Sunday, November 22, 2009

EMPS: The Historic Depot

Carly this week wants train-related photos for the Ellipsis Monday Photo Shoot #64: Trains. I've taken lots and lots of pictures of Tucson's historic rail depot downtown on several trips down there in the past. Nevertheless I went again, and I'm glad I did, because it's changed a bit since I was last down there. For the better? I'm not sure.

The Historic Depot (that's what it's called) is downtown on Toole Ave., across the street from the equally historic Hotel Congress where John Dillinger once stayed. Built in 1907, the Depot complex of buildings was restored in 2004 to the way it looked in 1941. Outside the train station that preceded this one on the same site, Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday ambushed and killed a man named Frank Stillwell in the aftermath of the OK Corral shootout.

Today The Historic Depot is home to the Southern Arizona Transportation Museum, which is mostly about the history of the railroad in Tucson, and to a century-old coal-burning steam locomotive called Old 1673. This train ran for many years on routes in and out of Tucson. Later it spent time falling apart in Himmel Park before a cadre of interested Tucsonans spent a good deal of time, money and sweat equity restoring it.

Last time I visited the Depot, the locomotive's protective shed / fencing / whatever (trestle?) was open at both ends, so visitors could walk up to it (but were not supposed to touch!). Now, sadly, it's locked up all the way around. But I can still poke my camera between the bars!

The Historic Depot is also a working train station, with Amtrak trains in and out three times a week, and freight trains several times a day. The passenger rail schedule is unfortunately so inconvenient, and the distances so great, that Tucsonans board a train here as often as they might do otherwise.

This is a shame. It's a lovely train station, with beautiful wooden benches and reproductions of old Arizona-themed art on the walls.

Since I was here last, one end of the depot building has been leased out as Maynards Market, sort of an eclectic gourmet grocery. You can get unusual wines and locally made tamales, and fresh pizza in varieties you'll never find at Papa John's. It's a neat place, and I heartily recommend it.

Unfortunately, this store takes up a chunk of the old waiting room area that was there before. What benches and decor they still have room for are now concentrated into a smaller area, and the long wooden counter seems to be gone. It's understandable. Why give over a lot of valuable downtown real estate to a waiting area hardly anyone ever waits in, when you can bring in rental income and help to revitalize downtown at the same time? But it's still a shame.


P.S. Carly would like a picture of a conductor. Short of a trip to Disneyland, this is the best I can do:

A statue of a conductor, or possibly an engineer. 
Southern Arizona Transportation Museum, January 2008.

Related blog entries:

Round Robin: Train Tracking

All the Livelong Day

Two from Tombstone

 I Met John Dillinger!

Picasa photo gallery:

The Historic Depot


Carly said...

Hey Karen

What a neat look at a lovely old train depot. What a rich history your town has. Sometime I must get out to Fremont's Niles district and do some photos of the old train station there. It was once called Old Hollywood because so many silent films were shot there. Trains and old movies! LOL. :) Anyway... great photos!


Jama said...

What a lovely train, so full of history!

Liz said...

I would love to see the second photograph in monochrome.

Please continue to poke your camera's lens through any bars placed in the way of sight and produce pictures to be treasured.