The 2021 R&LHS David P. Morgan Article Award goes to Scott Muskopf for “The Beer Baron’s Railway: The Story of the Manufacturers Railway,” Terminal Railroad Association of St. Louis Historical and Technical Society Issue 79 (Summer 2019).
This is a comprehensive history of the Manufacturers Railway, a key element in brewer Adolphus Busch’s vertical-integration strategy. It provides the full story of a small (40-some miles) but mighty terminal carrier connecting St. Louis industrial enterprises with the national railroad network.
Muskopf’s work is copiously illustrated, rests on extensive use of primary sources, and demonstrates rigorous research combined with elegant writing. It is a superlatively presented history of this intriguing line.
The article is organized into several interlocking sections. The early life of Augustus Busch leads seamlessly into the organization of the Manufacturers Railway. Though the railroad is commonly associated with the Anheuser-Busch brewing company, Muskopf mines corporate archives, company papers, and secondary literature to illustrate the range of other customers and the variety of rolling stock along Manufacturers’ expanding string of lines. He also explains how the railway remained the personal property of the Busch family until Anheuser-Busch Inc. acquired it in 1967.
The centrality of railroad transportation to the brewing industry comes through clearly in Muskopf’s writing. Raw materials (“barley and rice, bottles, coal, building materials, cleaning and filtration materials, packaging, machinery,” noted on p.27) arrived from across the country while beer was shipped out.
Not always, of course. During Prohibition (1920-1933) the Manufacturers Railway shipped Anheuser-Busch’s new products, from barley-malt syrup to livestock feed to truck bodies.
Muskopf also covers Manufacturers’ sometimes frayed relations with the Terminal Railroad Association of St. Louis, the Alton & Southern, and the St. Louis & O’Fallon, often caused by disagreements over access to bridges across the Mississippi River to Illinois.
Later years are enlivened by interviews with retired employees, whose reminiscences reveal the extent of Manufacturers Railway operations, including some of the up to 18 daily switching jobs in the 1970s. Add in excellent illustrations, locomotive and freight-car rosters, lists of lineside industries, and maps, and it adds up to a complete history of a fascinating railroad.
Living with his wife Beverly in Kirkwood, Mo., Muskopf is an electrical engineer who works in sales for the utility distribution industry. Perhaps reflecting the discipline of his engineering training, he approached his book subject dispassionately. He wasn’t particularly a fan of the Manufacturers Railway beforehand, but took on the assignment at the request of longtime TRRA editor Larry Thomas.
“It was not a labor of love,” Muskopf said. “It was a better background because I wasn’t biased. I approached it from a non-fan point of view. I made it my business to research the brewery.”
A native of Belleville, Ill., he worked for the Missouri Pacific Railroad for two years while he was in college at the University of Missouri-Rolla. Since becoming a railfan about 1976, he’s written 10 magazine articles and has seen 500 of his railroad photos published in books, magazines, and calendars.
Muskopf cites Professor H. Roger Grant, author of nearly three dozen railroad histories (and a member of the R&LHS Awards Committee), as his role model in compiling interpretive history. “I try to take an H. Roger Grant approach,” he says, “It takes a lot of research, and he has a conversational style of writing.”