Sedalia, MO (SED)
Following a recent renovation, the 1886 depot serves as a multimodal transportation center. Sedalia is home to the Missouri State Fair—a popular stop for well-known musicians.
Pacific Street and North Osage Avenue
Sedalia, MO 65301
Annual Station Ridership (2016): 9,900
- Facility Ownership: Sedalia Downtown Development, Inc.
- Parking Lot Ownership: Union Pacific Railroad
- Platform Ownership: Union Pacific Railroad
- Track Ownership: Union Pacific Railroad
Missouri River Runner
For information about Amtrak fares and schedules, please call 1-800-USA-RAIL (1-800-872-7245).
The Sedalia station is located a few blocks north of the heart of downtown, centered on the courthouse, and a half dozen blocks west of the popular Katy Trail State Park that commemorates the region’s railroad heritage. Linking St. Louis and Kansas City, the Missouri River Runner glides through the picturesque towns and landscapes that embellish the interior of the state. To highlight 30 years of state-supported passenger rail service, Amtrak and the Missouri Department of Transportation sponsored a 2009 contest to rename the trains (formerly the Ann Rutledge and Missouri Mules). The winning entry—the Missouri River Runner—reflects the fact that the route often parallels the Missouri River, ending and beginning at riverfront cities.
Art Moderne references such as large expanses of glass block and a gleaming aluminum marquee and canopy give the impression that the MP depot was built in the mid-20th century. At the time, stepped rectilinear compositions were still quite popular among American architects, although they were soon to fade in favor of the uniform steel and glass grids promoted by designers searching for an “International Style.” Surprisingly, the MP depot was constructed in 1886, but underwent a drastic remodeling in 1951 that sheared off the second floor, reconstructed the ground floor, added new space, and completely did away with any traces of the station’s Queen Anne past.
The reconfigured one-story, red brick MP depot stretches along the tracks and is divided into three distinct parts: a pavilion flanked by two wings. Projecting a few feet beyond the standard north and south elevations, the pavilion visually anchors the architectural composition. The east wing was the freight and baggage room, as indicated by the broad door openings that allowed large crates and parcels to be wheeled into and out of the storeroom. Most of the wall openings display small pivoting windows surrounded by glass block, an arrangement that lets in light while maintaining security. On the west side of the pavilion, a much longer wing features an aluminum faced canopy that protects passengers from inclement weather as they wait outside for the train. Large tripartite windows allowed ample sunlight to enter the waiting rooms.
The industrial streamlined architecture that was popular in the United States from the 1920s to the 1950s often emphasized straight, clean lines and simple surfaces in which the materials themselves—shiny aluminum, glossy glass block—were the main decorative elements. The horizontal nature of the depot is reinforced by the stone watertable and belt course and the concrete parapet that wrap around the building; the canopy takes the place of the belt course along the passenger platform and adds another texture to the structure’s surface. Along the parapet, low concrete pediments mark the locations of the principle entry ways, and the wall surface below each one is marked by the vibrant red and white buzz saw logo of the MP.
The station closed in the 1970s and entered a period of deferred maintenance that threatened its structural integrity. In 1998, Sedalia Downtown Development, Inc (SDDI), a non-profit organization focused on downtown revitalization, began to plan for the transformation of the depot into a multi-modal transportation center accommodating trains, busses, taxis, and bike and car rentals. Two years later, SDDI purchased the building from the Union Pacific Railroad, which had merged with and subsumed the MP in the 1980s.
SDDI and city officials believe that the improved station will draw new investment to Sedalia’s north side. OATS, a regional public transportation service, contributed $137,000 in SAFETEA-LU funds towards the renovation in order to relocate its offices to the western wing, while SDDI occupies space in the pavilion. The new Amtrak waiting room, located in the former baggage/freight area, opened to passengers in May 2011 at a ceremony attended by Sedalia Mayor Elaine Horn, SDDI Director Meg Liston, and representatives of Amtrak, the Missouri Department of Transportation, and Septagon Construction, the company involved in the rehabilitation work.
The improved passenger waiting room, lighted by windows on three sides, is bright and welcoming. Outside, it is marked by a bold new metal and glass canopy over the entrance that protects riders from the rain and snow. Where the canopy is anchored to the ground, the supporting pylons frame a long bench consisting of wood slats laid over a concrete base. One pylon graphically spells out “Amtrak” in large letters running down its side, much like the streamlined letters along the canopy and a few of the brick facades that read “Sedalia.”
The $2 million project was split into two components that were carried out over a decade. The first phase concentrated on bringing the building to a state of good repair to avoid further damage from threats such as water infiltration. $280,000 was raised to repair the roof and brick walls, as well as replace the glass blocks in the east wing. Phase two was devoted to the completion of interior renovations for office and public use, exterior landscaping, construction of a roadway bike path to connect the depot with the Katy Trail, and the design and creation of a small park dedicated to Sedalia’s founder and the ways that the railroads have impacted the town’s development.
