ROCKDALE INTERNATIONAL & GREAT NORTHERN RAILROAD DEPOT & MUSEUM
Welcome to the Rockdale International & Great
Northern Railroad Depot & Museum, an award-winning restoration project undertaken by the Rockdale Historical Society in 2000.
International & Great Northern Railroad Logo. (Photo Courtesy Rockdale Historic Society).
Painting of the Rockdale International & Great Northern Railroad Passenger and Freight Depots and McVoys Grocery and Feed Store across the street (Photo Courtesy Rockdale Historic Society).
MUSEUM CONTACT INFORMATION
CONTACT INFORMATION FOR THE DEPOT MUSEUM
MAILING ADDRESS: Rockdale I&GN Depot Museum,
PO Box 778, Rockdale, Texas 76567 -USA
PHYSICAL ADDRESS: 11 N. Main Street, Rockdale, Texas
MUSEUM HOURS: OPEN Saturdays 10-4, Sundays 1-4 or by appointment.
HISTORY OF THE ROCKDALE I&GN RAILROAD DEPOT
In 1873, the International & Great Northern (I&GN) Railroad acquired right-of-way in Milam County and the town site of Rockdale was surveyed out covering some 400 acres and including thirty-five blocks of lots. The I & GN passenger depot was constucted which served the town for over 30 years before a new passenger depot was constucted one block west of the original depot.
In 1874, the I&GN railroad began it's westward expansion from Hearne to Austin. This stretch of railroad was built in two segments: Hearne to Rockdale and Rockdale to Austin. The Hearne to Rockdale segment spanning twenty-eight miles was completed in late 1874. The Rockdale to Austin segment was completed two years later (1876). During the two-year period when Rockdale was the end of the line, a great deal of railroad business came by wagon from towns west of Rockdale.
After completing the line, the I&GN constructed two wooden depots, one for handling freight and the other for processing passengers. The first passenger depot was located on the South side of Milam Street between Ackerman and Green Streets. Also, the first freight depot was located on the South side of Milam where Main Street now crosses the tracks. In those days Main Street ended at Milam. As time passed, Rockdale and the I&GN grew and prospered creating a need for replacement depots.
International & Great Northern Railroad engine 107- a familiar sight in Rockdale about 1890.
In 1889 a new red brick freight depot was built on the South side of Milam at Burleson Street. At this time the old freight depot was dismantled. In 1906 a new passenger depot was constructed on the corner of Main and Milam Streets.
Rockdale International & Great Northern Railroad Passenger and Freight Depots added near the turn of the century (Photo Courtesy Rockdale Historic Society).
The citizens of Rockdale had been awaiting this new depot for many years. When the new depot was completed the old passenger depot was dismantled. The new depot, also constructed of red brick, was a beautiful building. It had a fancy cupola that offered folks an unobstructed view of the countryside. Inside, there was a ticket office that divided the large white and colored waiting rooms. To the rear of the building was located the baggage room that stored baggage, small freight shipments, and mail.
In 1925 the I&GN was leased by the Missouri Pacific RR. The I&GN was operated as a division of the Missouri Pacific RR until 1956, at which time it was fully merged into the Missouri Pacific Lines. That officially ended the use of the I&GN name.
Over the years the passenger depot was remodeled several times. The beautiful red brick exterior was given a coat of light yellow paint in an effort to spruce it up. In 1936 a new roof was added, and at this time it is believed the cupola was removed in an effort to reduce maintenance cost, however the exact date is not known.
Business was good at both depots. In the 1930’s, the railroad had on its payroll an agent, a cashier, a baggage man, and two porters. Six passenger trains as well as numerous freight trains serviced the depot daily. One of the finest trains in the country “The Sunshine Special” served Rockdale, offering area residents the finest travel accommodations.
By the early 1960’s, both freight and passenger business at the Rockdale station had fallen to a level that made operation of separate freight and passenger depot uneconomical. The Missouri Pacific decided to consolidate separate operations into one building. At this time, the brick freight station and platform were retired and dismantled. Prior to the move, the passenger station was remodeled for the last time under railroad ownership. A long counter was moved into the white waiting room to create a combination office and waiting room. After desegregation the colored waiting room was no longer used. The exterior of the building as well as the interior were given fresh coats of white paint. Freight and express business was handled in the former baggage room.
In 1957 Mr. Oscar M. Brockmann moved to Rockdale to replace Mr. C.W. Stephens the former agent. By this time, the agent's position was the only job left at the depot. He was destined to be the last person to occupy that post. Passenger trains had been reduced to four a day: Numbers 1and 2 The Texas Eagles and Numbers 7 and 8 The Texan and Southerner. In 1967, the United States Post Office Department cancelled the mail contract with the railroad. This resulted in the discontinuance of trains No. 7 and No. 8 because they were mainly handling U.S. mail. Also, the Railway Post Office car was pulled off the Eagle, thus marking the end of an era for the depot. Ninety-three years of handling the mail to and from Rockdale had come to an end.
