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Santa Fe Passenger Depot, Arkansas City, Kansas

Santa Fe Passenger Depot in Arkansas City

The Santa Fe Passenger Depot in Arkansas City, Kansas, Built in 1888 and destroyed in 1950 to make room for a "modern" depot.

weather vane

This is the weather vane on the top of the old depot. Notice it is a locomotive pulling two cars.

Architectural Plans of the Arkansas City, Kansas, Santa Fe Passenger Depot, Built 1887

Santa Fe Depot

from: Mary Ann Wortman, Arkansas City, Kansas

Santa Fe Anniversary

The founders of Arkansas City had foresight in fighting for railroad service to the new town as early as 1870Cand it took just ten years for the first passenger train to make its initial stop here. Leading local citizens, names familiar to many of us, presented the land, worth $50,000, for a right-of-way. Among the names appear J. C. Topliff, O. P. Houghton, Mayor W. M. Sleeth, and A. A. Newman.

On January 2, 1880, the first passenger train pulled into the depotCten days agoCJanuary 2, 1980, was the 100th anniversary of that memorable occasion. However, train service through here was curtailed two months prior to that date [January 2, 1980] by Amtrak [about October 2, 1979].

Gone now, the old friendly depot, the glamour and excitement of noisy whistling locomotivesCeven the streamliner in its luxury and only in our memories can we recall this 100 year bit of history.

(Signed) Lois MacAllister Hinsey (Mrs. Ira)

January 12, 1980

Arkansas City Historical Society

[Mrs. Hinsey lives with her daughter now in Georgia. She gave Kay the papers she had collected through the years, from which the following items are typed. MAW]

Date on which the following article appeared is not given. Believe the paper it was printed in was the Arkansas City Daily Traveler. Mrs. Hinsey had with her above notes the original typed document given below.

The Santa Fe at Arkansas City.

Caroline H. Applegate.


City Founders Fought For Santa Fe


Bicentennial Contributor

For years Arkansas City has been privileged to hear Athat whistle down the line@ denoting the arrival and departure of an Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad train. Whether it was the lonesome whistle of a steam engine or the insistent bell and quieter honk of the diesel streamliner, the locomotive called to the city as it went about its business over the past 90 years.

The founders of Arkansas City had foresight in fighting for railroad service to the new town as early as 1870. It took just ten years for the first passenger train to make its initial stop here, January 2, 1880, at a rather flimsy frame building which contained the depot, telegraph office, baggage, and mail offices. The land for the right-of-way for the railroad had been presented by a group of local citizensCland worth $50,000. These citizens included R. C. Haywood, J. C. Topliff, O. P. Houghton, James Huey, T. H. McLaughlin, A. A. Newman, and Mayor W. M. Sleeth.

Arkansas City was the end of the line for the Santa Fe for the next six years. However, in 1884 it was determined by the railroad superiors to make Arkansas City a divisional point and to plan to go south to Gainesville, Texas. During these years the interested and concerned citizens had been busily raising an additional $10,000 and 50 acres of land through local contributions in order to build a depot and have land to build the railroad shops. They would be ready for a large railroad center.

In 1886 expansion to the south through Indian Territory to Purcell began. Engineers came to Arkansas City to establish location of the line. The Arkansas River bridge was completed in September 1886.

As the building progressed, trains began to run from Arkansas City to the south and the end of the present construction. A. A. Robinson, Santa Fe general manager and chief engineer, issued the first schedule for November 29, 1886, from Arkansas City to the Ponca station, now White Eagle, a total of 31 miles. By January 6, 1887, the run was to Cow Creek, a point about one-half mile south of present day Perry, a distance of 59 miles. Col. J. W. F. Hughes of Topeka had charge of the construction from Ponca to Purcell. He had 300 workmen who laid about two miles of track per day. By February the track was finished to Deer Creek, now Guthrie. June 12, 1887, the line was completed to Purcell, 154 miles south of Arkansas City, and ran from Purcell on to Gainesville, Texas.