U.S. Representative Ike Skelton helped direct $550,000 in federal transit monies to the project. The majority of the funding for the transportation center was obtained through state and federal programs and grants: $540,000 through the Federal Transit Administration’s New Starts and Small Starts program; $212,000 from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Community Development Block Grant program; and $250,000 through the Federal Highway Administration’s Transportation Enhancement Act program.
In addition, the Sedalia Central Business and Cultural District provided $20,000 and the city’s Public Works Department supplied $60,000 in in-kind labor including excavation and filling work. Through personal donations and fund-raisers such as community dinners, SDDI obtained $30,000 from area residents, truly demonstrating community backing for the transportation center. In the spring of 2010, through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, Amtrak was able to devote $160,000 in Mobility First funds towards the construction of a new concrete platform with a tactile edge. It is well illuminated by street lights similar to those found in downtown.
When Europeans first visited this area of Missouri, it was occupied by the Osage and Shawnee American Indians. The core population of the Osage and Shawnee had moved west from the lower Ohio River Valley, but the Shawnee had also occupied an area of the East Coast ranging from New York to Georgia. Fighting with other American Indian tribes and pressure from European colonists forced the two groups to migrate west.
Due to seasonal movements in search of food and resources, the Osage required permanent and semi-permanent structures. For much of the year, the semi-nomadic Osage occupied set villages that contained permanent lodges constructed of a wood framework that was either covered by bark sheets, woven mats, and hides, or built up with layers of earth. While in the village, agriculture was pursued, and crops included corn, beans, squash, and pumpkins. During extended hunting expeditions in search of bison, elk, deer, and bear, portable tipis made of wood frameworks covered with buffalo hides were easily erected and disassembled as needed. The Shawnee of the Midwest focused on farming, but also hunted by season. Their villages included round dwellings much like those of the Osage.
After initial contact with French explorers in the late seventeenth century, a fur trade was established between the Osage and the French colonists in the Ohio Valley and along the Mississippi River. The American presence was not felt until the completion of the Louisiana Purchase in 1803 which gave the young nation control over the immense territory drained by the Mississippi River. As the European-American population grew, its westward expansion in turn pushed tribes further west. The rich soils of Missouri attracted American settlers by the 1820s, and through a series of federal treaties between 1808 and 1825, the Osage and Shawnee gave up their claims to much of the land in present day Missouri, Kansas, and Arkansas and were forced to locate on reservations.
Similar to many of his fellow pioneers, Gen. George R. Smith, the founder of Sedalia, traveled to Missouri in search of new opportunities, particularly farming. Central Missouri was noted for its gently rolling prairie and creeks whose banks were lined with stands of hardwood trees such as oak, walnut, and sycamore. Born in Virginia, Smith moved to Kentucky as a child and later trained as a lawyer. Financial reverses in the late 1820s prompted his move to Missouri in 1833.
Settling in the village of Georgetown, 30 miles south of the Missouri River and a few miles north of present day Sedalia, he engaged in trading and the overland transportation of goods along the Santa Fe Trail network between Missouri and the Southwest. In time, Smith also served in various local and state government positions. Wide experience in trade and government allowed him to understand the transformative possibilities of the railroads and their connections to far off regions. Without a navigable watercourse, transportation in Georgetown was limited to wagon; the railroad would provide fast links that would increase trade and attract new residents.
The fledgling Pacific Railroad obtained an 1849 charter for a rail line to run between St. Louis and a site in the western part of the state, with the aspiration of building to the Pacific Ocean. Ground was broken in St. Louis in 1851. Using rails, locomotives, and rolling stock shipped from England, the first 5 mile section of the road opened in 1852. Planning the railroad westward, there was debate on whether to follow the Missouri River or to take an inland path. As a member of the railroad’s board of directors, Smith used his good standing in the region’s business and government sectors to rally support for the inland route and convince towns and counties to entice the company with gifts of land and money.
Unfortunately, Georgetown leaders remained apathetic toward the Pacific Railroad, so Smith decided to move a few miles south where he purchased 503 acres in 1856. The next year, he platted out his own town in an attempt to establish it as a stop on the rail line. Smith chose to call the town “Sedville” after his daughter Sarah, who was affectionately known as “Sed.” Lots were sold, but since the railroad was still far to the east, settlement was delayed for a few years. In October 1860, Smith and partner David Bouldin filed a new plat in anticipation of the arrival of the tracks in January 1861. The town’s name also changed to “Sedalia,” a term which seemed prettier and more sonorous than its first incarnation.
The Civil War soon broke out, but the conflict actually proved somewhat beneficial to the new settlement. Fighting in the region delayed construction and Sedalia effectively became the terminus of the line; those heading west stocked up on goods in town. As the westernmost rail stop in the region, Sedalia was strategic for the movement of war goods and therefore occupied by the Union Army. In 1864, construction began on the line eastward from Kansas City, opening to Independence in August. Only a few months later, Confederate Major General Sterling Price led a raid through western Missouri. The bulk of Sedalia’s Union Army contingent left to pursue Price, leaving the town lightly defended. Attacked on October 15th, the community surrendered after a brief resistance, but the Confederates simply raided the settlement and moved on.
