Yes…this is a ‘live’ Amtrak Station! Those marks in the white wall appeared to be gunshot holes…but I could be wrong. This pitiful Amtrak Station is in Malvern Arkansas. While this former Missouri-Pacific Depot, built in 1916, looks structurally strong, the Amtrak facility is not top notch! There is an open air waiting area just behind the white wall…and that’s it. Still, trains do stop here and 1,750 passengers were processed through this facility in 2011. (Roughly 5 passengers per day) The depot is listed on the National Register of Historic Places…
From 1876 until 1901, Malvern was the only junction point for rail passengers going to Hot Springs. They would arrive in Malvern on the St. Louis, Iron Mountain and Southern and then transfer to the Hot Springs Railroad. A short line railroad, Arkansas Midlands, now operates on the old Hot Springs line through Hot Springs to Mountain Pine Arkansas.
This Amtrak sign tells the story. Given the late departure time of the northbound train and the very early morning departure time of Amtrak’s Texas Eagle, it’s almost surprising that anyone catches the train at Malvern.
Malvern, with a population of a bit over 10,000, is the county seat for Hot Springs County. It’s also known as the “Brick Capital of the World” as it is the home to 3 Acme Brick Plants. The town even hosts an annual Brickfest each June… The town was actually founded by the Cairo and Fulton Railroad back in 1870.
Our next stop was in Pine Bluff Arkansas. The timing was unfortunate as the Arkansas Railroad Museum wasn’t open. This museum is housed in the old St. Louis Southwestern Railroad’s, (Cotton Belt), machine shops. It is operated by the Cotton Belt Rail Historical Society and local volunteers.
The Arkansas Railroad Museum’s most significant item is this St. Louis Southwestern Railway locomotive. (I borrowed this photo from Wikipedia as # 819 is kept in the building) This was the last steam locomotive built by St. Louis Southwestern. (They built 20 of them) This engine was completed in February of 1943.
When old #819 is operational, the museum has a collection of Pullman-Standard passenger cars on hand for use with this big locomotive. Number 819 is 100’ long and it weighs 368 tons. This 4-8-4 ‘Northern’ requires 150 gallons of water and 15 gallons of oil just to go 1 mile down the tracks.
The museum and it’s adjacent property is filled with old rolling stock and miscellaneous railroad equipment. In the background, left to right, you can see Lake Superior and Ishpeming diesel locomotive #2300, a GE U23C. It developed 2,300 hp. Only 73 were built in the USA and 20 of those were exported to Brazil.
To the right of #2300, locomotive #102’s last assignment was with The Little Rock and Western Railroad. (Now operating between Little Rock and Danville Arkansas) It’s part of Genesse and Wyoming, Inc., a multi-nation company with railway operations and over 7,600 miles of track in 4 countries. Number 102 is an ALCO Century-420, a 4-axle 2,000 hp road switcher. From 1961 to 1963, 131 of these units were built.
For more information regarding the Arkansas Railroad Museum, just go to www.arrailroadmuseum.com. (If that doesn’t work…it did once for me…and then it didn’t…just go to http://www.encyclopediaofarkansas.net/encyclopedia/entry-detail.aspx?entryID=3371 for more information. The museum has an annual show on the first weekend of April. For more information on the suprisingly large railway conglomerate that is Genesse and Wyoming, Inc., just go to http://www.gwrr.com/operations. This page shows a map of their operations…
We found the old Pine Bluff Railway Station just down the tracks from the Arkansas Railroad Museum. The first rail service to reach Pine Bluff was the Little Rock, Pine Bluff and New Orleans Railroad back in 1873. This depot was built in 1906 for the St. Louis Southwestern Railroad. Popularly referred to as the “Cotton Belt Route”, the St. Louis Southwestern had 2,115 miles of track in operation at its peak.
The Memphis to Dallas ‘Lone Star’ passenger train through Pine Bluff ceased operations back in November of 1952. (Note: There used to be a 540’ train shed/roof that stretched along the tracks to protect boarding passengers from the elements) The railroad, with its machine shops, was the largest employer in this city of about 50,000 from 1894 until 1942.
The depot is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. It now serves as the home of the Pine Bluff/Jefferson County Historical Museum. I couldn’t locate a website for the museum, but their phone number is 870-541-5402.
Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them…
Thanks for riding along with us on a portion of our roadtrip…
Take Care, Big Daddy Dave