While expansion of the line was underway, Arkansas City was building a depot and shops. They were completed by 1888. The depot was built of red brick and a train weather vane sat atop its roof. The station had two waiting roomsCone for men and one for womenCand in the south end of the depot was an elaborate dining room with a lunch counter which became known as the Harvey House.

The elaborate dining room extended the full width of the south wing and featured a magnificent tile mantle and fireplace centered by a stained glass window showing an urn heaped with fruits. A few of the hearth tiles are on display at the Cherokee Strip Museum as well as old telegraph instruments, etc.

The Harvey House opened about three years following the erection of the station and hired mostly local girls as employees. Some remained with the system until its closing some forty years later. The AHarvey Girls@ were always in uniform: the earlier ones with long, crisp white aprons and bows over fitted black shirt waists. The second floor space of the depot at times was used for the girls as a dormitory.

The railroad was ready for the opening of the Indian Territory to settlement on April 22, 1889. The new railway line carried 10,000 people from Arkansas City to the new territory commencing at Guthrie.

When the Cherokee Outlet opening came on September 16, 1893, the Santa Fe was again ready to take land hunters south. Exactly on the stroke of 12 noon the first Santa Fe train left the border line. The train was forbidden to travel faster than the pace a horse could run.

From that time on the railroad=s main business was to carry passengers from Chicago to Galveston and freight from the Great Lakes to the Gulf, all passing through Arkansas City.

Many famous people were early visitors to the local station. Among them were George W. Miller of the 101 Ranch; Indian Chief Wa-shun-gah; William Jennings Bryan, presidential hopeful; Gifford Pinchot, statesman and lecturer; Vice-President Charles Curtis; and Representative P. P. APhil@ Campbell.

The new machine shops and roundhouse burned down in 1895. They were immediately rebuilt.

From its origin the Santa Fe was a major industry in Arkansas City. The depression did not half it. In fact, the north yards were completed in the 1930s. The Harvey House closed its doors June 1, 1933. The dining cars had replaced the necessity of the Harvey House except for leisurely and luxurious eating for the townfolk. The old dining room was utilized during World War II as a canteen for the Red Cross to serve the men on troop trains who came through Arkansas City.

The red brick station became old, uncomfortable, and unworkable; and to many an eyesore. A new station was opened April 27, 1951, on the same location. This was a modern buff brick and Silverdale stone structure costing $100,000.

Gone with the old friendly depot was the glamour and excitement of the noisy, whistling locomotives. Streamlined trains and station are a part of the modern, impersonal world.

[Bill, I found typos galore, which hopefully I corrected. Caroline Applegate at that time was a very young girl...and I gather Lois Hinsey helped with article as well as Brian Coyne of the Traveler.] sending photo of Santa Fe Depot, Arkansas City. You may want to work with it. Only copy I have in files, but feel you should have it to play with. Chances are somewhere in this, etc., there is another copy, but Lord Only Knows!

There was also a photo of weathervane on top of old station in October 25, 1955, issue of Traveler...very poor picture. Caption: ATHE MINIATURE TRAIN atop the old Santa Fe station here was well known over the system and was a landmark for many years.@

From the Winfield Courier Newspaper comes an article written by Brian Coyne re miniature train back in Arkansas City dated April 2, 1984. Had two copies. Am sending you one of them.

Arkansas City Daily Traveler, Friday, April 27, 1951.

City Salutes Santa Fe With Colorful Program, Movie Star


CAPTION: Center of AttractionCArkansas City=s new $100,000 Santa Fe railroad passenger station, above, held the spotlight in Arkansas City Friday as top Santa Fe officials and Film Actress Janis Carter presided at formal dedication ceremonies. Miss Carter, feminine star of the motion picture ASanta Fe,@ was a luncheon guest of Chamber of Commerce and railroad officials, after which she toured the new station. The new structure replaces the original red-brick Santa Fe station constructed in 1888 and long a landmark for home-seekers, travelers, and tourists from the opening of Old Oklahoma to the present day. (Artcraft Photo.)

[Next comes a clipping with no notation as to paper or date...but I gather it was an article printed by Traveler.]

New Station Features Newest Conveniences With Modern Design

The new buff brick and Silverdale stone Santa Fe station formally opened Friday, is of the most modern and strongest construction available.

