Monday, March 23, 2015

Old Railroad Depots – Mississippi Gulf Coast

As we worked our way back toward East Tennessee after our trip to New Orleans and vicinity, we drove along the Mississippi coastline on the Gulf of Mexico.  I’d listed some old railroad depots along the way and we searched out 3 of them as we made our way to our overnight stop in Alabama…

This beautiful depot…with Laurie by the steps…is in Bay St. Louis Mississippi.  Formerly the Louisville and Nashville Railway Depot, this structure was built in the Mission architectural style in 1928.  Both the building and grounds are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

This is the trackside view of the Bay St. Louis Depot.  Before Hurricane Katrina in 2005, Amtrak served this reality, just using 2 shelters next to the tracks.  The depot wasn’t manned… The Sunset Limited used to operate between Florida’s east coast and Los Angeles.  Following the hurricane, the portion of the route between Florida and New Orleans was ‘suspended’ and it hasn’t been restarted…

This is what the Bay St. Louis Depot looked like back in 1995 before it was restored for the first time.  It had to be totally refurbished following Hurricane Katrina and after 6 years, it was reopened in 2011.  This photo was borrowed from Wikipedia...

FYI…Bay St. Louis is the third oldest city in the USA on the Gulf of Mexico.  A total of 728 buildings in town are listed on the National Register of Historic Places!  The current population of Bay St. Louis is approximately 11,000.

The lower floor of the depot is home to a display of very fancy and colorful Mardi Gras costumes. 

Note: In December of 1699 or January of 1700, a fort was constructed by French explorers on the bluff at the “Baye de Saint Louis”.  It was garrisoned with fifteen soldiers and five families under the command of a sergeant.  With this settlement, the colony at Bay Saint Louis became the third settlement on the Gulf of Mexico following Pensacola Florida and Biloxi/Ocean Springs Mississippi.

The building also houses the area’s official visitor’s center as well as the Folk Art and Antique Museum…but more on that in a few days!  This is a beautiful building, both outside and inside…

Our next station was in Gulfport Mississippi.  When we found this depot, we were on the wrong side of the tracks and we had to wait for this fast moving freight train to blow past before we could go over to the depot.

This is the former Gulfport Amtrak station in Gulfport.  Like Bay St. Louis, Amtrak service ‘was suspended’, apparently permanently when Katrina caused major damage all along the coast.  Gulfport Station is a former “union station” that served the Louisville and Nashville Railroad as well as the Gulf and Ship Island Railroad.

Note: A ‘union station’, (also known as a union terminal), is a railway station where tracks and facilities are shared by two or more separate railway companies, allowing passengers to connect conveniently between them.  The station is usually co-owned by the railroads that use the depot and it operates as a separate company.

The Gulfport and Ship Island Railroad Depot, as it was originally known, was built in 1904 and it was the first permanent station for that line.  A museum operated in the building until Hurricane Katrina destroyed it.  The building has now been restored and a number of merchants have opened retail establishments in the former depot. 

With a population of about 68,000, Gulfport is the second largest city in Mississippi…only surpassed by the state capital of Jackson.  Gulfport was incorporated in 1898.  Its founders were William H. Hardy who was president of the Gulf and Ship Island Railroad that connected early inland pine woods lumber mills to the coast and Joseph T. Jones, who later took over the G and SIRR, dredged the harbor in Gulfport as well as a shipping channel, completing the project in 1902.  

This is the former Louisville and Nashville Railway Depot in Ocean Springs Mississippi.  It was built back in 1907.  This depot also served Amtrak’s Sunset Limited prior to Hurricane Katrina.

This depot is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.  It currently serves as the home of the Ocean Springs Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Center.

Hurricane Katrina certainly caused significant destruction in some areas of Ocean Springs, but the town emerged from the storm with light damage when compared to neighboring towns.  Fortunately the founders of Ocean Springs had wisely chosen relatively high ground for much of the settlement.  This allowed Ocean Springs to bounce back more quickly than many other cities and towns along the Coast.

Ocean Springs has been a tourist orientated town since 1853.  It was due to the potential of the mineral springs on Fort Bayou, not because of the Gulf shore.  In 1854, the town took the name it has today.  Six or seven hotels, cottages and boarding houses were built to handle the spa seekers.  This business died out with the Civil War but with the coming of the railroad in 1870, tourism boomed again. 

This town of about 17,500 people has a reputation as an arts community and a tourist destination.  The downtown area is historic, attractive and secluded, with streets lined by live oak trees.  There are several art galleries, shops and some ethnic restaurants with cuisine that is uncommon in nearby communities.   We ate lunch at Pleasant’s BBQ and it was very good indeed!  However we noted a couple other interesting dining destinations as well as some promising shops.  Fortunately, (from my viewpoint), we were running late and we didn’t have any time to shop!

That’s all for now… Just click on any photos that you’d like to enlarge.

Thanks for stopping by for a visit!

Take Care, Big Daddy Dave


  1. Good post, Dave! The first photo is a beautiful looking depot, and it is great thing that it was restored. Love the old L&N, since that's where Bill started his career in the RR industry. We definitely need to visit O.S. after seeing this. Thanks for sharing, I enjoyed it! Take care

  2. I immediately thought of Spanish architecture and the Alamo when I saw the first depot. The second one is more tradition in my mind. You certainly find some neat things in your travels David.

  3. Nice poost!! When I was a child we always travel in trains!!
    Love thes
    costumes in the Museum!!