Passenger and Freight Railroad Station, Gosport Indiana
The Gosport Station, built by the New Albany and Salem Railroad tn 1854, is one of the earliest railroad structures erected in Indiana. It is representative of a style of depot architecture that was popular during the earliest days of American Railroading, but which became obsolete long before the end of the 19th century. Charles Meeks has called it the "train barn, the stable for the iron horse.”
The train barns appear to be a clear case of the adaption of an earlier vernacular building to a new industrial situation. "Except for the presence of trains instead of wagons, a train barn was indistinguishable from a substantial farm barn," Meeks explains. The earliest train barns, erected during the l830's and early 1840's, were "simple and compact" wood structures with large doorways which enabled the trains to enter the depot, and load passengers and freight. During the early days of railroading when the train ran only during the day, the large wooden doors could be closed at night to keep the "Iron horse" safe.
Experience forced adaption, however, and by the early 1850's the large wood doors were discarded when engineers discovered that the doors opened too slowly to accomodate the slow braking of the trains. Another modification of the early design was the abandonment of all wood construction after steam locomotives and wood depots proved to be a volatile combination.
The Gosport Station, built in l854 at a cost of $6,750 is a simple one-story structure, 58' x 123', with a gabled wood roof supported by Howe trusses. Except for a brick dentil along the cornice line, the building is unadorned and the principal features are the two large arched openings that allow trains to enter the station.
A railroad track runs along the front of the station between the buildings and the river, and a spur runs through the length of the station to rejoin the main track. The main track was for passenger trains, and a storage room, station office, passenger waiting room and small loading platform open along the east side of the depot. The interior track was for freight cars, and the entire rear half of the building, as well as the north half of the west side, contained large freight platforms. Since a large portion of the interior space is devoted to freight handling, it is likely that the Gosport station served as the transfer point for freight between the New Albany and Salem Railroad and the Indianapolis and Vincennes Railroad, as their tracks crossed a few hundred yards from the station.
The principal features of the exterior of the station are the two simple arched openings, one on each gable end, about 13 feet wide and 20 feet high at the crown through which the freight track enters and leaves the building. Three smaller segmentally arched openings in the west elevation allow the freight to be transferred from the large interior freight platform to wagons and carriages outside.
Though the New Albany and Salem Railroad brought a brief period of economic prosperity to Gosport, by the last quarter of the 19th century both the town and the railroad were in decline. The Gosport station has survived both fire and demolition. The insignificance of the line itself probably contributed to the station's survival since there was little need to demolish the train barn to build a larger structure. Of the five other train barns that were known to exist in Indiana, the Gosport station is the last example which remains intact.