The gleaming new structure was built on the site of the old station constructed in 1888. Contractor on the new building was the Martin K. Eby Construction Co., of Wichita.

The old building was torn down in sections so that passenger and baggage service could be continued while the new building was being built. A part of the old building had not been used for several years.

The parts not used were the upstairs office space, the old Harvey house, and the basement. At the beginning of construction, about half of the old station was demolished to make room.

The basement of the old building provided footings for the new structure, and heavily reinforced foundations were poured before the old basement was refilled.

The new building is heated with the new Panelray heating whereby welded tubing is imbedded in the concrete floor. Hot water passing through the tubing heats the building.

Heat for the structure is provided by boilers in the old freight office. Steam is transmitted to the new building, then condensed into hot water before being pumped at controlled temperatures through the new building. In the waiting room, a few extra wall radiators have been added to assure comfort of passengers.

Another feature of the construction is the fact that all telephone conduits in use in the new building are also imbedded in the concrete floor. The building has built-in pneumatic tubes which will be used later to install an automatic telegram transfer from the telegraph office in the main office building, a block north of the station, to the freight office and ticket agent.

[Bill...I worked in main office building referred to...remember telegraph office well. It was on first floor...I worked on second floor as stenographer-clerk to the chief clerk to the superintendent...and rushed like a mad fiend to deliver Apink telegrams@ to a tube going to telegraph office when the two trains wrecks occurred while I was there...messages from my boss, Brillhart, and from Willis, the superintendent, who also kept his secretary, Chuck Lodge, busy with other telegrams until private car was hooked to a train and off they went. The first accident occurred in Oklahoma near Norman, I believe. No one was injured among passengers as train fell over into a soft embankment. Cannot remember anymore details about the Udall accident, but again do not recall anyone killed. Chuck Lodge wanted to remain in Arkansas City/Wellington area...kept turning down promotions to other points. Before he retired H. C. Willis saw to it that Charles Lodge became the local agent in charge of depot so that he could remain in Arkansas City. Both Willis and Chuck have been dead for years.]

The waiting room has wiring already installed to provide a loudspeaker system for passenger service also.

All lighting in the new building is of the indirect type. Liberal use of glass brick in the outside walls make for an added use of sunlight for lighting purposes.

The new building contains the waiting room and ticket offices, the freight accounting offices, and the baggage room. Regular freight goods are still handled in the old freight building, south across Fifth avenue from the new building.

The offices are equipped with gleaming new steel gray desks and file cabinets, with the most modern conveniences being the rule in construction and design.

Walls of the freight office are finished in a soft light green. The ceilings are a light shade of gray.

The waiting room is finished in natural stained redwood paneling, with an acoustically designed ceiling. Big picture windows are set on all four sides of the spacious waiting room. Green drapes enhance the beauty of the room.

Waiting room furniture is of chrome steel tubing frame with overstuffed plastic in several colors of upholstering material.

An interesting feature of the walls of the ticket office is a large pane of corrugated glass which allows light to pass through, but is too opaque to allow for vision.

The building is equipped with venetian blinds in all the office space, and the electric light fixtures are all enclosed in a special design for indirect lighting.

The new structure has about 4,000 square feet of floor space of which the major part is used for ticket offices, baggage room, and waiting room.

Sixteen employees work in the freight accounting offices and the ticket offices in the building.

The actual station building is still only a minor part of the changes contemplated for the site however, O. A. Shields, division agent, said.

Also planned in the near future is the paving and complete landscaping of the area west of the station.

The tracks through the station area are due for revamping also. The grade will be changed and new platforms will be installed, Shields said.

It is not known how soon the rest of the construction work on the station site will begin, but the work itself is estimated to cost more than the station.

[Next item...newspaper and date not given...gather it was a Traveler article.]


