Looking at a photograph of the west side of the Arkansas River from a century ago shows a prominent two-story railroad station just south of Douglas. This was the site of one of Wichita’s lesser known railroad connections: The Midland Valley Railroad.
Incorporated in 1903 with construction in 1906, this railroad connected the coal mines along the western border of Arkansas with points in Indian Territory. With its headquarters in Muscogee, Oklahoma, the line followed the Arkansas River to connect Fort Smith with Tulsa, and Arkansas City. Plans to extend the line into Kansas as far as Hutchinson and McPherson never developed. However, in 1911, Wichita’s leaders encouraged an extension of the line to this city, with the former fairgrounds becoming the site of the railroad’s shops and a plot of land (quote) “lying east of Mr. Turner’s hay barn” becoming the site of the new station.
The Midland Valley ran until its sale to the Missouri Pacific in 1964. During this time, this line to the South helped reshape Wichita’s culture from a solidly Midwestern city to one that had more of a southern flavor. One aspect of this was in terms of religion, where Southern evangelicalism became an increasing part of Wichita life just as the Midland Valley began to operate. Perhaps it is fitting, then, that Metropolitan Baptist Church, one of the city’s main Southern Baptist congregations, sits on the site of the old Midland Valley station.