In 1927, Charles Lindbergh uses  Cherryvale's distinctive railroad track arrangement as a navigation aid on his famous St. Louis flight.

Cherryvale Railroad History
by John Chambers  © 2000-2016 John Chambers

In Cherryvale today, several trains a day continue to lumber along the aging rails in the middle of Cherryvale, passing a restored depot still showing off its brick grandeur. Diesel locomotives and large grain and cement hoppers - used and reused by several railroad companies, some even extinct - carry on a legacy that spurred the creation of Cherryvale 131 years ago.

Leavenworth, Lawrence & Galveston Railroad  1871-1879

No other single factor was responsible for Cherryvale's creation and ultimate early-day success than this railroad. It all began in 1871 when the Lawrence, Leavenworth and Galveston Railroad (L.L.&G) platted the city on land owned by a Joseph Wise and built the railroad through Cherryvale.  So powerful was the pull of the railroad in those early-days that towns literally died overnight if the railroad missed communities even by one mile. Not so in Cherryvale. The town would only get bigger as the railroads became more enhanced.  

The Leavenworth, Lawrence and Galveston Railroad was one of three involved in the famous race from northern Kansas cities to the Indian Territory border (later to became Oklahoma) which took place between 1869 and 1871. The L.L.&G was a distant third in reaching the border at Coffeyville on July 20, 1871. Financial woes forced reorganization in 1878 and the company emerged as the Lawrence and Galveston Railroad. It was amalgamated with the Kansas City and Santa Fe (Ottawa to Olathe) and the Southern Kansas Railroad (Cherryvale to Independence) and became the Kansas City, Lawrence and Southern Railroad on March 29, 1879. Construction was pushed from Independence through Winfield and Wellington to Harper, with a branch to Hunnewell. The line was sold to the rapidly growing Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway (AT&SF) due to a rate war between the two companies on Dec. 16, 1880. The name was changed to the Kansas City, Lawrence and Southern Kansas Railroad.

The Kansas City, Lawrence & Southern Kansas RR, Ottawa & Burlington RR, and the Kansas City & Olathe railroad companies were consolidated under the name of the Southern Kansas Railway Company and in 1885 "the" was capitalized in the corporate title. It was known as the Southern Kansas Division or Southern-Kansas Lines of the AT&SF up to the sale of the remaining trackage by the Santa Fe to the South Kansas and Oklahoma Railroad (SKOL) on January 1, 1991.

Favorite L.L.&G. Web Sites:

St. Louis & San Francisco RailWAY  1879-1980

Cherryvale was found to be at the right place for the St. Louis and San Francisco Railway, dubbed the "Frisco Railway", in 1879 when the company built a track from Oswego to Wichita. In 1882, the Santa Fe and Frisco operated a total of 28 passenger trains with 24 hour service. The two railroads interchanged about 12,000 cars and exchanged over 600,000 tons of freight a year in Cherryvale. And, the population of that small town grew from  250 to more than 1,000.

The Frisco would maintain a presence in Cherryvale until November 21, 1980 when the company sold to Burlington Northern Railroad (BN). During the 1880s the highest rate of speed allowed for express passenger trains was 25 to 35 mph. The highest speed allowed for mail and freight trains was 15 mph. That trackage, which rests on the original Frisco roadbed, is the only east-west railroad in southeast Kansas. On January 1, 1991, the Webb family's Kansas Eastern Railroad (SEK), a sister company of the SKOL, purchased this trackage. Short-line railroads like the SEK and the SKOL have salvaged the railroad industry, which underwent major deregulation in the 1970s and 80s. To cut costs, major railroad companies were notorious about removing aging depots in various communities, often without a minute's notice. Few major railroads maintained their own tracks since railroad investors knew that use of iron rails would be non-existent in coming years.

Frisco Railway Web Sites:

Cherryvale St. Louis and San Francisco Depot
The Frisco and Santa Fe railways crossed each other approximately three blocks north of the present Santa Fe depot and just north across Front Street from the Leatherock Hotel Bed & Breakfast. In 1906, the St. Louis and San Francisco built a two story brick station at this intersection, considered one of the finest and best-served depots in southeast Kansas. The structure was one of Frisco's more unusual designs with its two-winged and octagon-shaped bay tower facing both tracks topped with a conical roof, supported by numerous roof brackets. The Santa Fe jointly used this depot for a brief time until its new depot was finished in 1910. Just east across the rail crossing from the depot on the north side of the tracks was a Frisco water tower with two spouts to serve both the Frisco and Santa Fe steam engines. By the late 1910s, Cherryvale railroads were the center of commerce and transportation with 36 daily trains. The Frisco closed its station in the mid 1970's and the interchange between the two roads was eliminated. The Frisco depot was later sold and dismantled brick by brick in 1983.