CAPTION: Original Station Was LandmarkCBuilt in 1888, Arkansas City=s original red brick Santa Fe Railroad station was a departure point for home seekers, travelers, and sight-seers during the old Oklahoma land rush in 1889 and the Cherokee Strip in 1893. The station housed a Harvey House that was famed among travelers between Chicago and Galveston. It was from this station also that home seekers boarded trains sponsored by land companies selling real estate on the Afabulous Texas Gulf Coast.@

>Folks Hereabouts=C

Original Santa Fe Station Here Had Colorful History, Visitors


The following story was printed in this newspaper early in 1950, when it was announced the Santa Fe Railroad Co. would erect a new station in Arkansas City soon, to replace the imposing brick structure built in 1888:

A 62-year-old landmark, known to thousands who made the Old Oklahoma land rush in 1889 and the dash into the Cherokee Strip four years later, may soon disappear.

The Santa Fe railroad has announced that it has included in its 1949 budget $362,000 to build a new passenger station and office building here, headquarters for the road=s Oklahoma division.

As a result, the present red-brick structure that was raised in 1888, when Arkansas City was the major railhead into Oklahoma as far south as Guthrie, and later to points beyond, may soon make way for a modern station.

The Agingerbread@ exterior decoration and the ornate fire places and mantels inside the building were familiar signs to travelers into Oklahoma before the turn of the century, and the famous Fred Harvey dining room later saw many distinguished personages at its tables for the first quarter of the twentieth century.

The food prepared here was known from Chicago to Galveston and the road itself often admitted it second to none on the Santa Fe system.

Probably the traveler through here, to whom Arkansas City residents are most sentimentally attached, was Wa-shun-gah, tribal chief of the Kaw Indians, who made it a habit to frequent the old Harvey House here.

Walter Hutchison, veteran retired newspaperman of Arkansas City, himself a veteran of the Cherokee Strip, recalls that it was Wa-shun-gah who told local residents of an old Indian belief that tornadoes never strike in the area between the junction of two rivers.

Arkansas City residents took Wa-shun-gah to heart, since they lived on the triangular apex where the Arkansas and Walnut rivers join.

Regardless of weather Wa-shun-gah=s Amedicine@ had anything to do with it, tornadoes have ripped and snorted over this area for three-quarters of a century, but never has one dipped into Arkansas City.

Visitors to the city still are told of the Amagic@ protection afforded by the rivers, and disillusionment will run rampant if ever a twister decides to come to earth here.

William Jennings Bryan was a frequent guest in the dining hall, and Hutchison recalls that at one time a Negro train porter who saw Bryan eating at the Harvey House lunch counter remarked:

AThat man Bryan sure is a good feeder!@

Other distinguished visitors included Gifford Pinchot, statesman and lecturer; Charles Curtis, former vice-president of the United States; and Rep. P. P. APhil@ Campbell.

George W. Miller, founder of the 101 Ranch, stopped here many times.

Years ago, Hutchison recalled, Miller carved his initials on a brick in the front of the station. The brick was only recently removed.

The present station was built eight years after the Santa Fe came to Arkansas City in 1880. Prior to its construction, flimsy frame buildings housed the depot, telegraph office, baggage and mail rooms.

Passenger and excursion trains carried many home seekers and sightseers into Old Oklahoma at the time of the grand opening in April, 1889, and again after the Strip was thrown open.

[Next item....someone wrote ATraveler 3/12/1975"]

If I remember correctly, Walter Hutchison is the one who wrote items such as the one below wherein he covered matters that happened 50, 25, 10 years before.


Twenty-two tons of rusty horseshoes or enough to shoe 12,500 horses, have been sold by Frank Peek upon the closing of his horseshoeing shop at 208 2 East Fifth Avenue.

Active work on the construction of the two subways under the Santa Fe tracks on Madison and Chestnut Streets will begin Aug. 13. C 1925 [1925 penned in].

[Next item, I believe, was printed in Wichita Eagle...Date not Given.

83-year Ear to End

Santa Fe to Drop Oklahoma Division in Fall

Special to The Eagle

ARKANSAS CITY, Kan. The Oklahoma Division of the Santa Fe Railroad, with headquarters here since before the turn of the century, is scheduled to pass into oblivion this fall.

At one time, the Oklahoma Division was topped in activity only by the Santa Fe=s division points at Los Angeles and Albuquerque, N. M.

