LaPlata Holds Open House for Refurbished Station
Wall to Wall
People; Whole Town Turns Out to See Amtrak Depot
By David Riddle, former MOKS Rail President
The whole town of LaPlata, Mo. (population 1,401) turned out for an open house to celebrate the completion of interior restoration of the art deco Amtrak station in that community in December. LaPlata, located just 14 miles south of Truman State University in Kirksville, is the only stop for the Southwest Chief in Missouri outside Kansas City.
The former Santa Fe station at LaPlata is more than 100 years old. A newspaper reprint displayed on a wall of the station recalls the day 114 years ago when the Santa Fe chose to build its line through LaPlata on its way to Chicago. The depot was built in 1887 but a fire toward the end of World War II forced a remodeling and the station has now been restored to the way it looked in 1945.
Friends for LaPlata Preservation, a local group of more than 100 members, and the NEMO Model Railroad Club began work on the exterior of the station in 1996, saving it after it had fallen into serious disrepair. With volunteer labor, they completed restoration of the exterior of the building a few years ago. A grant from the Environmental Protection Agency, administered by the Missouri Department of Natural Resources and matched by the city of LaPlata, provided for a Nature Scape of natural prairie grasses on the east side of the station that reflect the city's heritage, and community residents worked with Truman State University to accommodate student ridership. Grants from the Great American Station Foundation, the Missouri Department of Transportation, and the Surbeck Charitable Trust provided additional money, which was used to restore the interior.
Interior walls of the station display numerous photos and advertisements from the many Santa Fe and Amtrak trains that have stopped at the station over the years. Light streams into the station from the windows and glass blocks, and the station is opened at train time by LaPlata Bob, the man who once inspired the Southwest Chief menu item by that name. It's not unusual at holiday times for the station to see more than 20 students boarding a single train, though on the Saturday of the open house only two passengers boarded a not-too-late #4.
Note cards and pen and ink drawings of the station by Ann Bullock, President of the Friends for LaPlata Preservation, are available for sale at modest prices as collectors' items. For more information contact the Friends for LaPlata Preservation, 12543 Old Highway 63, LaPlata, Mo. 63549.
Organizers are currently working with BNSF and the Missouri Historic Preservation Office in getting the depot on the National Register of Historic Places, added Bullock.
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