When the Santa Fe built its new station, a three block long brick sidewalk connecting the two depots was built to facilitate the transfer of passengers, mail and express using baggage carts.  A small one story Railroad Express Agency office building was constructed fifty feet south of the Frisco depot along the brick platform at this time. (This structure was directly across from the main entrance to the Leatherock Hotel Bed & Breakfast on North Depot Street).


Memphis, Kansas and Colorado  1880-1901

The last railroad to enter Cherryvale was the Memphis, Kansas and Colorado narrow gauge, which was constructed from Parsons in 1880.  So, within nine years, Cherryvale would be home to three railroads with trains coming from six directions. That narrow-gauge railroad quickly found it couldn't compete with standard-gauge railroads, so the company rebuilt its tracks to standard-gauge and sold them that same year to the Kansas City, Fort Scott and Gulf, also called the "Gulf". In 1901, the Gulf was purchased by the St. Louis and San Francisco Railroad. Today, about half-mile north on Carson Street after crossing the old Frisco tracks, one can spot the old Memphis, Kansas and Colorado Railway right-of-way. Much of the right-of-way can also easily be spotted through the northeast rural private farmlands.

Favorite M.K.&C Web Sites:

Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway  1880-1991

The Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway would establish its familiar emblem in Cherryvale in the 1880s when it would take over the often changing Southern Kansas Railway Company. The company also would build housing for section track maintenance workers, a two-stalled engine roadhouse, and a pump station with a  water tower  for fresh water from Lake Tanko towards the south end of South Depot Street.

By the late 1920s, there were 14 passenger trains a day on the Santa Fe stopping in Cherryvale. These had connections at Kansas City, east to Chicago and west to Los Angeles and San Francisco. They also traveled south to Coffeyville and Tulsa, with connections to the Gulf Coast. A doodlebug (motorcar) traveled west out of Cherryvale to Independence, then through Moline to a connection at Winfield to go north to Wichita and Newton, where connections could be made for Kansas City/Chicago or Los Angeles/San Francisco. At this time the Santa Fe had one agent, two clerks, and two telegraph operators on duty at the Cherryvale depot. The depot was open 24 hours a day.

Santa Fe's new streamlined day passenger train, known as the Tulsan, began operations on Dec. 9, 1939. This train originated in Kansas City as train #212. When it returned northbound as the Kansas Citian it carried train #211. Another name train that called on Cherryvale was the night Pullman train called the Oil Flyer. Southbound this was train #48, northbound it carried #47.

Several daily freight trains ran through Cherryvale. A Chanute to Tulsa freight train carried numbers 69 and 70. A Wellington freight train (#83 and 84) also made a daily stop in Cherryvale. This train originated in Chanute and went to Independence, then west to Longton where it connected with the Chanute to Winfield line. This line then continued west to Wellington. A Coffeyville local carried numbers 71 and 72. The Santa Fe would interchange freight cars daily with the Frisco. Trains 69, 70, 83 and 84 would all leave set-outs on one of the four yard tracks east of the depot or one of four connection tracks. Cars left by the Frisco would be placed here as well. The Coffeyville local, which originated there, was responsible for all switching in Cherryvale. This local would work all interchange business with the Frisco, and finish any industrial switching in town before returning to Coffeyville. This local would work all Coffeyville industries and interchanges before arriving in Cherryvale.

Passenger service dwindled away due to automobiles, and when the U.S. Postal Service ceased to use the railroads for shipping mail, the Santa Fe ceased running its now diesel powered Tulsan on April 30, 1971. This was the last passenger train to serve the Southeast Kansas region.

When Elk City reservoir was built in 1964, the Santa Fe line from Independence to Longton was abandoned. This eliminated freight trains #83 and #84 passing through Cherryvale. With the closing of the Santa Fe depot in Coffeyville, the local train was transferred to Chanute, working south through Cherryvale to Coffeyville and returning on a daily basis. The frequent steam locomotive whistle would also lose its familiar echoes in the communities and country side.

