Architectural Drawings of a Railway Company

By Bonnie Reed

Last spring I completed a review of the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railway architectural drawings archived at the Texas Tech Southwest Collection. This research project was precipitated by a comment made by a professor on the difficulty of locating architectural drawings for some historical structures. My original impression was that most of the drawings in this collection were of depots; however, I found drawings of a great variety of railroad and community structures, including the historical structure that initiated my research quest.

The charter for the Atchison Topeka Railroad was drafted in 1859. The company changed the name to the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railway in 1863. As with the other railroads, train tracks were laid in wilderness areas or land settled by ranchers and farmers, whose homesteads were miles from each other. The depots allowed the ranchers and farmers to send their products to market and for pioneers to obtain supplies. The railroad served as a reliable, convenient, and safe method for travel across the continent.

From the railroad depots, small towns sprang up. The depot of any given town served as a center of activity, where news arrived by telegraph, and where locals and visitors traveled to and from the small town. As the community grew around the train station, structures related to the maintenance of a railway were required. Businesses opened to answer the needs of the settlers in the towns and the travelers passing through. These towns soon required community structures, so hotels and general stores were built.

As expected, the AT&SF maintained depots strategically along the primary and secondary routes. For the rural towns, these depots were combination stations for both passengers and freight. Larger cities required separate passenger and freight structures.

The AT&SF architectural drawings offer an interesting glimpse into the types of structures required for running a railway throughout a largely unpopulated swath of land primarily in the Midwest and Southwest. The railway required structures for the foreman’s office, file rooms, supply and lavatory buildings, locker rooms, blacksmith shops, welding shops, storage sheds, and buildings for the car inspectors and coach cleaning. The AT&SF collection includes drawings for numerous types of power and boiler houses. Larger railroad compounds included round houses, large round structures with turntables used for repairing locomotives, in addition to car repair and machine shops, and engine houses. Drawings for other maintenance structures were designed for waste refuse, water treatment, and paint and carpenter shops. Drawings included those for railroad platforms to receive passengers and the mail. The AT&SF collection also includes an architectural drawing for an apprentice school.

The headquarters for the AT&SF was in Chicago. The collection includes numerous drawings for the remodel and decorating of the vice president and executive offices within the Railroad Exchange Building. Additional drawings include yard office and storage facilities.

PANHANDLE, TEXAS COMBINATION DEPOT

Panhandle Depot Floor Plan (Sheet 1)
Panhandle Depot Floor Plan (Sheet 1)

The depot at Panhandle, Texas is a good example a combination depot. The depot was designed by E. A. Harrison in Chicago, in June 1927. The floor plan shows the basic arrangement, with one side of the long structure restricted to freight, while the other side includes an office, baggage room, express room, platform, and boiler room (Sheet 1/7). This architectural drawing reflects the United States’ history of racial prejudice and segregation. While there is a large general waiting room, there are separate waiting rooms with bathroom facilities for men, women, and African Americans (labeled Negro).

Panhandle Depot Elevation (Sheet 2)
Panhandle Depot Elevation (Sheet 2)

The elevations of the depot on Sheet 2/7 also include both the front, back, and side elevations. This drawing includes architectural details.

AT&SF & Community

The AT&SF was involved with a surprising number of structures not directly related to the daily operation and maintenance of the railroad. The structures supported the daily life of the workmen, as well as the passengers and the community. Some of the drawings are additions and/or alterations to existing buildings created by the company that required expansion. To support the growing number of settlers and travelers going West, these structures included bunk houses for the workmen, lunchrooms, reading rooms, commissaries, laundries, recreation halls, and hotels.

It is commonly known that Fred Harvey and his descendants worked with the AT&SF to offer lunches served at the Harvey Houses by the Harvey Girls. Some of the drawings produced by the AT&SF were created for the Fred Harvey Company, including lunchrooms, creameries, hotels, and cafeteria-camper lodge buildings. Architectural drawings of the Harvey Houses are included in the collection.

SLATON SANTA FE READING ROOM

Within this collection are architectural drawings of buildings in a small town named Slaton, Texas, located just southeast of Lubbock. In May an architecture professor and I took the short trip to have lunch at the Slaton Harvey House. We received a tour with stories by the daughter of a former Harvey Girl. While the AT&SF architectural drawing collection does not include the drawings for the Slaton Harvey House, the collection has drawings of the surrounding structures, including the reading room, heating house, and round house. The Slaton Harvey House still stands, but the AT&SF structures for which we have the drawings have long since been demolished.

