Cotton Belt's North Little Rock Terminal

Copyright 2011 by Bill Pollard

In December 1909, Cotton Belt began construction of a new passenger station and freight station in North Little Rock. The new passenger station opened for business on August 1, 1910, and as of that date, Cotton Belt discontinued passenger service from Argenta, across the Baring Cross Bridge and into Little Rock Union Station. Passenger service continued until December 9, 1928, when it was replaced by Cotton Belt bus service and a mixed train. The passenger and freight stations were located at the corner of Washington and Orange streets, with the east end of the passenger station adjacent to the approach to the Main Street bridge.

Postcard coverage of Cotton Belt passenger station. Top card by C.T. American Art for Jungkind Photo Supply, middle card by Acmegraph Co., lower card by S.H. Kress & Co.

Cotton Belt passenger station, North Little Rock, 1927 flood.

Cotton Belt freight station during 1927 flood, as viewed from Main Street bridge.

Cotton Belt passenger station, April 1966, in use as warehouse for Arkansas Gazette newsprint and many surplus copies of 1936 Centennial Booklet which had been saved by the newspaper. Identity of red brick building east of Main Street bridge is currently unknown, but not railroad related.

The Cotton Belt passenger station burned on July 2, 1967. The rolls of newsprint and other old papers stored in the building made fighting the fire very difficult. Note views of freight station in distance, including the Southwestern Transportation Company truck shops.

The companion structure to the Cotton Belt passenger station in North Little Rock was a freight station constructed in the same time period. The visible difference in brick colors was evidence of a significant remodeling, probably in the post-World War II era, when the outside stairway access to the second floor was removed and the size of first floor windows was reduced.

In this classic intermodal scene from 1953, freight is being transferred to a Southwestern Transportation truck from SSW boxcar 46015 at the North Little Rock freight station. In later years, these tracks on the south side of the station were removed and the area was used for truck loading. Photo courtesy of St. Louis-Southwestern Public Relations Department.

Cotton Belt freight station, 300 West Washington Avenue, North Little Rock, April 1970. At one time, a radio station broadcast studio was located upstairs in the freight station.

Cotton Belt freight offices moved from the freight station to new offices at Arkansas Avenue & Buckeye Street on March 20, 1971, and Southwestern Transportation, Cotton Belt's trucking subsidiary, moved to Arkansas Avenue & Hazel Street about a month later, leaving the freight station empty. These facilities were adjacent to the west end of the Cotton Belt yards, along and just south of Arkansas Avenue in North Little Rock. The old freight station had been purchased in 1970 by the Urban Renewal Agency. Removal was required to make way for the Market Plaza Urban Renewal Project and the (then) proposed Riverside Drive. On June 4, 1971, a high bid of $750 was accepted, and by mid-July initial demolition had started, with the removal of interior fixtures and pipes. The demolition was completed by January 1972. [Arkansas Gazette July 13, 1971, page 1B]

The Cotton Belt freight office in 1967 still had a train order signal and the engine facility still included an armstrong turntable. The turntable had been removed and pit filled in by 1971.

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