Heart of Louisiana: Dequincy Train Depot

Trains have been moving along the track in the small Southwest Louisiana town of Dequincy for the past 114 years. It's a place that refuses to forget its past as a railroad town.

The most prominent building in Dequincy is the old depot, built by the Kansas City Southern Railroad in 1923.

Gary Cooper is a former two-term mayor of Dequincy. Now he's president of the museum board that has turned the old depot into a railroad museum. The depot was nearly demolished 40 years ago until a women's groups rallied to save it. It was then sold to the town for one dollar.

"The railroad's the reason we're here. You would expect this to be out West. It's called Mission Revival. It's obviously Spanish architecture," Cooper says.

"We still have many many railroad employees who live here. We're no longer a terminal and the crews don't change here anymore they way they did for many years, but a big majority of our people who live here work for the railroads, and of course their father and their grandfather did before that," Cooper said.

There are the old baggage carts, the schedule board for the railroad employees, with the original name tags including Cooper's. He worked for the railroad for 30 years. There used to be a large roundhouse for repairing locomotives. But that disappeared along with the old steam engines. The town has one such relic; a 1913 oil burning steam locomotive.

Harry Methvin, a retired teacher, now helps the city maintain its historic buildings.

"Actually this is where the city itself started, where the loggers and the railroaders met," he recalled.

The Dequincy Train Depot is here because of the tracks. In Southwest Louisiana, it's where the north south line merges with the east-west railroad.

Passengers used to fill the depot. But during days of segregation, there were separate waiting areas for whites and blacks. The museum is loaded with artifacts, the fine china from dining cars and antique railroad lanterns.

And there are some very rare, beautifully made reproductions of classic locomotives.

"They're handmade, there are very few of them around to be seen, and we have a collection of 22 sets," Cooper said.

It's probably been years since you've seen a caboose hitched to the end of a train. Dequincy has two of them, along with a 1940's passenger car.

This well-preserved depot has been the centerpiece of this town since its beginning a century ago.

"It pulls us together. It reminds us of our roots," said Cooper.

It's a part of the past that Dequincy proudly shares with the rest of us.

The Dequincy Train Depot is now on the National Register of Historic Places. If you'd like more information, go to http://www.dequincyrailroadmuseum.com/