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Slaton Reading Room Elevations & Details (Sheet 2)

The railway maintained reading rooms that served as the all-around resource for their workers at the end of the work shift, as a place to bathe, sleep, read, and wait for the next returning train home. In addition to magazines and books, the reading rooms offered exercise opportunities and wholesome entertainment. The reading rooms also served as places for educational lectures and performance entertainment for the workers, their families, and sometimes the community. Accordingly, each reading room was maintained by a librarian.

The Slaton Reading Room was designed by C.Y. Morse and built in 1912. The collection includes seven drawings of the structure. Architectural drawing includes both front, rear, and side elevations, along with interior details of the staircase and counter (Sheet 2/7).

Slaton Reading Room Floor Plan (Sheet 1)
Slaton Reading Room Floor Plan (Sheet 1)

The building floor plan (Sheet 1/7) offers the arrangement of the first floor with rooms assigned to specific activities: billiards, cards and reading. The librarian’s living quarters has a kitchen, bedroom, and private stairs to the librarian’s basement with a laundry tub. The basement also has the public bath and boiler room. The second floor has 18 possible bedrooms and two baths, one with laundry tub and a linen closet. Each floor includes a veranda that extends the length of the facade. The set includes five drawings of interior and exterior details, including windows, doors, and counters. The drawings were completed in Topeka.

REST HOUSE AT HERMIT’S RIM, GRAND CANYON

Rest House at Hermit's Rim Elevations (Sheet 3)
Rest House at Hermit’s Rim Elevations (Sheet 3)

Plans for the Rest House on Hermit’s Rim at the Grand Canyon is a set of six architectural drawings produced in Chicago and dated May 9, 1914. The elevation for the structure includes both the facade and the fireplace (Sheet 3/6). In addition to the massive fireplace, caretaker’s cottage and kitchenette, the floor plan includes the layout for the porch, pillars, and stone wall at the facade (Sheet 1/6). The unique quality of the structure can be seen in the roof made of rock stone, concrete, and wood (Sheet 2, not seen here).

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Rest House at Hermit’s Rim Floor Plan (Sheet 1)

The drawings for the Rest House were created by AT&SF for the Fred Harvey Company. While the architect’s name is not given on the drawings, it is known that Mary Colter worked for the Fred Harvey Company and that she is the architect of record. The drawing includes additional elevations, sections, and details.

Other Harvey Facilities

In addition to newly designed structures, the collection includes drawings for alteration and additions to the Harvey House in Barstow, California, as well as additions to the Harvey House in Gallup, New Mexico, and alterations to the Harvey House in Amarillo, Texas. The collection includes drawings for the remodel of a Harvey House in Hutchison, Kansas. The AT&SF also prepared drawings for the Fred Harvey Company for a creamery in Las Vegas, New Mexico and a sandwich packing room in Newton, Kansas.

The AT&SF Railway also produced drawings for additions and/or alterations for hotels in Gallup, New Mexico and Williams, Arizona. In addition, the collection includes drawings for the alteration, remodeling, and additions to the Alvarado Hotel in Albuquerque and plans for the dining room at the La Fonda Hotel in Santa Fe. For the Grand Canyon, there are drawings for a remodeling of the cafeteria-campers lodge building.

Summary

It is unknown how many structures were built from these drawings and if these drawings were the final version used to build or renovate existing structures. We do know that photographs of some of the architecture constructed from these drawings may be found in archives around the country. Photographs of buildings that were designed and constructed for AT&SF, including those from architectural drawings in the Texas Tech Southwest Collection, can be found online at the Kansas Memory website: http://www.kansasmemory.org/.

The Southwest Collection has just begun to digitize the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe collection; a few drawings are currently available for viewing at the following website: http://collections.swco.ttu.edu/handle/10605/69777

Bibliography

Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railway Company: An Inventory of Its Records, 1905-1973. Southwest Collection/Special Collections Library, Texas Tech University. http://www.lib.utexas.edu/taro/ttusw/00134/tsw-00134.html

Berke, Arnold. Mary Colter: Architect of the Southwest. New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 2002.

Bray, Frank Chapin. “Social Centers for Railroad Men.” The Chautauquan 39:4 (June 1904) 865-867.

Bryant, Keith L. Jr. History of the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway. New York: Macmillan Publishing Co., 1974.

Grant, H. Roger and Charles W. Bohi. The Country Railroad Station in America. Boulder: Pruett Publishing Company 1978.

Kansas Memory website: http://www.kansasmemory.org/. (accessed 11.25.2014)

Latimer, Rosa Walston. Harvey Houses of Texas: Historic Hospitality from the Gulf to the Panhandle. Charleston: History Press, 2014.

Weigle, Marta Babcock, Barbara A. The Great Southwest of the Fred Harvey Company and the Santa Fe Railway. Phoenix: The Herd Museum, 1996.

Riskin, Marci L. The Train Stops Here: New Mexico’s Railway Legacy. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2005.

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