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By Linda Emley
All day long I had been trying to think of an idea for a Christmas story and then I finally decided to see what happened on Christmas 100 years ago.
I went to the newspaper room at the museum, but couldn’t find a 1912 newspaper. Lisa, who is a member of our genelogical association, told me that they think this edition isn’t in our collection because someone wanted it for the Titanic story from April of 1912.
I was disappointed, but then I found a box that said “Richmond Missourian, Dec. 26, 1912 only.” After looking at this one edition, I knew it was all that I needed. That is how things work on the hill at the Ray County Museum.
This is the headline that appeared in the Richmond Missourian on Thursday, Dec. 26, 1912: “RICHMOND’S NEW DEPOT CHRISTMAS GIFT. SANTA FE RAILROAD PLAYS SANTA CLAUS WITH GOOD ENTRANCE – NEW $16,000 DEPOT – A SUBSTANTIAL IMPROVEMENT. SKETCH OF FINE NEW STRUCTURE.”
And here’s the article: “The Santa Fe Railroad played Santa Claus for Richmond in bringing the new $16,000 station, a beautiful and modern structure, the finest of any branch road town of 5,000 in Missouri.
“In the spirit of goodwill and satisfaction, the building is herein discussed in detail.
The Missourian herewith prints a picture of the new Santa Fe depot being built in this city, showing the track elevation and the floor plan. The new depot at Richmond marks the beginning of building improvement work by the Santa Fe on its new double track line East of Kansas City.
“Heretofore, most of the new buildings were located west of the River, but with the completion of the second track, the stations will be improved from time to time as expenditure is warranted.
“Our old building was erected in 1881, since which time the town has flourished and grown to a point where the replacement is being made with a substantial brick structure as is suited to the station needs.
“The new structure is 26 x 103 feet with concrete foundation, brick walls with pebble dash finish and green glazed tile roof. The general waiting room is 15 ½ by 24 feet, with ladies restroom, 10 x 15 feet, off to one side. The office portion is 12 x 21 feet, the record room 4 x 6 feet adjoining. The baggage room is 15 ½ x 24 feet with a room 6 x 9 feet for use in handling express.
“The freight room is 21 x 40 feet with inclined platform for handling bulky freight and vehicles. The building and improvements will cost $16,000 complete, according to the approved plans. When the depot is completed, a grand opening will be held in which officials of the Santa Fe and citzens of Richmond will participate.
The new depot being built is located on the north side of all tracks and standing a little to the side of the old station. The beautiful new depot on the north side of the tracks makes it safe to send the children to the station – it will make it safe for the ladies to drive to the depot.
The Richmond City Council have been doing things along the right path by opening the new street in the front of the new depot – the town has finished the street. The railroad did not ask for a foot of land and would have built its depot on the old site if the city council had preferred they do so.
“The Missourian was right when it said that the Santa Fe wanted to do right by Richmond – and this is sufficient proof along with other things as Richmond gets the first modern brick branch line along the new lines of improvement between Kansas City, St, Joseph and Chicago. Richmond is heading in the right direction – and Santa Fe knows and appreciated Richmond.
“Building inspector Knight is in charge of the work on the Richmond station. Mr. Fred Craven, his assistant, is here part of the time every week; Fred is the son of ex-Assessor J.B. Craven and is one of Richmond’s worthy and trustworthy young railroad men; he sticks to business and is as loyal to the Santa Fe as can be. Superintendent T.H. Sears and Division Engineer M.D. Bell are mighty interested in the new Richmond and Junction stations, and General Superintendent R.J. Parker takes rare personal interest in the new Richmond building because he is appreciative of the Richmond situation.
“This 1912 Christmas certainly brings Richmond town a fire-proof station that agent R.G. Powers, Messrs. Odell, Bish, Bernard and the whole bunch can join the town and county in rejoicing over its arrival.”
After I found this story, I pulled out my “Ray County Railroad” file and found a newspaper article from May 30, 1912. It said, “The New Railroad Depot. It will Cost $10,000. The plan to build the new $10,000 modern and stylish depot on the exactly same spot between the railroad tracks would be a misfortune compared to what a blessing it would be to build the depot on the south side of the tracks. The beautiful new depot on the north side of the tracks would make it safe to send the children to the station – it would make it safe for the ladies to drive to the depot. The railroad has plenty of land to build the deport on the north side of the tracks.”
I don’t think the extra $6,000 it cost to build the depot had anything to do with it, but it’s nice to know that six months later the depot would find its place on the right side of the tracks. The women and children of Richmond were saved from the dreadful depot on the south side of the tracks. I find it funny in today’s modern world that the ladies of 1912 were not considered to be safe drivers.
After serving Richmond for only 62 years, the Richmond Depot was torn down in 1974. This location is now a skateboard park. I drive by this park sometimes on my way to the museum and usually see young skateboarders who are dreaming of being Tony Hawk.
Sometimes when no one is there, I pull up in the parking lot and sit there looking out over the spot where this building once stood. I try to imagine what it would have been like to see a train pull up to the depot, but like many others I will never expericence this small piece of Ray County History. I don’t remember much about this depot building, but its memory will live on thanks to the pictures and stories that have been shared over the years.
I live north of Richmond and a train track runs past our farm. We can hear the train whistle all hours of the day and night. When I was young, I was always afraid of the railroad tracks and the sound of the passing train made me feel uneasy. As an adult, I’ve come to enjoy the sound of the train’s whistle. When I hear that whistle blow, I’m reminded that there is a whole big world outside Ray County.
I sometimes watch the trains go by and wonder where these railroad cars have been been and where they are going. Many things have changed over the years, but for now, we can still enjoy watching these trains as they keep on moving down the line.
There are many more stories about the early days of railroads in Ray County. With a little help from some of my “railroad” friends, we will share some of these tales in the near future. If you would like to experience some of this first hand, you can come visit us on the hill at the Ray County Museum. We have some really cool artifacts that are part of local railroad history.
I’m also working on a story about the “Doodle Bug” train that was used for short trips from town to town after World War II. Please let me know if you have any memories to share about the Doodle Bug or any railroad-related stories. Sharing memories is what makes history come to life as we travel down the roads of our past.
If you’ve got some railroad stories to share with Linda, she can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.