White Deer Land Museum

Trains Still Roll On The Santa Fe Tracks

In 1915 the Panhandle and Santa Fe Railway Company constructed a depot at 200 East Atchison in Pampa . The Pampa station was on the Wellington , Kansas to Texico , New Mexico segment of the Santa Fe Main Line from Chicago to Los Angeles . In addition to passengers, this line was characterized by fast freight and grain elevators.

Photo of Eloise Lane

Eloise Lane

The Pampa depot, 26 feet by 131 feet, was a modification of the standard brick “County Seat” style and received a heavy pebble-exterior finish. This type of construction, more elaborate than that of the customary frame depots, was used for, but not limited to, towns that were county seats.

During World War I, the Santa Fe made great strides in the building of larger steam locomotives, larger watertenders and more space for fuel. There was a switch from coal-burning to oil-burning locomotives, thus eliminating 92 water stops and one-half of the fuel stops between Chicago and Los Angeles .

About 1923, trains going through Pampa were using oil instead of coal for fuel. A great amount of steam was needed for westbound trains to climb the grade from Miami to Pampa . In the distance of 21 miles, the elevation rose from 2,755.7 feet at Miami to 3,234.7 feet at Pampa .

E.L. Barton, telegraph operator at Pampa from 1951 to 1977, reports that an addition was made to the Pampa depot in 1935 and the boiler was placed in the basement. About 1951 diesel replaced steam as fuel.

On Sunday, May 2, 1971, “All aboard” was called out for the last time in Pampa as the Chicago-bound Santa Fe pulled out of the quiet, dark city after arriving for a short stop at 1:22 a.m.

T.C. Narron, agent at that time, reported that many people who wanted to ride that last train failed to make reservations in time. Compartments and facilities were booked at departure points for as long as a month previously.

The discontinuance of passenger service came with the new system adopted by the Nixon administration to re-route and revamp the nation’s railway system. The new system, first called Railpax and later dubbed Amtrack, went into full effect on Monday, May 3, 1971.

The Pampa depot closed in 1985, but in November, 1991, it became the headquarters for a section crew of 23 — four for signalling and 19 for maintenance of way. Larry Gawthrop is the roadmaster for the section that extends from St. Francis to Lora on the Main Track and from Panhandle to Borger on the Borger Branch. (St. Francis is a few miles northeast of Amarillo and Lora is a few miles northeast of Miami .)

An average of 40 freight trains a day roll through Pampa . Eastbound trains run on the south track and westbound trains run on the north track.

Many Pampans have fond memories of going to the depot to see the passenger trains arrive and depart. It was interesting to watch the carts being wheeled to the locations where baggage would be loaded or unloaded and to see who was going somewhere or who was arriving.

One little girl said that the roar of the engine “scared her stomach,” but she was always ready to go to meet the trains.

Sometimes an attendant came from the depot with a message hoop holding orders which a conductor would remove as the train went by. At some distance from the depot a semapore board would inform the train crew if there were any orders to be taken on board.

Some of the excitement of meeting the trains was experienced on September 2, 1992, when the Santa Fe recognition train and steam locomotive #3751 whizzed non-stop through Pampa on the way to Chicago. The train rolled through Pampa again on September 13 on the way back to California.

Over 200 Articles, written by Eloise Lane, were published in the Pampa News. These articles may be accessed by clicking on each section below. A list of articles will be revealed that are linked to a page containing the text of the article.

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