In 1989 the Santa Fe received trackage rights over the Burlington Northern into Tulsa, at this time the Chanute to Tulsa train was eliminated. The line from Cherryvale to Tulsa would only be served on an as needed basis by the Santa Fe Railway.

On January 1, 1991, the remaining Southern Kansas Santa Fe Lines were purchased by the new South Kansas and Oklahoma Railroad (SKOL), which has its headquarters in Pittsburg, Kansas. Cherryvale is considered the hub of this short-line railroad since all trains in the SKOL system come through the Cherryvale yard  four to five trains a day pulling about 240 total cars, except weekends. Rail traffic increases during the summer and fall months when grain elevators ship carloads of freshly harvested grain to other market destinations. Its the Cherryvale train crews job to take the inbound trains and rebuild the traffic for the outbound trains. The first train runs from Coffeyville through Cherryvale, Independence and Caney to Bartlesville, Oklahoma and return. The second train runs from Coffeyville through Cherryvale to Chanute and back.

Favorite AT&SF Web Sites:

Books/Videos in Leatherock Hotel Bed & Breakfast Library:
Marshall, Santa Fe, The Railroad that Built an Empire, Random House, 1987, 465 pages with photos, chronological development of the AT&SF Railway System

H. Roger Grant, Kansas Depots, Kansas State Historical Society, 1990, 117 pages, mostly photographs, with epilogue

Wendell Anschutz, Last Train from Cherryvale, Produced by KSMO Broadcasting, 1970

Cherryvale Atchison Topeka and Santa Fe Depot

The Atchison Topeka and Santa Fe Depot, located at Third and North Depot Streets, remains as an icon to the bygone days of railroading, and the memories of steam locomotives, doodlebugs and long-gone cabooses. Built during 1909-10 at a cost of $18,000, the standard Santa Fe brick station plan was used as was the custom during this period for larger sized communities. It is one of only a few Santa Fe depots that combine both a covered drive-through entrance portico and a covered outside waiting platform. It is the only depot of this style left standing on the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway's former Southern Kansas Lines.

The first sign that the Santa Fe would finally build a new station to replace their wood depot in use since 1871 further south on Depot Street was on May 14, 1909 when an article appeared in the Cherryvale Weekly Republican; "The plans for Cherryvale's new Santa Fe passenger station have arrived and they bear evidence of the fact that this city is to be given the very best depot on the Southern Kansas division, Chanute and Ottawa only excepted. The new station will be, according to the blue print plans, 48 x 134 feet. The apartments are an outside waiting room, ladies waiting room, ladies' toilet, gentlemen's toilet, office, gentlemen's waiting room, baggage room and express room. The building will be arranged like the Independence station except that in addition it will have an outside waiting room 30 x 48. These make the Cherryvale station 25 percent larger than the one at Independence. The outside waiting room is a new feature, common in the west but almost unknown here. It will be situated at the north end of the station. The bids for building the new structure will be opened at Topeka May 15 and by the terms of the contract the station must be completed within four months. This summer will surely see the completion of a magnificent new Santa Fe station here of which Cherryvale will be proud."

The contract was awarded to O. Swanson and Sons of Topeka and was to be part of many improvements the railroad was going to make to its facilities in Cherryvale. When the depot was built the plan was flopped north and south so the outside waiting room faced Santa Fe Park and Main Street. Total cost of all these improvements was $52,000 and included a new roundhouse.

On May 12, 1910, this article appeared in the Republican; "Painter Leaves --- G.W. Banta, who has had charge of painting the new Santa Fe station here left today for his home in Topeka, having finished his work. The new station is now ready for the furniture and then Agent Dodds can move in."

These two articles from The Republican of June 2, 1910, reflect the first day of business at the new station; From Wednesday's Daily, "First Ticket --- G.H. Whitman today bought the first ticket sold from the new depot. The ticket was to Coolidge, Kansas where Mr. and Mrs. Whitman go to visit relatives for a week. They were accompanied by their son, C.A. Whitman, who is returning home to that town after a visit with Cherryvale relatives." "Train Late --- Santa Fe passenger train No. 202, due here at 12:20 o'clock was an hour and twenty-five minutes late today. The delay was caused by a wait at Independence for the delayed passenger train from Tulsa. No. 202 today was the first train into the new station and it established a bad precedent.".