In 1970, the Missouri Pacific came up with a plan that eventually spelled the end to many small town Texas depots, including the Rockdale Station. The plan was to have a mobile agent. The agent would drive a van to various towns up and down the line via the highway . The van which was to operate out of Taylor, would call on customers between there and Rockdale and return to Taylor. Hearings were held concerning the plan, but in the end, the Texas Railroad Commission gave their approval. At the close of business on July 15, 1970, Mr. Brockmann closed and locked the depot for the last time. He then began his well-earned retirement. He had been employed by the I&GN since 1923 and had worked at many stations up and down the line. After the depot closure, the few passengers who wanted to ride the Eagle had to purchase their tickets from the conductor on the train. This arrangement did not last long because the Texas Eagle was discontinued on September 21, 1970. Train No. 2 departed Rockdale at 4:50 pm thus ending 96 years of passenger service to Rockdale.
In late 1970 Adolph McVoy, a Rockdale businessman purchased the old depot from the Missouri Pacific. He used the building for the storage of animal feed and fertilizer until sold. In 1998, the Rockdale Historical Society was formed. The initial project was to acquire this building for the purpose of restoring it to its former glory and to use it to house a museum emphasizing the role of the railroads, agriculture, and mining to the development of the Rockdale area. On December 1, 1999 the building was purchased from Mr. McVoy by the Historical Society and has been completely restored to its former glory, complete with new cupola. It currently houses the Rockdale I&GN Depot Museum.
This second depot was purchased by the Rockdale Historical Society in 1999 and renovated with total historic integrity as the cornerstone of the Rockdale I&GN Depot museum.
Restoration project of the Rockdale Heritage Society with funding from local citizens, the Texas Historical Commission, Alcoa Aluminum Company, and the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Note the detail even down to the exact size cupola on top of the depot thanks to the skills of Railroad Engineer Bert Dockall and fellow Rockdale Historical Society members.
I&GN train depot named 'best restoration' project in state. This award recognizes excellence in restoration of the interior or exterior of an existing building. Judges described the depot project as "a great anchor recaptured for the community" and appreciated the attention to architectural details and lighting.
Interior shot of the Depot Museum. Restored station agent's office and telegraph desk at the back of the photo. Looks like the last agent just left yesterday (Photo by Len Kubiak).
Display of early-day train schedules (one of many train-related displays you'll find in the depot museum. The museum also features a number of historic displays relating to the early-day history of Rockdale (Photo by Len Kubiak).
The Rockdale I&GN Depot Museum is located in downtown Rockdale in the recently restored former International & Great Northern Passenger Depot. Dedicated to the preservation of our railroad and local history, the museum currently houses a collection of railroad china, railroad lanterns and other railroad memorabilia.
Railroad China and other railroad relics on display at the Rockdale Depot Museum. (Photo by Len Kubiak).
The north waiting room in the depot museum is now devoted to displaying artifacts relating to the history of Rockdale and local area history.
In addition to the fully restored passenger depot, the site has on display a Missouri-Pacific dining car, the 36 "Cheyenne Mountain"
which was brought to Rockdale in June 2005.
This dining car was initially placed in service by Missouri Pacific in 1946 and was part of the Colorado Eagle until 1966 when the train was discontinued. The dining car was also attached to other MoPac trains.
The Rockdale Depot also has a restored Missouri Pacific (StLB&M) caboose which is one of the favorites of the depot site.
BAGGAGE ROOM HOUSES MODEL RAILROAD
Another growing favorite of the depot site is an operating model railroad housed in the restored baggage room along with other railroad-related pictures and signs. The model railroad includes both O and HO scales. “O” is the largest of the common model trains and the track is 1-1/4" gauge.
The HO Scale is the most popular scale since it requires a smaller area for a layout. The track it runs on is 16.5mm gauge.
Missouri-Pacific (StLB&M) caboose renovated by the Rockdale Historical Society and now a prominent feature of the museum (Photo courtesy Bert Dockall)
Rear view of the restored Missouri Pacific (StLB&M) caboose (Photo courtesy Bert Dockall).
Rockdale Depot 100th Birthday
On Friday, June 10, 2006, the city of Rockdale, Texas celebrated the 100th anniversary of the IGN depot. (Photo courtesy Bert Dockall).
Rockdale I&GN Depot centennial activities celebrated in June of 2006.
Rockdale Blacksmith, another project completed by the Rockdale Historical Society. The newest addition to the depot site features an operational forge and authentic anvil and tools of the 1800's era. (Photo Courtesy Len Kubiak).
This early-day blacksmith drill press was once part of the Bose Moultry Backsmith Shop and was donated to the Rockdale Historical Society by the Bose Moultry family. (Photo Courtesy Len Kubiak).
RECENT MUSEUM DONATIONS
Our most recent museum donation comes to us from Jack and Sandy Humes of Whitesboro, Texas.
This great old I&GN Railroad Padlock was donated to the Rockdale I&GN Railroad Depot Museum by Jack and Sandy Humes of Whitesboro, Texas. Jack and Sandy are proprietors of the Butterfield Stage Stop Antique Emphorium on East Main Street in Whitesboro (Photo Courtesy Len Kubiak).
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