|City/Town: • Ponca City|
|Location Class: • Railroad|
|Year Built: • 1911 | Year Abandoned: • 2000|
|Status: • Abandoned|
|Photojournalist: • David Linde • Johnny Fletcher • Emily Cowan|
Getting a Depot
How Ponca City got its depot is a very interesting one, starting with a rivalry between two towns. Cross Oklahoma a ghost town now, felt that for a Cross man to visit Ponca City was like putting a target on your back. With stations in Cross and “Old” Ponca, Santa Fe refused to stop when passing through “New” Ponca because it didn’t see financial gain. This meant “New” Ponca residents were made to drive to the Cross depot every day. Numerous letters and telegrams were sent to Santa Fe officials to have a depot, pushing further once “New” Ponca’s population reached that of Cross. Finally agreeing to do so but without building a depot, the first trained stopped at “New” Ponca at 9:27 a.m. on Sept. 22, 1894.
A temporary depot was made out of a freight car fitted with windows. This new station was given the name “White Eagle” by Santa Fe officials to honor the Ponca’s chieftain and then “New” Ponca became Ponca City. Only when H.W. Liddle, a Santa Fe agent was promised two lots of land, good ones at that, by the Ponca City Mayor did he agree to have the depot at Cross and its offices moved to Ponca City in 1984. The move was made at nightfall to ensure that the Cross residents weren’t able to secure an injunction to stop the move.
In 1910 after much discussion it was agreed that work would commence on a new Santa Fe depot. It would end up being a state of the art Spanish Mission Revival styled passenger depot. Featuring pebble-dash over brick veneer giving the appearance of a solid concrete building. Costs stacked up to a little over the planned $20,000 with construction costs coming in at $22,000. The new depot was dedicated on April 22, 1911, on the anniversary day of Oklahoma becoming a territory.
The handsome architecture was something the community had never seen in a depot before making it appealing to all eyes. Nearby Perry decided it would duplicate the new Ponca City depot in its town because of its stature and modernistic qualities.
On April 12, 1920, the Santa Fe depot experienced something out of a wild west movie. According to the Shawnee News-Star, an unknown man with a soft southern drawl ordered J.A. Shelp, the Santa Fe night agent to put his hands up and follow him across the tracks. He then proceeded to tie Shelps up being a building and returned to the depot. He blew the safe open and fled the scene with $1,500. Ten men were sleeping in the waiting room at the time of the robbery and were not awaken until the explosion occurred, all were being held as suspects.
The former Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway train station sits beside the mainline running through town, which is now operated by BNSF Railway. Amtrak used this station for their Texas Chief and Lone Star passenger trains. The Texas Chief operated between Chicago and Houston, starting on May 1, 1971. By the year 2000, the building was boarded up and unused. The Ponca City Landmark Conservancy is negotiating to acquire the depot and restore it. Ponca City Rock Island Depot was lucky enough to be fully restored, painted as a two-toned rose building, and is now a medical marijuana dispensary.
Article by AOK Photojournalist Emily Cowan