AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) — The city of Amarillo and the Panhandle region as a whole, owes its very existence to the railroads.

Nestled in endless plateaus, flat lands, canyons and rolling hills, we can tend to feel a little isolated here on the High Plains.

Back in the 1880’s when the region was settled, it was extremely hard to access the Panhandle, until the trains started rolling in.

“Amarillo was the for a while was the headquarters for the Southern Kansas Railway of Texas, which was the Santa Fe line,” said Bob Roth, Vice President of the Amarillo Railroad Museum. “And then also the Pecos Valley Line came in here, which was merged into the Santa Fe.”

At one time, Amarillo had three different railroads running through the city. The Fort Worth and Denver City Railway, the Rock Island Railroad, and finally the Santa Fe Railway, which made its way to the Yellow City in 1908.

Two years later in 1910, the historic Santa Fe Railroad Depot in Downtown Amarillo was built.

“It handled the passengers who were traveling on the Santa Fe. Prior to that, the Santa Fe was using a union depot joint with the Fort Worth and Denver City until they opened this depot, so in 1910, passengers started coming in here,” Roth explained.

The Santa Fe Depot had a Harvey House Hotel, which could hold a little more than 50 people in the lunch room, and nearly eighty people in the dining room.

Once a bustling and vital artery in Amarillo’s birth and economic development, the building now sits vacant.

Windows are broken, doors are failing, and it needs a new roof. Just to name a few of the improvements needed to this High Plains landmark.

“First and foremost, we want to make sure that that building is taken care of, so that it’s available for following generations of folks that come along,” said Scott Metelko, Executive Director of the Santa Fe Historical Railway Museum. “We also want to to pay tribute to the rich railroading history. In Amarillo, there’s so many people that generations of their families have worked for the railroads for Santa Fe and BNSF.”

Metelko told us the group has some really cool plans lined up.

“The anchor will be the Santa Fe Historical Railway Museum. When we’re looking at a small performance space, so that when we have events out there, or if somebody wants to rent, the space, we got a place for performers to do some, you know, some theaters and music. We’re going to have an art museum that celebrates the art and design of Santa Fe,” Metelko said.

Honoring the history of the railroad is a way of life for many in the Panhandle.

One unique way Metelko would like to honor that heritage, “We want to have train excursions, so that give folks the ability to, to hop on a train and go somewhere, or even go nowhere, even just go around in a circle for a little bit to be able to actually experience what’s that what that is like,” he noted.

Metelko said the group is in early discussions currently with BNSF to work out schedules and locomotives for the excursions.

Another unique plan the group has: a railcar inn.

“We want to have kind of some of that aesthetic, where it’s, it’s more of a DIY kind of thing where each individual unit is going to be a little bit different than everything else. So it’ll give you a fun place to stay,” he said.

Currently, the city of Amarillo owns the building and the property, and Metelko told KAMR the timeline to fully develop the vision for the depot is 5 to ten years.

The group is in the grant planning stage with the Texas Historical Commission, and once that’s complete, they’ll have an actual timeline for renovations.

In the meantime, the trains will keep on rolling.

For more information on this project, click here.

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