Ardmore, OK (ADM)
Featuring stuccoed walls and brick accents, the depot was opened in 1917 by the Santa Fe Railway and the Rock Island Railroad. The Ardmore Main Street Authority completed an extensive renovation in 2001.
251 East Main Street
Ardmore, OK 73401
Annual Station Ridership (FY 2021): 4,110
- Facility Ownership: City of Ardmore
- Parking Lot Ownership: City of Ardmore
- Platform Ownership: BNSF Railway
- Track Ownership: BNSF Railway
Located on the eastern end of downtown, the Ardmore depot is one of two that still stand within the city. It opened to rail passengers in August 1917 as a joint effort between the Santa Fe Railway and a now-extinct branch of the Rock Island Railroad. The second depot, built for the Oklahoma, New Mexico and Pacific Railroad, lies a few blocks to the north, but is no longer used for rail service.
Built of brick, the one-story cross-gabled Santa Fe-Rock Island depot has a southwestern style that’s achieved through the use of white stucco on exterior walls, angular parapets and a red clay barrel-tiled roof, which extends beyond the walls and creates overhangs supported by large brackets – therefore protecting customers waiting outside from inclement weather and the summer sun. Dark red brick is found at the base of the building beneath a belt course and is used around doors and windows as a decorative accent that provides a pleasing contrast to the white stucco. In the larger gables of the depot’s center section, and at the principal entryways, one can spot the Santa Fe Railway’s cross within a circle emblem.
The center section of the building is flanked by two lower wings – the one to the north was originally the baggage room, as indicated by the small windows high on the walls for security, and the large doorways through which carts loaded with luggage could be easily wheeled to and from the train.
The railroad runs east of the depot, but to the west, toward downtown, the building is fronted by the beautifully landscaped Depot Park. It opened in spring 2022 and is designed to host community events and simply provide a green respite for residents and visitors alike. It includes trees, planting beds and sheltered areas. A focal point of the park is a locomotive that played a storied part in Ardmore’s past.
In September 1915, a rail car carrying natural gasoline – intended for a local refinery – was parked in downtown Ardmore near the present Santa Fe-Rock Island depot. Sitting in the hot sun, the temperature of the rail car increased. This caused the car’s pop-off valve to activate in order to relieve the gas pressure. As a result, gas began leaking; a representative of the refinery then came to inspect the car. He removed the dome from the car, which allowed gas and vapors to also enter the air.
The air thick with gasoline vapors, only a spark was needed to set off an explosion – which devastated downtown Ardmore, killing 43 people, injuring many others and damaging buildings. The nearby depot was destroyed, which later led to the construction of the current building (passenger functions were housed in rail cars until the new depot was finished). The accident harkened back to an 1895 blaze that had also destroyed much of downtown.
Many communities rushed to aid the townspeople, including a group from Gainesville in northern Texas. Led by locomotive No. 1108 – now on display in Depot Park – the “Mercy Train” from Texas arrived with aid workers ready to help care for victims and rebuild Ardmore. As a result of the explosion, new regulations were put into place concerning the transportation of gasoline.
In 1998 BNSF, the successor to the Santa Fe, sold the depot to the Ardmore Main Street Authority, a trust of the city, for $1 and sold the land for $20,000. In exchange, the Main Street Authority agreed to provide a facility for BNSF.
The Main Street Authority also purchased the vacant Railway Express Agency (REA) building at the north end of the property from BNSF. Its renovation and platform work were the first part of the Ardmore Main Street Authority’s project; restoration of the depot came later, as BNSF had to move to the new facility before the station project could begin. The authority received funding for the project from a TEA-21 grant through the Oklahoma Department of Transportation, a $10,000 grant from the Great American Stations Foundation and funding from two local foundations. BNSF still occupies the former REA building. Construction of a gazebo, platform and landscaping were included in the project. The comprehensive restoration cost approximately $1.6 million and was completed in 2001.
A small office area on the west side of the renovated building was initially used as a satellite police office for the city’s community services officer. When the city relocated the office back to police headquarters, the Main Street Authority secured permission from the city to use the space as a waiting room for Amtrak customers. In June 1999, Amtrak, through the financial support of the state of Oklahoma, had inaugurated the Heartland Flyer (Oklahoma City-Fort Worth) with a stop in Ardmore. The new daily train restored passenger rail service to the state for the first time since the discontinuance of the Lone Star (Chicago-Dallas/Houston) in 1979.
The Ardmore post office in Indian Territory, between the Arbuckle Mountains and the Red River, opened in 1887 when the Santa Fe Railway came through; Ardmore was not settled by the great 1889 Land Run. Among the Santa Fe crews building the line was a foreman who had been previously employed by the Pennsylvania Railroad. He suggested that they name the town for one in Pennsylvania (which also is served by Amtrak today). By 1895, Ardmore became a transport center for cotton going to market. The city was incorporated in 1899.
Other Ardmore milestones include the construction of a Carnegie library, introduction of paved streets and building of an interurban rail system. An oil boom began in 1913 with the discovery of the Healdton Field. Soil depletion in the region caused the cotton trade to decline; however, the oil industry filled that economic void.
The region today provides a number of natural attractions, including the Arbuckle Wilderness with its petting zoo and animal safari, and Lake Murray State Park; entertainments such as those of the Tivoli Theater and the Greater Southwest Historical Museum; and venues for large events, particularly the Ardmore Convention Center, which opened in 2001, and the venerable but still operating Hardy Murphy Coliseum, which is a regional venue for rodeos and horse shows.
The Heartland Flyer is financed primarily through funds made available by the Oklahoma and Texas Departments of Transportation.
Station Building (with waiting room)
- ATM not available
- No elevator
- No payphones
- No Quik-Trak kiosks
- No Restrooms
- Unaccompanied child travel not allowed
- No vending machines
- No WiFi
- Arrive at least 30 minutes prior to departure
- Amtrak Express shipping not available
- No checked baggage service
- No checked baggage storage
- Bike boxes not available
- No baggage carts
- Ski bags not available
- No bag storage
- Shipping boxes not available
- No baggage assistance
- Same-day parking is available; fees may apply
- Overnight parking is available; fees may apply
- No payphones
- Accessible platform
- Accessible restrooms
- No accessible ticket office
- Accessible waiting room
- No accessible water fountain
- Same-day, accessible parking is available; fees may apply
- Overnight, accessible parking is available; fees may apply
- No high platform
- No wheelchair
- Wheelchair lift available