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GMA Dave Trips: The Bunkie Depot

How the Railroad Built America
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Posted at 5:00 AM, Jul 23, 2021

With cars and planes, it's easy to miss great communities as we zip on by. But so many towns were created because of the railroad. The town of Bunkie, in Avoyelles Parish is one of those.

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Gerard Moreau-Former Mayor of Bunkie

"The railroad passed through, and the people settled. That's how the Delta towns of Louisiana, and Bunkie being one of them, and Cheneyville. Everywhere, if you go to these little towns, everyone had a depot. And we were fortunate enough to keep ours." Says Gerard Moreau, the town's former Mayor.

They saved the building nearly 20 years ago and now it's on the National Historic Registry. It's also the home of the Bunkie Chamber of Commerce. He says the town gathered tons of railroad items, and now they're on display at the train station.

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Old Rail Schedules on Display at the Bunkie Depot Muesum

Moreau adds, "As I'm looking around the walls, I forget what's in here. But there's a ton of history dating back to before the town was named.

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Bunkie Monkey on Display at the Bunkie Depot Museum

Bunkie, that's an unusual name. Where did it come from? Moreau says, "Bunkie got it's name from a young girl. Who had a toy monkey. She was in the Hays family. She had troubles pronouncing the word 'Monkey'. And she called it her Bunkie. So, therefore her family decided to name the settlement Bunkie."

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The Platform at the Bunkie Depot Museum

Most kids ride the bus to school, but can you imagine catching a train? Moreau adds, "I remember Gladford Goux telling me as a young boy. He grew up three or four blocks from here. He caught a train every morning to Alexandria and went to Menard High School. And rode back every afternoon."

And if the train operators needed to receive messages, there wasn't any texting then!

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Poles Used to Deliver Messages to the Trains

"There was Mr. Dawson Lejeune.", says Moreau. "He'd be standing outside with that long pole with the 'Y' on it, and tied between the two ends was a message. And he would hold this pole out like this, and when the train was coming, there would be a guy on the front of the train. Leaning out as far as he could with his arm out and he would catch the message."

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Union Pacific Caboose on Display at the Bunkie Depot Museum

Something you don't see much today is a caboose. A local who worked for Union Pacific convincing the company to move a caboose from Houston to Bunkie. What exactly was the purpose?

"It's like a rolling office for the train. There was a guy in there taking care of paper work. In time, they shortened the crew on the train. And then they did away with the car. It's an excess car to pull."

So while you're in Bunkie, take in some transportation history. The museum is open on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays from 9am to 2pm.

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Union Pacific's Big Boy 4014 Steam Train-Coming to Bunkie August 23rd

Another big event will be happening at the depot on August 23rd. The Union Pacific Big Boy 4014 Steam Engine will visit Bunkie at 9:45am. It's part of a nationwide tour celebrating the completion of the transcontinental railroad. You can find more information on this event and others by visiting the Bunkie Chamber of Commerce Facebook Page.