When the division headquarters is closed here in the fall, it will mark the end of an 83-year era that began here long before old Oklahoma and the Cherokee Strip were opened to settlement, before the Spanish-American War, and before Oklahoma achieved statehood.

Now, more than three-quarters of a century later, the Oklahoma Division is to be combined with the Northern Division of Texas, with headquarters in Fort Worth. Some key personnel here already have left for new assignments.

First in 1880

The Santa Fe rolled its first train into Arkansas City from the north on Jan. 2, 1880, exactly 10 years after the townsite here was established.

For six years, Arkansas City remained the southern terminal for the railroad, then the tracks were pushed on into unsettled territory which later became Oklahoma, with the railroad giving birth to towns along the right-of-way.

The first regular train schedule for travel south from here was issued effective Nov. 29, 1886, with one accommodation train running each way daily between Arkansas City and the old station of Ponca, now White Eagle, a distance of 31 miles.

The present station of Ponca City, Okla., was established on Nov. 4, 1894, and the station of Ponca was changed to White Eagle, site of the old Ponca Indian Tribal Agency.

On Jan. 6, 1887, a time card was issued extending service from Arkansas City to Cow Creek, a distance of 59 miles. Cow Creek was about a half-mile south of the present station of Perry, Oklahoma.

Guthrie Before Town

Early in February, the track reached what is now Guthrie, Okla., but there was no town there at the time, and the name of the station at that time was Deer Creek.

Col. J. W. F. Hughes, who was in charge of the construction work from Ponca to what is now Purcell, Okla., said later he built the first houses at the present locations of Guthrie, Edmond, and Oklahoma City. He said they were built of track ties and were used by the railroad workmen.

While the new line was being built south through Oklahoma, the Gulf, Colorado, and Santa Fe was building north from Gainesville, Texas, to Purcell. The connection was made a few minutes after 5 o=clock the afternoon of April 26, 1887, with both forces reaching the link-up point about the same time.

The entire new line across Oklahoma was placed in operation June 12, 1887, almost two years before the territory was opened to settlement on April 22, 1889, by proclamation of President Benjamin Harrison.

For that opening, the Santa Fe amassed much equipment at Arkansas City, and ran it in 12-car trains to Guthrie. The first train carried 1,000 passengers, and the next 10 trains carried enough to bring the total to 10,000 persons, according to Santa Fe records.

Strip Opening

At the opening of the Cherokee Strip in September of 1893, the Santa Fe repeated its mass transportation performance. Trains carrying thousands of home seekers proceeded into the Strip Aat a pace no faster than a horse can run.@ Homesteaders dropped off the cars at various intervals along the route to seek out claims.

The growth of the railroad in this area later mushroomed to the point where there were 15 rail yards in the Oklahoma Division, and the division was greatly expanded in 1948 when most of the old Southern Kansas Division was added to its jurisdiction.

The original Oklahoma Division included the main line south from here to Purcell, an eastern line between Arkansas City and Shawnee, Oklahoma, and a branch from Guthrie northwest through Enid, Oklahoma, to Kiowa, Kansas. Additional track acquired from the old Southern Kansas Division included lines from Chanute, Kansas, to Tulsa, from Wellington to Independence, Kansas, and from Cherryvale to Coffeyville, Kansas.

[Next item: Picture taken in Traveler, Wednesday, November 10, 1971.]

CAPTION: AN EARLY DAY picture of the employees of the Santa Fe shops in Arkansas City and the old coal-burning engine which operated the trains. These engines met their demise when diesel engines were installed by the railroad. At one time, over 800 men were employed by the Santa Fe shops.

[There were four more items in folder re No. 2542 locomotive being set up in Wilson Park, arriving April 15, 1955....I had some typing to do for Mr. Brillhart re this action; article in April 4, 1985 Traveler re end of the line for cabooses; item re Mary Helen Dennis in Traveler October 21, 1977, re her being one of the original Harvey Girls in Arkansas City. She died, age 84, in Valley View Manor, Arkansas City; and an item re Fred Harvey and his famous AHarvey Girls@. Did not copy these.]


Cowley County Historical Society Museum