The Muncie Wysor Street depot finished construction and
was opened in 1901 by the Cincinnati, Richmond, and Muncie railroad line for
passenger and freight traffic. Architect William A. Kaufman of Richmond, Indiana
designed the depot as well as other depots on the CR&M line. These are the only
known station design projects that Kaufman was involved with. Locke and Hill,
also of Richmond, were contracted to build the depot which reached a cost of
$15,000 and was a reproduction of the Richmond station. Built in the late
Victorian Queen Anne style the building was regarded as being "one of the most
modern and substantial structure of its kind ever created by a railroad company
in Indiana" and was an impressive display of design both inside and out. The
exterior facade was light brown pressed brick with a stone base. The roof was
constructed of red clay Spanish style tiling with several dormers on all sides
of the roof, which incidentally were removed after the public no longer used the
station. The interior of the building was even more exquisite with large doors
made of dark oak adorned with gold finishing. The hardwood motif continued on
the enormous solid oak benches which were reported to be "as comfortable as
church pews" and to the floors of the waiting rooms which were made of maple.
The walls and ceiling were decorated in a cream tile wainscoting and a green
tapestry that extended from the wainscoting to the base of the wall. The
interior rooms of the station were divided between the general waiting room (the
largest room in the depot), the baggage room, the smoking room, the women's
waiting room and the ticket office.
In 1910 the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway Company acquired
the Chicago-Cincinnati rail route and subsequently the Wysor Street Depot.
Although the rail line generated relatively little passenger traffic a Pullman
sleeping car was offered for passengers who were taking the night train from
Muncie, Indiana to Chicago, Illinois. The car would be left at the station,
unattached to any other cars, and passengers would board in the late afternoon or
evening, When the night train made its stop in Muncie the car would be attached
and passengers would wake up the next morning in Chicago. This service stopped
in 1933 when Hammond, Indiana become the most northern stop on the line.
In 1949 the Chesapeake and Ohio closed passenger service
on the rail line although freight service continued. One year after passenger
service stopped Muncie Gear Works, Inc. moved in to the depot using the building
to house various offices and departments of the company. In 1973 Muncie Gear
Works moved out of the building and it once again became railroad property used
by the C&O successor Chessie Systems. The station once again serviced passengers
in 1974 when Amtrak rerouted the James Whitcomb Riley/George Washington trail (later
renamed the Cardinal in 1977) through Muncie. Although Amtrak
passengers did not use the depot itself, the platform was still used. The
Cardinal line was eventually abandoned in 1985 and the depot fell further
into a dilapidated state.
After being closed to passenger traffic for 44 years,
Cardinal Greenway, Inc. acquired the depot from CSX Transportation (a successor
of Chessie Systems) in 1993 along with 60 miles of abdicated railroad as part of
their Rails to Trails program. Cardinal Greenway plans to renovate the structure
to house its offices and host a visitor's center for the greenway. Funding for
the restoration project has come from both public and private sources (the vast
majority of the funds have come from federal transportation grants). The depot
was placed on the National Registry of Historic Sites in 1997.
The Wysor Street Depot's life was short lived. The CR&M
line came to relatively late in the era of railroad expansion, credit may be
given to the rising industrialization Muncie was experiencing due to the Central
Indiana "gas boom". The advent and the popularity of the automobile in the years
following the construction of the depot helped to lead to its demise although
this is not the sole reason, automobiles did not pose a serious threat to the
railroad until the 1920's. The Cincinnati-Chicago route was primarily a
freight-dominated line, coal from Appalachia being one of the chief cargos, and
subsequently passenger trains were faded out over time. With the end of
passenger traffic came the uncertain future of the depots on the C&O line.
Including the Wysor Street Depot, only three of the CR&M depots are remaining.
Other depots around the country have experienced fates
similar to that of the Muncie's CR&M depot prior to its revitalization efforts
by the Cardinal Greenway.
Abandonment and general lack of maintenance and upkeep
have turned these once bustling stations from treasured pieces of Americana to
eyesores. Fortunately communities around the country have recognized this
problem and have taken steps to refurbish their run down depots. Civic centers,
railroad museums, government offices, and shopping centers are some examples of
how other refurbished depots have been put to public use. One of the most
notable stations that has been restored is St. Louis' Union Station. There have
even been restoration projects on the CR&M line. The station at Peru, the main
hub of the line through Indiana, has been restored to be used as a civic center
where community members can hold meetings and host the performing arts.
Thankfully these treasured landmarks are being saved to be enjoyed by all.