Saturday, June 23, 2012

Railroad Depots/Wedding Dresses Along the Way

On a recent trip to Arkansas, unfortunately to attend a memorial service for a close friend, we ran into construction on I-40 westbound.  Consequently, we jumped off the freeway not too far west of Memphis…choosing the parallel 2-lane US 70 as our alternate.

This would be no surprise to anyone who really knows me…I just happened to have my railroad depot listing with me!  One never knows what points of interest one might find when he or she wanders off of the big sterile concrete beast that we refer to as the Interstate Highway System.

Sure enough!  We exited I-40 at Brinkley Arkansas and upon driving into the center of town, we spotted this beauty.  It’s the former Union Station, built in 1912 to serve the several railroads that served Brinkley at that time.  These lines included the Rock Island (Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific), the Missouri-Pacific and the Cotton Belt Railroad.  At its peak, as many as 63 passenger trains per day came through the town. 

Some of these passenger trains had great names.   There was the Choctaw Rocket (Memphis – Amarillo); the Lone Star (Memphis – Dallas), and; the Morning Star (St. Louis – Dallas).  The last Cotton Belt passenger train stopped here in 1959 and the last Rock Island train stopped in 1967. 

This is one side of the former Depot.  On one side of the building, there are active railroad tracks.  Back in the halcyon days of railroad travel, Brinkley had the advantage of being positioned almost exactly halfway between Memphis and Little Rock.  The good news is that this depot has been preserved and repurposed.

R.C. Brinkley was the President of the Memphis and Little Rock Railroad after the Civil War.  Since the railroad ran right through town and since it brought business and prosperity, the town was named after him.  One side note of interest… R.C. Brinkley obtained financial backing for the railroad from a London England financier named George Peabody.  Sometime later, Brinkley had a hotel in Memphis named after his financier.  The Peabody Hotel is still very well known and respected.  

Brinkley only has a population of about 3,000…but the population has been shrinking for many years now.  Despite that fact, the town seems to have a positive attitude.  The Union Depot is now the Central Delta Depot Museum and it also serves as the visitor’s center for the State’s Louisiana Purchase State Park.  This is the point where the land survey of America’s new purchase was initiated.   

The Union Depot, the Southern Pacific caboose in the last photo, the little depot shown above, a fully furnished sharecropper’s cabin and the adjacent Rusher or Great Southern Hotel combine to comprise the Lick Skillet Work Station Historic District.  This grouping was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1992.  FYI…That little depot was apparently relocated from somewhere else in the county in order to preserve it.
The Central Delta Depot Museum is focused on the natural, social, agricultural and cultural history of the Arkansas delta region.  Displays include railroad artifacts, mussel diving, jazz musician Louis Jordan, military artifacts, wildlife, household items and local history.  I could not find a useful website for this museum...

This is the former Rusher or Great Southern Hotel.  The hotel was built in 1915.  It sits strategically next to the Union Depot and it served many weary travelers over the years.  At some point the Prince family bought the hotel.   They operated it as a hotel for several years…but now they’ve repurposed the building and it’s busier than ever!

This huge structure is now a major retail enterprise!  This is the home of Low’s Bridal Shop.  This shop is famous among southern brides to be… The store stocks over 3,000 dresses in 25,000 sq. ft. of display space.  Dresses range in price from very modest to very luxurious…in the thousands of dollars!  The family has maintained this building beautifully, both inside and out.  To see a portion of the wedding dresses on display as well as to gain a glimpse of the interior of the former hotel, just click on

This ‘Craftsman/Tudor Revival’ style depot is located in Hazen Arkansas.  It was built in 1915 by the Rock Island Railroad.  It’s billed as the only surviving Rock Island depot in Arkansas that is stucco and brick with a slate roof...but I’m not sure about that roof.  The structure was saved by the woman mayor and the local women’s clubs.  That’s pretty impressive when you consider that the town is home to only about 1,500 people!  This building is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.  The original railroad right of way has been converted into a paved trail…with a ‘unique’ name…The Hazen Trail.  

Just click on any photo to enlarge it…
Thanks for stopping by and sharing our road trip with us!
Take Care, Big Daddy Dave


  1. You made lemonade while most folks would have been sitting in traffic cussin'. This was a really interesting post. I am sorry to hear of the loss of a friend. I hope all is well. Blessings...Mary

  2. I wonder if this is the same stretch of I-40 that beat the crap out of my RV. It's interesting to find out where names of places came from.

  3. Nice collection ! please visit our site for designer indian wedding cards

  4. seems you are always up for an adventure!!