Delmar Station, Last Branch Depot In City, to Stay Open, Railroad Says
Delmar Station, Last Branch Depot In City, to Stay Open, Railroad Says By HARPER BARNES Of the Post-Dispatch Staff The continuing decline in rail passenger traffic has brought about the demise of several outlying stations in the St. Louis area. However, executives of the Norfolk and Western Railroad have assured passengers and railroad buffs that there are no plans to close the last branch station within the city limits Delmar station at Del-mar boulevard and Hodiamont avenue. Stations closed have been the Missouri Pacific and Frisco installations at Tower Grove and Vandeventer avenues, the Missouri Pacific's South Broadway station, and the Terminal's station on Washington avenue. Delmar station, a compact Ionic structure of granite, limestone and brick, was erected in 1929 and marked the end of one of the city's biggest grade crossings. In those days it was operated by the Wabash railroad, and despite that firm's 1964 merger into the Norfolk and Western, the words "Wabash Railway Company" are still inscribed over the entranceway. About 200 passengers who use the station daily board or get off 12 trains six inbound and six outbound. Besides such frains as the Banner Blue, Blue Bird, City of St. Louis and City of Kansas City, Delmar passengers can board what is perhaps the most famous train in American rail history Train No. 1, the Wabash Cannonball. In this diesel age, the Cannon-ball no longer has the "rumble, rattle and roar," of the old days, but the romance remains in the Norfolk and Western's refusal to delete "Wabash" from the timetables. Business at Delmar is fairly brisk between 9:25 a.m., when the Cannonball leaves for Chicago, and 6:45 p.m. when No. 211 heads for Council Bluffs. Old-timers miss the bustle that used to begin around 9:30 p.m., when overnight travelers began to board sleepers for Kansas City and Chicago. The cars were later picked up by the now defunct midnight trains from Union station. At one time, this was a healthy business, but a railway spokesman, explained that fares had substantially declined because of airline flights. "A businessman can fly out early in the morning end arrive on time for a day of appointments," he noted. The marble, bronze-ornamented interior of the station has hardly changed since 1929. The only new additions are an escalator, installed in 1947, and several vending machines against the front wall. Gone are the bronze baggage rail that used to run along the front of the ticket windows, and the bronze grilles that formerly guarded cashiers. The divided oak benches are still present, as is the ornate bronze water fountain, backed by a dolphin's head set in green marble. The old commuter trade has also been lost, mainly to the new expressways. However, Oliver K. Blackburn, station manager, says that he still sells tickets for the I5-minute trip between Delmar and Union stationto groups of school children so they can ride a train. Used By Head Start Project Head Start has made particular use of this service, Blackburn said. Blackburn, who has held his position for 25 years, says he misses most seeing baseball stars who used to arrive at Delmar for games here. This is another source of passenger traffic that has been lost to the airplane. "Even If the station was closed," Blackburn said, "I don't see what else it could be used for. A few jokers have suggested that it could be tunned into a branch library, and somebody once said it looks like a mausoleum, but to me it looks just like a railroad station, I think it will remain one."