Santa Fe Depot and Reading Room

By Aviation: From Sand Dunes to Sonic Booms
Santa Fe Depot and Reading Room
Santa Fe Depot and Reading Room Photo courtesy of Oklahoma Historical Society

The Santa Fe Depot and Reading Room in Waynoka, Oklahoma, played an important role in the inauguration of the nation's first transcontinental air passenger service. Transcontinental Air Transport, a new and struggling commercial air carrier, hired Charles A. Lindbergh in 1929 to establish this new service that more than halved the 100-hour all-rail travel time between New York and Los Angeles by combining a rail route with air transportation. On August 7, 1929, Lindbergh, sat in the office of California Governor C.C. Young and sent a telegraph across the nation to start the Pennsylvania Railroad's "Airway Limited" journey out of New York station. A band played "California, Here I Come" and 20 pioneer ticket holders began, at 6:05pm, a unique transcontinental trek. The next morning, the travelers arrived in Columbus, Ohio, and were transported to a plush Ford Tri-Motor airplane for a flight to Oklahoma. After a breakfast of strawberry shortcake and tea on the flight, they arrived in Waynoka, Oklahoma, at 6:24pm. The passengers were then taken to one of Fred Harvey's famed "Houses" and served a good meal by the equally famed "Harvey Girls"--Fred Harvey's name was synonymous for genteel travel, and his waitresses earned a reputation for serving good food. After the meal, they boarded the Santa Fe Railway's "Missionary," at Waynoka's Santa Fe Depot for an overnight passenger train run to Clovis, New Mexico. Here they were again tri-motored to Los Angeles, California, arriving at 5:52 p.m. The trip across the continent had required a total of 48 hours. On December 20, 1929, the service was extended to San Francisco. A new record was set January 31, 1930, when 79 people flew between Waynoka and Columbus, calling for use of an extra aircraft. Lindbergh and Amelia Earhart came to Waynoka April 11, 1930, in connection with the introduction of a Curtiss Condor to the run. Waynoka played only a short role in transcontinetal air service, as the service to this route was suspended October 17, 1930 after Transcontinental Air Transport and Western Air Express joined to form TWA, or Trans World Airlines.

Harvey House
Reading Room, originally a Harvey House Photo from National Register collection

The Santa Fe Depot and Reading Room (originally the Harvey House) sit side by side parallel to the Santa Fe main line tracks on the west edge of the Waynoka business district. Both substantial brick buildings were constructed in 1910; the depot itself is a long, narrow, one-story building, 84 feet long and 22 feet wide. The Reading Room adjacent to the depot is a roughly H-shaped two-story building, measuring 95 feet north/south parallel to the tracks and approximately 100 feet east/west. A 15-foot porch facing the tracks runs the length of the building. The Harvey House closed in 1937, and was remodeled in 1949 to serve as a dormitory and reading room for crewmen staying over at the Santa Fe Depot.
 

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