern Railway Company was organized in 1871 for the purpose of purchasing the road and gained control then.
- However, the book The Federal Cases: Comprising Cases Argued and Determined in the Circuit And District Courts of the United States, Book 8, paints a much more interesting picture. The railroad was sold to the St. Louis, Council Bluffs, and Omaha Railroad on September 14th, 1872 by a trustee under a second mortgage. It was after this time the railroad was referred to as the Brunswick and Chillicothe Railroad in legal records. Then on August 7th, 1873; the railroad was sold by a trustee under the original mortgage to the St. Louis, Kansas City, and Northern. However, disagreements with the St. Louis, Kansas City, and Northern Railway (the former North Missouri Railroad) led to legal case over bonds issued. The 1876 plat book of Chariton County refers to the railroad as the Brunswick, Chillicothe, and Omaha Railroad; the name change may have resulted from the lawsuit filed by the St. Louis, Kansas City, and Northern Railway.
In either case, on November 7, 1879, the Wabash, St. Louis, and Pacific Railroad bought the Brunswick and Chillicothe Railroad and combined it with the St. Louis, Council Bluffs, and Omaha Railroad to form the Omaha Branch of the Wabash, St. Louis, and Pacific Railroad. The Wabash, St. Louis, and Pacific Railroad became the Wabash Railroad on August 1st, 1889. In 1915, after foreclosure and reorganization, the Wabash Railroad Company of 1889, was sold to a new Wabash Railway Company, incorporated under the laws of Indiana. Then in January, 1942, the name of the railroad was changed to the Wabash Railroad Company. At some point between the 1960s and early 1980s (likely in 1964 or 1967); the railroad was leased by the Norfolk and Western Railway.
In June 1983, the Norfolk and Western Railway (as lessee and operator of the line) and the Wabash Railroad Company (as owner of the line), jointly applied with the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC) for permission to abandon and discontinue operation of the railroad line. The companies cited three reasons to support their application for abandonment: significant financial liability caused by operating the line; poor condition of the track structure; and decreasing demand from shippers. After abandonment, the railroad was acquired by the Green Hills Rural Development Authority, who in turn leased the line to a private contractor (called the Northern Missouri Railroad) on February 13th, 1984. Floods and washouts damaged the railroad and the original portion of the Chillicothe and Brunswick Railroad (excluding the Chillicothe, Missouri to Council Bluffs, Iowa portion that was originally known as the St. Louis, Council Bluffs, and Omaha Railroad) was recognized as the Chillicothe Southern Railroad on January 13th, 1986. However, the Chillicothe Southern Railroad failed and the Chillicothe–Brunswick Rail Maintenance Authority took over operations on September 20th, 1986.
On April 1st, 1990 the line was leased to the Wabash and Grand River Railroad who operated the railroad until the summer 1993 when floods severely damaged the line. The Chillicothe–Brunswick Rail Maintenance Authority took over operations once again and invested more than $1.1 million in repairs; the line resumed operations in April of 1994. Rolling stock consisted of one engine by the mid-1990s.
The remainder of the 1990s saw a growth of 10% to 20% traffic on the line yearly and helped to develop a 67 acre industrial park just east of Chillicothe. Additional developments included a grain terminal, over 300 new jobs, and $57 million worth of private sector investment. Despite an estimated value in excess of $1.5 million, the line was sold to the city of Chillicothe for $32,500 without public bidding. Since 2004, the portion from just east of the industrial park at Chillicothe was embargoed (approximately 30 miles of track east of Chillicothe to Brunswick). Approximately seven miles remained in use in and near Chillicothe under the guise of the Missouri North Central Railroad. On December 8, 2006 the city of Chillicothe sold the embargoed 30 miles of the railroad (from just east of the Chillicothe Industrial Park to Brunswick, Missouri) to Seattle-based Montoff Transportation, LLC for $976,000.
On February 23, 2007, the Chillicothe–Brunswick Rail Maintenance Authority filed a discontinuance exemption for the railroad. "Chillicothe-Brunswick Rail Maintenance Authority (CBRA) has filed a notice of exemption under 49 CFR 1152 Subpart F—Exempt Abandonments and Discontinuances of Services to discontinue service over an approximately 37.44-mile line of railroad between milepost 226.0, in Chillicothe, and milepost 188.56, near Brunswick, in Livingston, Linn, and Chariton Counties, MO." The Chillicothe–Brunswick Rail Maintenance Authority certified that: no traffic has moved over the line for at least two years; there is no overhead traffic on the line to be rerouted; no formal complaint filed by a user of rail service on the line regarding cessation of service over the line either is pending; and the requirements at 49 CFR 1105.12 (newspaper publication) and 49 CFR 1152.50(d)(1) (notice to governmental agencies) was met.
In 2008, that the city of Chillicothe repurchased the portion of railroad right-of-way sold to Montoff for $10. Subsequently, the city was a defendant in a lawsuit brought by a Livingston County farmer at the behest of A & K Railroad Materials of Salt Lake City, Utah. The basis of the lawsuit was that the railroad was worth much more than the $976,000 that the city had sold it to Montoff Transportation for. A & K Railroad subsequently offered approximately $400,000 more than Montoff Transportation had paid for the railroad, and asked the Court to set aside the sale to Montoff. However, the lawsuit was dismissed on a technicality.
Today, the portion just east of the Chillicothe Industrial Park to its former southern terminus at Brunswick has had its rails removed. Current plans include turning the abandoned line into a rails-to-trails project.
Of interest, although the entire line is listed and filed as abandoned, several miles apparently remain in local usage at Chillicothe. This was confirmed by personal observation in early July of 2013 and through local confirmation.