During their attacks over the fall, Price’s men destroyed Pacific Railroad property, including buildings, locomotives, and rolling stock. The destruction was quickly assessed and repaired, and on September 19, 1865, only months after the end of the war, the eastern and western sections of the railroad were joined. The first full run took 14 hours between Kansas City and St. Louis. In 1872, a reorganization of the railroad resulted in a name change to the better known Missouri Pacific Railway, and more than a century later it was subsumed into the Union Pacific Railroad.
With the completion of the line, Sedalia lost its status as a terminal, but developed into an important local government center. Replacing Georgetown as the county seat, Sedalia was the site of the courthouse and attendant lawyers’ offices. Farmers regularly traveled into town to ship out their goods and to acquire supplies. For much of the late nineteenth century, Sedalia served as a railhead for ranchers living to the southwest; cattle could easily be driven to the rail line, corralled in the stockyards, and then shipped to slaughterhouses in St. Louis and Chicago.
Sedalia earned a reputation as a railroad town, especially after it gained a second rail line in 1870 with the support of Gen. Smith. The Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad, known as the “Katy,” was born out of an earlier line, and it provided vital connections southwest into Oklahoma and Texas. The Katy moved its offices to Sedalia in 1873; over the next few decades it would also build locomotive and car shops in town, as well as a hospital for workers. The offices were relocated to Parsons, Kansas in 1881 when the Katy was purchased by financier Jay Gould who had also gained control over the MP in an attempt to create a large Midwestern rail system.
The initial MP depot was located at the Ives House, a hotel on Pacific Street; in 1886 a new $35,000 facility was built nearby. Since the MP and the Katy were under Gould’s control, the MP depot acted as a union station. The two-storey brick structure housed public areas such as waiting rooms on the ground floor while upstairs held offices. The asymmetrical façades boasted a three sided bay on the west, and numerous gabled dormers along the roofline. Similar to the renovated 1951 version, it also sported a long, wide trackside canopy supported by posts. The Katy moved out of the depot when it received its own Romanesque Revival style station in 1896.
The railroad presence expanded towards the end of the century when the Katy consolidated its scattered shops on 60 acres in 1898; the MP followed suit in 1904 on 125 acres. Together, the shops employed more than 2,500 men who built and repaired locomotives, freight, passenger, and sleeping cars, and tracks. The MP and Katy would continue to be Sedalia’s largest employers well into the mid-twentieth century. A series of strikes in the 1920s hurt the railroads, as did the Great Depression and changing federal transportation priorities after World War II. Shedding jobs for three decades, the Katy closed the shops in 1957, and passenger service ended the next year. The MP faired little better but kept open some of its facilities until the 1980s.
The “Queen City of the Prairies,” as the town became known, flourished on the prosperity provided by the railroads. Other late nineteenth century industries included mills that processed local corn and wheat before it was shipped to distant markets, as well as saw mills and foundries to support the demands of brisk local construction. The business district around the MP depot grew south and boasted a new courthouse, high rise hotel, theaters, and a variety of stores.
While civic boosters would point to these successes, the town also had a less respectful “red light” district along Main Street that attracted men making their way through town. Ragtime musician Scott Joplin spent time in Sedalia at the turn of the twentieth century. He attended classes at a local African-American college, composed music, played in local clubs, sometimes with an ensemble, and toured in the Midwest and the East. The first week of June finds Sedalia alive with music as it plays host to the Scott Joplin International Ragtime Festival, organized by a local nonprofit dedicated to promoting Joplin’s legacy.
The town scored a major coup when it beat out 5 other communities to become the permanent home of the Missouri State Fair, the first of which was held in 1901. Barns and exhibition buildings, an auditorium, a racetrack, and new roads were constructed southwest of downtown. At a time when the nation was primarily agricultural, the annual fair was a major event that drew tens of thousands of visitors from across Missouri. It demonstrated improved techniques for farming and livestock raising, but also provided opportunities for fun such as contests, games, and musical shows. A century later, the end-of-summer event attracts more than 300,000 people, and has become a popular stop for well-known musicians.
The decline of the railroads hurt Sedalia’s economic base, but the community has successfully reinvented itself while remaining true to its heritage. The Katy Trail State Park is a 225 mile hiker-biker path that follows the Katy’s abandoned right-of-way between St. Charles and Clinton. Much of the trail winds along the Missouri River and the path is replete with beautiful flora and fauna. At Sedalia, the Missouri Department of Natural Resources bought the old Katy depot in 1983. Fifteen years later, it began a three year, $1 million exterior and interior restoration to transform the building into an information and rest station for trail users. Today, the local Chamber of Commerce and the Convention and Visitors Bureau manage the building, which also features a museum detailing the impact of the railroads on Sedalia.
Amtrak does not provide ticketing or baggage services at this station which is served by four daily trains. The Missouri River Runner is financed primarily through funds made available by the Missouri Department of Transportation.
- 20 Long Term Parking Spaces
- Accessible Platform
- Accessible Restrooms
- Dedicated Parking
- Enclosed Waiting Area
- Short Term Parking Spaces
- Wheelchair Lift