La Junta, CO (LAJ)
The mid-century modern depot built by the Santa Fe Railway in 1955 replaced El Otero, which housed a passenger depot, hotel and famed Fred Harvey restaurant.
1 West First Street
La Junta, CO 81050
Annual Station Ridership (2016): 7,080
- Facility Ownership: BNSF Railway
- Parking Lot Ownership: BNSF Railway
- Platform Ownership: BNSF Railway
- Track Ownership: BNSF Railway
For information about Amtrak fares and schedules, please call 1-800-USA-RAIL (1-800-872-7245).
The La Junta depot is a good example of the mid-century modern structures built by the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway in the mid-twentieth century in an effort to modernize its infrastructure and image. The one story depot exhibits clean lines and minimal ornamentation. Typical features of the mid-century modern aesthetic found in the building include walls of buff brick in a stack bond, flat roof, horizontal panoramic windows with simple beige stone trim, metal accents along the roof line and the use of streamlined lettering in signage. The railroad built similar depots in Lawrence and Hutchinson, Kansas.
The depot, built in 1955, replaced an elaborate multi-purpose, three-story sandstone and frame building the railroad had built in 1895. Occupying almost two blocks, the structure included a passenger depot and the El Otero Hotel and eating house run by Fred Harvey. The “Harvey Houses,” as they were known, dotted the ATSF tracks across the West. In the days before dining cars became common, passengers had to detrain in order to eat a meal at a trackside restaurant. The food was generally of poor quality until Fred Harvey revolutionized the offerings starting in the 1870s.
By the turn of the twentieth century, the ATSF and Fred Harvey had begun to build a series of trackside hotels in the Southwest that were meant to attract tourists and help generate money for both companies. The buildings often adhered to fanciful designs that looked to the region’s American Indian and Spanish past. Drawing on these traditions, the railroad and Fred Harvey created resorts replete with a bit of exoticism that attracted tourists from across the United States and even abroad. Though it closed in 1948 and was demolished a few years later, El Otero is still remembered as one of the more notable Harvey Houses.
La Junta – meaning the “junction” or “meeting place” in Spanish – is the seat of Otero County and is located on the plains of southeast Colorado along the Arkansas River. Prior to the coming of European-American settlers, the area had been a rich grazing land for buffalo. In 1833, William and Charles Bent established Bent’s Fort near present-day La Junta on the Santa Fe Trail. For forty years, Bent’s Fort remained an import outpost for travelers, trappers and explorers.
By 1875 a small settlement was established to build the railroad, and what would become La Junta began as a construction camp for the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway. After the railroad moved on in 1877, this shanty-town was nearly forsaken. However, the ATSF recognized the value of the location and built a depot and roundhouse there and in 1879 established the railroad shops in the same place. La Junta became the headquarters for the ATSF Colorado division.
Its economic viability assured, the town incorporated in 1881 under Colorado state laws. Settlers from Kansas and elsewhere came in 1885 and afterwards to farm and ranch. Northern Otero County is still home to renowned melon crops as well as very large cattle commissions.
During World War II, the Army Air Force located a training base outside La Junta; that airport is still in service. Today, the museum at Bent’s Fort, now the Koshare Indian Museum is regarded as one of the finest collections of Native American artifacts in the world. The Otero Museum preserves the town’s history and pre-history.
Amtrak provides ticketing and baggage services at this station, which is served by two daily trains.
- 20 Short Term Parking Spaces
- 20 Long Term Parking Spaces
- Accessible Platform
- Accessible Waiting Room
- Baggage Storage
- Bike Boxes
- Checked Baggage
- Dedicated Parking
- Enclosed Waiting Area
- Help With Luggage
- Pay Phones
- Shipping Boxes
- Ticket Office
- Wheelchair Lift