Railroad Station Historical Society, Inc.



About the Society


The Railroad Station Historical Society was formed in the Fall of 1967, loosely organized around a number of Great Plains depot enthusiasts that realized that depots were fast disappearing from trackside. The objectives of the Society were to encourage the photographing and collecting of data "on railroad stations, freight houses, signal towers, round houses, coaling towers, and other railroad buildings, to publish a bulletin entitled: Bulletin, Railroad Station Historical Society and other publications as the need arises, to act as a common meeting ground for those persons who are interested in railroad stations and other railroad buildings, and to establish archives for photographs and data on railroad stations and other railroad buildings." The Society began with only two officers; an editor and secreatary-treasurer. Bill Rapp, then of Crete, NE, was the editor and founding father of the organization. The organization published its first Bulletin in Winter 1968, a single page typed sheet with organizational information and two photographs of the old and new MoPac depots in Crete,NE. The Society advertised in the leading railfan magazines of the day and grew to a membership of 200 by Fall 1968. As the membership grew, so did the size of the Bulletin. Longer papers on railroad stations were saved for publication as a Railroad Station Monograph; the first one appearing in January 1970. The Society began an archives in the early 1970s and sought the donation of collections and individual paper items relating to railroad depots. Originally these were housed at the Smithsonian Institute. National conventions began in 1971 with a get together in St. Louis, MO.


The Railroad Station Historical Society is governed by six Directors. Each Director has specific duties: Society publications, conventions, archives, website, finances, and membership. The Directors typically meet annually and conduct in between business by e-mail and phone.



About Railroad Stations

Railroad stations are designated locations along railroad lines to serve the handling of passengers, freight, and other commodities; as traffic control, maintenance, and/or communication centers. Often stations were marked by buildings including depots, towers, and maintenance facilities and almost always by a sign visible from the tracks. The word "station" is often used interchangeably with "depot", but it refers to much more or less than a depot. The word "depot" is appropriate for a structure serving the public at a station.

A number of different types of depots existed; dependent on their function and the size and importance of the community or station they served. Depots accomodated passengers, held freight, or performed both services. Shelters are the simplest type of passenger depot, consisting of a platform of compacted dirt, cinders, gravel, wood, brick, concrete, or asphalt with some kind of covering to protect waiting passengers from the elements. Sometimes there was just a roof; others had walls or were built as lean-tos. Depots staffed by an agent were located at small villages and railroad junctions. These were generally combination depots, having indoor facilities for passengers, baggage, and freight plus an oofice for the agent. Those in remote locations or in newly platted towns were built with living quarters for the agent--sometimes as a second story. Larger towns often received separate passenger and freight depots. In many cases an older combination depot would be remodeled into a freight depot and a new passenger facility erected. Union depots or stations were sometimes built where two or more railroad lines served the same community; the railroads shared the facility or at least occupied separate wings of the building.

Another structure once common along the railroads was the interlocking or switch tower. These were usually two-story square to rectangular structures built at junctions, where railroads cross or branch out, to allow operation of switches or control traffic movement. In early days, when telegraphy was the main means of communication, towers were located every couple of miles along some busy lines.Towers were often given proper names, but almost always had a shorthand letter or number classification for ease of railroad communication.

Electric railways, trolleys within towns and interurbans connecting communities, had similar depots and a few towers. They also had a large number of storefront depots, where tickets were sold out of an already existing building, a small portion of which was leased by the railway line. Some interurban depots were combined with substations, which helped provide a constant electrical current from one end of the line to the next, between powerhouses.

Maintenance buildings were also part of some stations. In the days of steam, many structures were needed to protect, service, repair, and build locomotives and rolling stock. The roundhouse was a circular to semi-circular building with a series of stalls for locomotives arranged in a radial pattern around a turntable, like the spokes of a wheel. Smaller buildings called enginehouses were erected where business did not necessitate the larger roundhouse. These consisted of a single stall or adjacent multiple stalls and did not require a turntable. A coal dock or tower was where locomotive tenders were loaded with coal. Wooden, steel, and concrete designs were located at terminals and scattered spots along the line. Some were combined with water and sand holding structures. Often separate water tanks and sand towers were present. The advent of diesels led to the replacement of these structures with smaller overhead tanks to hold diesel fuel. All major railroads also had one or more terminals with shops for light and/or heavy repairs and modifications of locomotives, cars, and other equipment. Shops included an assortment of structures; additional roundhouses, a boiler house, blacksmith, erection shop, parts warehouse, engineer's office, etc. Sometimes a railroad YMCA or at least a railroad hotel or two would be nearby. Divisional office buildings were located at scattered points along major railroad lines, sometimes in separate structures; sometimes combined with depots. Electric railways had less complex shop facilities, but still had an assortment of interesting buildings. Carbarns replaced the roundhouses and engine houses.

Numerous bridges, trestles, culverts, and sometimes tunnels were a part of the railroad and interurban right of ways. Since they are disappearing like the other architectural artifacts of the industry, the Railroad Station Historical Society is active in their historical recording and preservation as well.


The Directors

Mark J. Camp

Mailstop 604 Dept. of ES

The University of Toledo

Toledo, Ohio 43606-3390




              Jim Dent

26 Thackery Rd.

Oakland, NJ 07436-3312



Business Manager


Dan Frederick

304 East Silver Fox Rd.

Newark, DE 19702



Kent Hannah

1312 Woods Dr.

Roanoke, TX 76262-8905



Art Peterson

3200 Gordon Dr.

Greenville, NC 27834-4926



Andy White

6240 Bright Plume

Columbia, MD 21044-3791



Emeritus Directors

Andy Koval

Bill Rapp

Norbert Shacklette