When the Santa Fe had no further use of the depot in the 1980s, the historic structure stood in a disrepair. When the Cherryvale Chamber of Commerce heard that the Santa Fe had decided to tear down the depot in 1980, they contacted the railroad to either buy or have the building donated to the Chamber for use as a headquarters and tourist information center. The Santa Fe stated that only the south end could be leased for a $1.00 a year to the Chamber since the north end baggage area was still being used as a workroom and storage area for the district signal maintenance crew. This arrangement was inherited by the Dick Webb family, owners of the SKOL Railroad when it took over the railroad and property in 1991. In May 1991, the Heart of the Heartlands, a non-profit rail excursion and preservation group, was given permission by the SKOL to move its headquarters into the depot and the Cherryvale Chamber of Commerce voluntarily relinquished its lease on the building.

In December of 1988, the Parsons Model Railroad Engineers in Parsons asked the Chamber if they could use the public areas in the depot for its train layout. With approval, they moved in, started construction of a large indoor layout and changed the club name to the Cherry Valley Model Railroad Club (CVMRC). In 1992, the Webb family, along with Heart of the Heartlands restored the depot to its original grandeur, keeping every element to its original status. The SKO soon transferred the signal maintainer to Chanute and the CVMRC moved into the north baggage section constructing an elaborate two level layout thus providing space for a Santa Fe museum in the public areas of the depot. Heartland members then built numerous museum quality train exhibits and placed many artifacts for display inside the depot. After spending over $30,000 on building rehabilitation, a rededication ceremony was held on May 9, 1991. The building now has a secure future as an asset to the Cherryvale community appearing just like it did when the first train rolled to the new station in 1910. The Santa Fe Park south of the facility makes for a nice stop for people when going on brisk walks up and down Main Street. .

Cherryvale's Station Agents
In 1952, Walter Ramsden came to Cherryvale as the new Santa Fe agent. At that time there were two clerks, a relief clerk, two telegraph operators, and a relief operator on duty at the depot. A coach ticket to Kansas City cost about $5.00 with a round trip fare priced at about $8.00. Trains carried 15 to 20 passengers a day from Cherryvale. By December 1963, the Santa Fe ran four scheduled passenger trains a day through town. There were five separate freight accounts, and the depot still remained open 24 hours.

Pat Bell, who came to Cherryvale in 1940 as a telegraph operator, worked his way up to become the Santa Fe's last station agent. In October 1979, the Santa Fe received permission from the Kansas Corporation Commission to close their agency at Cherryvale. Pat was told that the railroad had enough business for only about 48 minutes of work a day and that a full time agent was no longer justified. He was transferred to Coffeyville, where he served a few years as agent there. Upon his retirement in 1985, Pat had logged a total of 42 years of service to the Santa Fe. He now resides in Cherryvale.

Union Traction Company 1904-1937
Union Electric Railway

John Sough operated the first trolley into Cherryvale at 9:30 am Sunday morning, February 27, 1910. It was an unscheduled test run to check condition of the tracks without being bothered by a crowd. The news soon spread through out the area. It was estimated that a crowd of 500 was on hand to watch the second trolley arrive in Cherryvale.

For the history of the Union Electric, click here

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Historical Points of Interest
Tour Cherryvale Rail History in Photos, Coming Soon.

1870 Santa Fe Lake Tanko,
Roads end at South Galveston Street.  
Built to hold fresh water for the steam locomotives of the Leavenworth, Lawrence & Galveston Railroad, Lake Tanko was acquired  in 1880 by the  Atchison Topeka Santa Fe Railway. This 45-acre lake was deeded by the Santa Fe Railway to the city as a New Years gift in 1954. It is now part of Cherryvale's Recreation Commission with three baseball fields, tennis and basketball courts, a picnic area, playground, fishing berms, and sometimes an ideal skating place.

1906 St. Louis & San Francisco "Frisco" Railway Station, Across Front Street northeast of the Leatherock Hotel Bed & Breakfast.  The Frisco railroad built a two-story brick station at the the rail crossing of the Frisco and Santa Fe lines, considered one of the finest and best-served depots in southeast Kansas.  In the mid-1970s, the depot was sold and dismantled in 1983 brick by brick. Today, only the concrete foundation and some of the  flooring remain as evidences of existence. (See "Frisco Depot" history at left).

Post card dated September 10, 1914. Looking southwest from the crossover of the two major railways at that time.

