A ghost town full of history
|Beaumont's wooden water tower held|
50,000 gallons of water!
Beaumont was created by and for the railroad. The tracks were installed as far as Beaumont in about 1879. The train depot was the first building in town, followed by a general store. In 1880, a post office was established and the Summit Hotel was built. The water tower was built in 1885 (supplying water to the hotel as well as the trains,) and a roundhouse was built in 1890.
A spur of the railroad ran from Beaumont south to Arkansas City ("Ark City") and into Oklahoma, and the main rail line ran from St. Louis to Wichita and westward.
If a locomotive needed service, it was moved into the Beaumont roundhouse, and a fresh locomotive was moved out and attached to the train. Up to 90 men worked at the roundhouse, servicing train engines and cars. Inside the roundhouse, the locomotives were parked on a giant turntable. The turntable moved the locomotives aside for work or storage and returned them to the tracks when it was time for them to leave.
Across the tracks from the roundhouse and depot, the Summit Hotel welcomed any travelers who needed a hot meal or a room for the night. The trains brought a lot of traffic to and through Beaumont. Homesteaders came west on the trains to settle in the area, and cattle from the Flint Hills were driven to Beaumont, loaded onto the train, and sent east. And there were many other travelers and freight going in both directions. The rails were modern transportation at its best.
|The Beaumont Hotel today. I am not sure if the structure |
still contains elements of the original Summit Hotel.
|The hotel would be at far left in this photo, across the road |
from the old store buildings, if I had been able to include it all.
Steam engines were used on the St Louis, Wichita & Western Railway through the early 1950s. In a curious overlap of transportation technology, the hotel added a grass airstrip during that same decade. A customer of the hotel liked to fly from Wichita to Beaumont in his small plane. It was dangerous for local drivers when he dropped out of the sky onto the road, so the airstrip kept everyone safe and happy. After he landed, he taxied into Beaumont, just like any other vehicle. (Keep in mind that Wichita, just 50 miles away, has been a manufacturing center for small planes for many years.)
My sister and I stopped at Beaumont and looked around last summer when we went out to Kansas last summer to visit my brother. These pictures are from that visit. (I admit that I'm "one of those tourists" who is always taking photos of the historic markers.)
I haven't come across any information about when the roundhouse ceased operation, but as a casual explorer, I saw no remaining trace of it. A hundred yards of train tracks still lie in front of the water tower, but the rail line was discontinued around 30 years ago.
The airstrip is still there, and the Beaumont Hotel holds a monthly "Fly-In" for small planes. They also hold monthly bike-ins for motorcyclists. They have a formal dining room as well as the 50s-style cafe pictured below. And they have the great outdoors as well, so they can host all sorts of events. But I think staying at the hotel would be a nice get-away anytime. And if I ever do stay there, I hope the biggest event while I'm in Beaumont will be the tremendous peace and quiet we saw, felt, and enjoyed during this visit.
- An interesting story about early railroad days in Beaumont appeared in the June 1933 edition of The Frisco Employes Magazine. (Scroll down to page 3 to read the first part and scroll down to page 14 for the rest of the story.)
- Lots of pictures of Beaumont and the surrounding area on Flickr.
- Article and pictures from someone who stayed at the Beaumont Hotel
- The Beaumont Hotel official website