Warren County’s train depots: Most gone, but not forgotten

Just because something has largely been destroyed doesn’t mean it has been forgotten.

That’s definitely the case with railroad depots in Warren County.

Chase Putnam spoke to a relatively large audience on the topic at the Warren County Courthouse las Thursday night.

“It’s a dark story,” Putnam said of the history of depots, as he presented a host of photographs of depots around the county, many of which he took in the 1970s when many more were still standing.

During the height of the railroad era, “Everybody had a depot,” he said

That including hamlets like Tiona, Akeley and Barnes.

The depots were stations for one of two main railways that came through Warren County – The Dunkirk, Allegheny Valley and Pittsburgh Railway, DAV for short, and the Philadelphia and Erie Railroad.

But the depots were more than just stops on the way for people who have taken an interest in depot history.

“There has never been an architectural range that there has been in depots,” Putnam said. “They were all different. (I) don’t think there were any duplicated.”

But in spite of such interest, and subsequent efforts to rehabilitate depots, only a few remain standing in Warren County.

And some aren’t where, or what, they used to be.

Putnam explained that the Akeley depot is still standing but has been moved from its original location. “It’s not beautiful, but at least it’s there,” he said. “It was moved there. (The) inside (is) still very original.”

The North Warren station, is “one of the survivors,” he added, and is the location of the Train Station Restaurant. “This building stands where it always stood. Certainly the exterior is a fine example of early frame, typical, small-town railroad station.”

Putnam said that both of the depots in Sheffield are still standing as well.

A freight building from the Warren depot still stands as well, and has been built into another building on the west side of the city, near Beech Street.

But other than those, there isn’t much left, even though some remained in “great condition,” according to Putnam, as recently as the 1950s.

Putnam said that the Russell depot was razed in 1960, the Garland depot burned in 1960 and many of the others faded away over time.

The Warren depot was built in 1868-1869 but was torn down in 1986. “The sad thing is that months, even years, five or six, maybe longer, there had been attempts to purchase that building so that it could be saved and restored,” Putnam said.

The problem? The railroad.

“Every time I called (the railroad), there would be an announcement that the price had gone up,” he explained. “No one could ever get through to the railroad. Finally, rather than sell it (they tore) it down.

“The railroads are notoriously uncooperative,” he said.

Some of those that were torn down were repurposed. Putnam explained that the wood for one was used to build a chicken coop and another was used to build a garage.

“We should be reminded of what we’ve lost,” he said, “what we’ve destroyed.”