1910 Atchison Topeka Santa Fe Railway Depot & Park, 123 North Depot Street. The Santa Fe Depot, built in 1910 in the heart of downtown Cherryvale, was restored in 1991 after falling into a sad state of neglect for nearly a decade. The facility's mission-style architecture with its bricked archway and numerous

Meeting the Santa Fe train at the depot, summer 1911.

beveled glass windows dates to a time when the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway designed depots with the southwestern ambiance in order to appeal to the tired Midwesterners, who yearned for the majestic scenery of the southwestern United States. The depot has become an icon for the community and a symbol of the glory day of "the Iron Horse" in southeast Kansas. It is an unforgettable landmark. Depot Park is located south of the depot parking area and fronts Main Street. The original park fountain is now a large circular planting area surrounded with wooden benches.

1939 Postcard showing Santa Fe Park with its swan fountain. Viewed from Main Street.

Today, the depot is the central office for dispatching and communications for the South Kansas and Oklahoma Railroad (SKOL), a WATCO Company headquartered in Pittsburg, Kansas. (See Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway Depot story at left).

Station or Depot--Technically "depot" means the building in which railroad business is conducted. "Station" applies both to the structure and other facilities (water tower, coal chute, freight platforms, etc) at the site as well. Over the years the two words have been used interchangeably to refer to the building that houses railroad services.

1910 Depot Street Brick Railroad Platform, Across Depot Street  from the Leatherock Hotel Bed & Breakfast front entrance. When the Santa Fe Depot was constructed, an extensive brick platform or sidewalk was also laid connecting the Santa Fe depot to the

Looking north from Main Street along the 3-block long
brick platform to the Frisco Depot with its conical roof
visible in the far background at right, 1918.

Frisco Depot, located three blocks to the north on Front and Depot Streets. Passengers and freight carts from both railroads crossed the brick platform daily along with buggy taxis, hotel greeters, and sales barkers. Portions of that platform, considered one of the longest brick platforms in America, are still intact today. 

1978 Cherry Valley Model Railroad Club, Historic Santa Fe Depot, 123 North Depot Street. In November of 1978, the Parsons Model Railroad Engineers Club was formed in Parsons, southeast Kansas. In 1989, the club relocated and  reconstructed its operating layout in the historic  Cherryvale Santa Fe Depot. When the Heart of the Heartlands Society established a Santa Fe Museum in the public area of the depot, the CVMR Club relocated its layout to its present location in the original depot baggage room on the north end of the mission style depot.

The 26-year old club meets every Friday night at 7pm. Featuring a large HO model train layout named the Neosho Valley Lines, this fictitious railroad  travels the two-state miniature countryside between Kansas City through Cherryvale to Ft. Smith, Arkansas. The N gauge layout is presently being rebuilt with a double tracked main line. On Friday nights, most club members become locomotive engineers, switchmen, brakemen, yard operators, electricians, signal maintenance engineers, and landscapers to enjoy keeping the trains running and shipping various model railroad cars and cargo to other parts of the large layout.

The club hosts an Annual Open House in November. They also host annually railroad shows offering swaps meets, modular railroad layouts and opportunities for railroad buffs to gather. The N gauge group set-up their portable modular layouts at the Annual Katy Days Celebrations in Parsons. The club is open to the public Friday evenings as well as during most city events and fairs. Memberships are presently available. For club information, visit or email

1996-2002 Santa Claus Train, Local southeast Kansas cities.  Santa Claus doesn't always ride in his sleigh. Southeast Kansas children know that a brightly multi-colored lighted caboose preceded by lively Christmas music sometimes brings him down the tracks to their cities. While the friendly elves pass

Santa Claus Train December 2003

out candy to the milling crowds, small children approach eagerly, reaching to touch or climb into Santa's lap. Some 18volunteers from the Heart of the Heartlands Society, working in cooperation with the South Kansas and Oklahoma Railroad, spend three days each year whistle stopping along the SKOL rail system to bring a memorable visit from Santa Claus to children along these rail lines. Scheduling for this annual event can not be planned too far in advance of the holidays due to SKOL's rail traffic demands. Details can be obtained by visiting their web site or from Larry and  Kathy Spahn, 620 396-8594.

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You know you are in small town when Third Street and the railroad tracks are on the edge of town...

© 1999-2016 Leatherock Hotel Bed & Breakfast.  Web Site created, compiled and maintained by Wayne Hallowell, Director of the Leatherock Hotel Bed & Breakfast

The above information is part of the heritage of Cherryvale, Kansas and the legacy of the historic
Leatherock Hotel Bed & Breakfast
and Museum
420 North Depot Street         Cherryvale, KS 67335
Information and Reservations   620 336-3350

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