The city owes its life and much of its heritage to the railways

The first train arrived in the area that became Rogers on May 10, 1881. At that time there was no Rogers, only local communities such as Escalapia Hollow, Silver Springs (now Monte Ne), War Eagle and Cross Hollows. Barely 18 days later, the new town was incorporated on May 28, 1881 and named after Captain CW Rogers, the leader of the Frisco Railroad. Almost immediately, a depot was built at the current location of Fire Hall No. 1 at the corner of First and Chestnut streets. This first depot accommodated both passengers and freight.

Rogers grew quickly after the arrival of the Frisco Railroad, and two years later, in 1883, a larger and nicer passenger depot was built next to the rail tracks between Elm and Poplar streets where it is today. Railyard Park. During this period, Rogers was served by both the freight depot and the passenger depot. At that time, virtually all supplies for the area arrived by train.

With the arrival of the locomotive, Benton County became the capital of the world for the production of apples, as well as many other products. In 1889, hundreds of wagons full of apples; 217 wagons of flour, bran and semolina; and hundreds of thousands of pounds of tomatoes, blackberries, corn, peaches and strawberries were shipped from the Rogers depot. (Ruth Muse, Benton County Pioneer, Winter 1995)

William “Coin” Harvey started building a fabulous resort in Monte Ne in 1900. From the start, the biggest obstacle for the resort was transporting tourists. The roads to Monte Ne were only wagon tracks, and they were practically impassable in winter. To solve the problem, Harvey made an agreement with the Frisco Railroad to build a line to Monte Ne. And to keep tourists arriving in style, the Monte Ne Railway Company has built a large log depot at the resort town on the lake shore near Big Spring. It had two floors and two large open-air wings that served as exterior waiting rooms.

The Monte Ne railway had only one engine and one car and did not have enough passengers or belongings to survive. It limped for several years with erratic service from the station to Lowell – and went bankrupt and was relaunched several times – but it was eventually sold to the Arkansas, Oklahoma and Western Railroad (AO&W) on December 3. 1909. WR Felker of Rogers owned the AO&W, and he intended to use the Monte Ne Railroad as a link to build a railroad from Eureka Springs to Siloam Springs and west. However, the company experienced financial difficulties and went bankrupt around 1910.

The Kansas City & Memphis Railroad (KC&M), also owned by WR Felker and his family, purchased the late AO&W in 1911. The KC&M owned a line from Rogers to Cave Springs and planned to expand east across Monte Ne and through the Ozarks to Memphis, Tenn. Lack of business caused passenger service to Monte Ne to stop in 1914, but that was not the end of the story. The line continued to be used for logs and freight.

By 1912, the Ozark Land and Lumber Company, owned by Roscoe Hobbs of Rogers, owned 12,500 acres of timber east of Monte Ne and across the White River. (This land is now Hobbs State Park.) The company wanted to haul the logs by rail, but there was a big problem – the lumber was on the east side of the White River. To harvest the oak logs, the company built a huge steel bridge with a 600-foot-long trestle over the White River and extended the line from Monte Ne to Piney and leased everything to the KC&M Railroad. The Monte Ne Bridge was the longest rail span in Benton County. The KC&M hauled logs and lumber for just over a year, but the railroad failed during the Depression of 1914 and went into receivership. In November 1918, during World War I, the line was abandoned, the rails were resumed, and the railway to Monte Ne was gone forever.

In the early days of Rogers, when train travel was at its peak, 13 passenger trains passed through Rogers every day. With so many hungry passengers passing through Rogers, there was a great need for a restaurant. In 1898, the Harvey House Restaurant was built on the south side of the depot. The Harvey Houses were a chain of restaurants in partnership with the railroads created to quickly feed passengers. Trains would stop for 20 minutes, giving travelers time to eat a meal. The Rogers Harvey house was operated by chef Domino Danzero, and he made the restaurant one of the most successful and popular in the Southwest. He was also a nationally renowned amateur photographer, credited with several innovative photographic inventions. Danzero took numerous photos during this period from 1898 to 1910 which give a fascinating view of Rogers’ early life.

The Harvey House in Rogers was two stories and more than the depot. It consisted of three rooms: a kitchen, a dining room and a dining room. The dining room was very elaborate with fine tables fitted with luxurious tablecloths, napkins, china, silverware and fresh greenery in the center. Light was provided by elegant chandeliers and heat from a pot-bellied stove.

In 1907, six trains a day stopped at Rogers for meal service. The steam engines were fueled by wood and sometimes threw pieces of flaming embers as large as a hand. Many buildings along the tracks were set on fire by these hot embers, including the Harvey House. It was repeatedly damaged by fire and rebuilt, but eventually in May 1910 the restaurant burned down and was abandoned. By this time, the Frisco offered meals on the train in new dining cars, and Harvey House restaurants were no longer viable.

By 1912 Rogers had over 3,000 people and a new depot was needed. WR Felker ceded a piece of land south of Cherry Street to the Frisco Line, and the new depot, named Union Station, was completed in 1914. It replaced the old freight and passenger depots at Rogers and cost $ 20 $ 000. It was a partnership with Frisco holding 97.5% and KC&M, 2.5%. KC&M built a track parallel to the Frisco track from Lowell and accessed the new depot on the west side with the Frisco tracks and platform on the east side. The KC&M trails continued through the lane into Rogers between first and second streets. However, KC&M went bankrupt in 1914 and the depot was renamed Frisco Depot in 1917 (Information from Tom Duggan, noted local rail authority, August 31, 2012)

First and Cherry’s new depot was unique due to its unusual parapet roofline. The waiting room was large and well lit with elaborate chandeliers. There was a newsstand and a “sanitary fountain”. There was also a “colored” waiting room, but, as one of the early newspapers put it, “it is unlikely that there will ever be enough people of color here to use their quarters, and it is likely that it will be used more often as a smoking room for the gentlemen. ” The women had a separate waiting room with a separate toilet. The Frisco platform along the tracks was 16 feet wide and 600 feet long and was made of pressed bricks and stone trim. (Ruth Muse, December 28, 1977, Benton County Pioneer, Winter 1995)

Railways once again peaked during World War II, both for transportation and for ocean freight, due to gasoline and tire shortages. After World War II, automobiles and airplanes replaced passenger trains as a popular mode of transportation. In 1963, the Frisco Railway Company lost $ 3 million on its passenger train service.

By 1965, although Frisco had spent millions of dollars to improve passenger service, ticket sales at Rogers were only about $ 200 per month. The Frisco abandoned its passenger service to focus on the more profitable freight business, and on September 18, 1965, the last passenger train passed through Rogers. (Rogers Daily News, March 15, 1965 and September 12, 1965)

Union Station on First and Cherry Streets was completed in 1914 and served Rogers until it was demolished in 1977. It was unique because of its unusual parapet roofline. The brick platform in the foreground was 600 feet long. In 1977, the Frisco Railroad Company built a small metal freight depot south of the old depot building, and today Rogers’ fourth and final depot is part of the Street Department and serves as a store for the manufacture of street signs. (Courtesy photo / Tom Duggan & Rogers Historical Museum)