La Junta is a small railroad town in the classic sense of the world with just 7,000 residents along the high plains of Southeastern Colorado. It is a service stop and full crew change point on the Southwest Chief, with trains stopping for at least ten to twenty minutes while conductors and engineers change. An art vender had set up shop on the platform when I got off to spend a few hours in town before taking the one daily bus to Pueblo and then connecting to Colorado Springs. The stop has been served since the beginning of Amtrak when they inherited the Super Chief/El Captain from the Santa Fe Railway. For just the summer of 1972 a second daily train ran on a nearly opposite schedule called just the Chief supplemented the Super Chief/El Captain. In 1974 service was degraded so much the Santa Fe stopped letting Amtrak use their Chief trademark and the train became called the Southwest Limited instead. The present Southwest Chief name was restored in 1984 with the introduction of Superliners.
The station is located on the northern edge of downtown with trains stopping on the edges of the BNSF freight yard, built originally for helper engines to help trains climb Raton Pass. The present depot is a nondescript brick building built in the 1950s replacing an elaborate 3 story Harvey House and Hotel structure built in 1895. It is shared by both Amtrak and the BNSF Railway who use it as one of their crew and maintenance depots. The non-public BNSF portion has a high platform, freight siding still attached to the building. Inside the depot is an Amtrak ticket window/baggage check office, a small waiting area with nondescript black benches and restrooms shared with BNSF employees. Doors lead out to an old platform of cracked concrete and stools are required to board trains. The platform is extremely long, a thirty car train could probably stop fine at the station located at track level with the yellow stools required for boarding. The stop has received some modern freestanding signs and both a modern and older pointless arrow signs hang from the depot along. There is also the standard modern braille sign and a wheelchair lift enclosure but the station didn't receive a full platform rebuild.
Parking lots and other empty space, plus another and older brick building towards its western end are between the platform and the nearest street, 1st Street which carries US-50, the main highway through town. There are no trespassing signs in this parking lot so I did not revisit the platform after the Chief had left. I photographed it leaving from the grade crossing of Anderson Street where a maintenance worker let me photograph inside the control house (The little building where the grade crossing is controlled). Streetside the sign for the waiting room (where the Amtrak ticket office is) is missing letters and the old Pointless Arrow logo is next to the modern BNSF Railway logo. The US, Colorado and BNSF Railway have flags flying outside the station but Amtrak is absent, its logo not flying on a flag (not that I have seen an Amtrak flag flown anywhere). There is also a drive-through bank with the teller housed in a caboose (Santa Fe #999602) across the street from the station.
All photos unless otherwise noted were taken on 14 June, 2012
Last Updated: 9 August, 2012