Hot Springs Railroad Roundhouse

The Hot Springs Railroad Roundhouse is located at 132 Front Street in Malvern (Hot Spring County). The roundhouse was constructed near a turntable (later removed) that allowed trains and railcars to be moved into the structure for maintenance. Constructed in 1887, it was added to the National Register of Historic Places on May 29, 2003. It fell into disrepair by the twenty-first century.

Construction on the Hot Springs Railroad began in 1875. The tracks connected Malvern, then known as Malvern Junction, with Hot Springs (Garland County). Malvern was on the Cairo and Fulton Railroad, and with the construction of the new line, visitors to Hot Springs could avoid taking an uncomfortable stagecoach ride between the two settlements. When the railroad was constructed, a wooden roundhouse was built in Malvern. In 1876, passenger stations were constructed in both Malvern and Hot Springs.

Construction on a new roundhouse began in mid-1887. The building sits on a continuous granite foundation, constructed from materials mined on Cove Creek near Malvern. The building is constructed in a crescent shape and faces north. A turntable was located in front of the building but was removed at some point. The walls of the building are red brick, and a metal roof was added. The building is divided into five stalls, each of which measure sixty-seven feet by twenty-five feet. The north side of the building was originally brick with large stall doors to allow railroad equipment to enter the building, but it was later covered in stucco.

The east and west sides of the building are brick and mirror one another. Each side is divided into three bays with brick pilasters, and the walls decrease in height from the rear of the building to the front. Each bay contains a window, most of which have been bricked or covered with other materials. On the east side, a large sign for a commercial business is near the southern corner. The south side or rear of the building includes two windows on each bay. The lower portions of each window have been bricked, and one window was removed to allow for the installation of a roll-up door. The interior of the building is open with a wood floor. The walls are exposed brick, and wood columns were built to support the roof.

The Hot Springs Railroad was originally constructed as a narrow gauge line but was converted to a standard gauge on October 16, 1889. In 1901, the line was sold to the Choctaw, Oklahoma and Gulf Railroad, and within a year, major railroad operations were shifted from Malvern to Hot Springs. Numerous smaller buildings near the roundhouse were demolished in 1902, and by 1904, the building was no longer used by the railroad. The tracks leading to the building were removed by 1908, and the building was used as a warehouse for a manufacturer of screen doors and window frames. The building also housed a lumber company, feed company, and grocery warehouse over the next several decades. A warehouse was constructed next to the building in 1947, and the two structures are connected by a shed. The last locomotive services in Malvern were discontinued in 1965.

By 2018, the building was in severe disrepair with a collapsed roof, and it is unclear how many support columns remain standing. Significant damage to the exterior bricks can be seen on the rear of the building. The building is owned by a private business.

For additional information:
“Hot Springs Railroad Roundhouse.” National Register for Historic Places registration form. On file at Arkansas Historic Preservation Office, Little Rock, Arkansas. Online at http://www.arkansaspreservation.com/National-Register-Listings/PDF/HS0154.nr.pdf (accessed November 2, 2018).

David Sesser
Henderson State University

Last Updated: 11/02/2018