Trace the tracks of Oklahoma’s original railways at these historic sites perfect for railfans and Western history buffs alike.
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During the railroad boom in the early 20th century, Indian Territory, which would later become Oklahoma, was a prime area for railroad expansion. Oklahoma’s flat land and central location were desirable to railroad companies interested in building a trans-continental railroad. After voiding pre-existing treaties with Native American tribes and displacing them from much of their land, the federal government allowed railroad companies to expand into the territory. Companies quickly laid rails across the state leading to over six thousand miles of track in Oklahoma by the 1920s. Today, while Oklahoma isn’t home to nearly as much track, historic sites from this railroad boom still exist across the state. Visit these seven locations to see what remains of Oklahoma’s early railroads.
The Railroad Museum of Oklahoma in Enid is a must-visit destination for railfans. Housed in a restored Santa Fe Railroad Company depot, the museum boasts one of the largest collections of railroad memorabilia in the United States. Visitors can explore a collection of artifacts featuring a functioning telegraph system, antique whiskey still, old railroad signs and much more.
The grounds of the museum are home to several cabooses, box cars, freight cars and passenger cars parked on the rails outdoors. Here you can tour the crown jewel of the museum, a former Amtrak passenger car named the Wanda Lee. Namesake of previous curator Frank Campbell’s late wife, the Wanda Lee was once an army medical service car before its service as a passenger car. Today the Wanda Lee serves as a great place for visitors to snap commemorative photos.
The fascinating Oklahoma Railway Museum is housed in the 1905 Oakwood Depot, once a stop for the Kansas City, Mexico and Orient Railway. Inside the depot, visitors can browse a collection of artifacts including railroad signs, equipment and more.
Outside, the museum grounds are home to numerous train cars and historic buildings including a 100-foot railway turntable. The turntable was once used to re-direct trains in an Oklahoma City railyard before its donation to the museum. Check out a steam engine and Pullman sleeper car or explore the collection of restored locomotives, passenger cars and cabooses parked on the rails. A baggage car, built in 1927 for the Rock Island Railroad, is open to visitors and features a full model train exhibit inside. Enter the historic car to see a tiny town complete with a miniature gas station, water tower and a train track with several engines traveling the rails.
Experience life on the rails firsthand during one of the museum’s many train rides offered throughout the year. Climb aboard the Polar Express in the winter or take a spooky ride on the Halloween Train in the fall. Steam train rides are also offered at various times throughout the year, which allow guests to go for a ride in a vintage 1920s passenger car hooked up to a steam engine.
Discover Bristow’s origins as a railroad station town at the Bristow Historical Museum housed in a historic Frisco Train Depot. The museum tells the story of Bristow’s founding in the 1890s when the Frisco railway laid track between Sapulpa and Oklahoma City. A work camp and post office popped up along the tracks and grew into the town of Bristow.
Step back in time as you enter the Frisco Train Depot originally built in 1923. This historic building now houses both the Bristow Chamber of Commerce and the museum. Discover the history of Bristow as you read through the exhibits including one on Gene Autry, who once worked as a telegraph operator at this exact depot.
Learn about Duncan’s railroad ties at the Rock Island 905 Museum & Tourist Center. In the late 19th century, Duncan was the first scheduled stop for the number 905 locomotive that carried passengers through the state. This same locomotive that once stopped in Duncan daily now sits outside of the museum for visitors to snap photos with.
Exhibits include a display on the evolution of the railway industry, the transition from steam to diesel engines and an exhibit on how passenger trains contributed to Duncan’s growth. Browse artifacts from Duncan’s history including old dispatcher phones, desks and more while you’re there.
Originally built in 1914, the Frisco Depot in Hugo is now home to the Frisco Depot Museum. The museum itself is home to a collection of railroad memorabilia and is surrounded by the Frisco Depot Park and Frisco Depot RV Park. Tourists to this railway destination can expect to see a model railroad, antique whiskey still and other unique artifacts.
Step into the remodeled Harvey House Lunchroom – one of a variety of hospitality businesses built inside railway stations – and discover what lunch-on-the-go once looked like. Afterwards, venture into the location’s converted baggage room and enjoy a meal in the on-site restaurant. Check out displays found throughout the museum including an old switching center, a miniature circus model and several historic photos of trains.
Experience what rail travel was like in 1912 with a visit to the Waurika Rock Island Depot. While no longer a train station, this beautifully restored depot lets visitors experience the early days of the railroad in Waurika, when cattle, hay and cotton used to pass through the town. The depot still possesses many of its original features including an antique ticket office.
The depot is home to the Waurika Public Library, a multi-purpose center for the community and an artifact room stuffed with memorabilia. Look through old photographs of Waurika, tickets from early railroad travelers and conductors’ items on display. Before you leave, snap a photo with the historic caboose parked in front of the building.
The Katy Trail in Oklahoma City is the perfect attraction for adventure-seekers, joggers and rail enthusiasts alike. This seven-mile walking trail, built along the old Katy Railway line that once ran through the city, takes tourists on a scenic route through Oklahoma’s capital city. While no longer traveled by trains, the route allows visitors to experience the path steam engines once traveled through the state. Follow the trail through spacious parks and Oklahoma City’s Adventure District, home to attractions like the Oklahoma City Zoo and the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum.