Roundhouse Remnants, Clayton Avenue

Update: I went back and revisited the remains of the roundhouse in the winter of 2021 and discovered that the thick underbrush which had obscured the site in in January of 2012 had been cleared. It was demolished shortly after the second visit.

Finally, after weeks of waiting for the weather to break, I made it out to the only extant ruins of a locomotive roundhouse left in the City of St. Louis. It is weed choked, and even in the winter much of the form of the of the building is obscured. You can see the roundhouse below, in the Sanborn map from the early 20th Century.

While the building is gone, the substructure is well preserved, and the actual turn table the locomotives would be turned on still survives. It seemed to be covered with blankets, but I saw no other evidence of people living on the site.

The large steel apparatus in the middle of the turn table perhaps provided electricity to the turntable, but I’m not sure.

What I found interesting is that I always had this image of the turntable being just that, a giant round disk that rotated all at once. In reality, the turntable, for lack of a better term, actually looks like more of a rotating bridge.

It is very cool to be able to see the round pit in which the turntable would have rotated, with a giant locomotive sitting on top of it.

It’s hard to see, especially since dirt has been dumped on to of them, but the original concrete footings, presumably where the locomotives sat in the roundhouse, are still preserved as well. I know some roundhouses featured maintenance pits under the tracks, so the concrete may have been the sidewalks in between the rails. Nonetheless, it is a fascinating and forgotten relic of the past, right under the elevated lanes of Highway 40.

33 Comments Add yours

  1. Chris -Looky at what I found! Pictures of the turntable in action from the mid-'50s! There are four on this page and a number on preceding pages, with engines on the turntable!How cool it this!!i=633012458&k=VHEGWUS 40 was under construction and the bridge piers are still being poured!

  2. Forgot – Page 2 of the series has a partial photo of the actual roundhouse. Further on are views of the old Wabash station on Delmar – now part of the the Edwards Empire (a hotel?).My sis and friends used to take the Wabash to Chicago and then an electric service to South Bend to visit their BFs in the early '60s.

  3. Chris says:

    Yep, that is definitely the same place; the metal superstructure did hold the electrical lines, and the turn table was always an open pit style. Thanks so much, Tom.

  4. Colin says:

    Fascinating! I love all those relics of our past lying around …

  5. Amy in StL says:

    I'm pretty sure there is still a roundhouse building on Hall Street; however they converted the building to light industry. The street still curves around the building at Thrush and Hall street; but I'm sure none of the interior survives. I do remember this in operation back in the 70s; I was very surprised to come back in the 90s and see it wasn't there anymore.

  6. Casey Ryback says:

    How fascinating! So much so that I had to go down there and check it out for myself. The underlying gear and mechanism to turn the turntable was really interesting, as were all the rails still converging on the edge of the pit.Furthermore, Tom, that photo series of all the railroads and trains that you found is just fascinating.

  7. I would think it would be worth-while for the P-D (or a TV station) to do a feature article on the turntable and the remnants of the roundhouse; perhaps it would arouse thoughts of preservation.I wonder who owns the ground?I found a site that traces roundhouses/turntables all around the world, and it states that there is/was remnants of another, smaller turntable, 300' East of the featured one – just the other side of the highway. Canna find traces on Bing, although there is a wooded area there.Amy – there was indeed a roundhouse on Hall Street, but at Humboldt; the concrete paths are still there, in a field. It was in operation until sometime in the early '70s.There was another on Hall, but further North, in on Doddridge – long since vanished.Casey – Thanks! Lots of fascinating info there!

  8. Chris says:

    Tom, I think I found that one on the Sanborn maps, but as you stated, all traces of it seem to be obliterated, much like the one south of Chouteau I profiled a week or so ago. As for the one on Hall, I'll definitely have to check it out now.

  9. Chris – the one on Hall at Humboldt is immediately alongside the road. Possibly some was obliterated when Hall was widened. It's even visible on Google driveby.

  10. Barb Taubel says:

    I am SO glad I found this site. I was doing a Google maps satellite search of the new Ikea site on Forest Park and Vandeventer, and since I’m always curious, I found the round structure by Clayton and 40. I did a Google search, and found your wonderful site on one of my favorite subjects….St. Louis history. Thanks for the pictures…I would like to see it, but am hesitant to go there by myself. I also enjoyed the site provided by Tom Maher of the Western Rail Images, being able to see the turntable in “action” was very exciting.

    1. Chris Naffziger says:

      Barb, it is indeed in sort of a weird place–under an interstate overpass. Go with a couple of friends?

      1. Barb Taubel says:

        They are not as adventuresome (nosy?) as I am, and willing to climb through weeds and rocks like me. But, now that I think about it, I really just need someone to watch my back while I explore.

  11. jim says:

    I am going to be visiting relatives in St Louis next week and was curious if remments and table are still there. Would be cool to see.

    1. Chris Naffziger says:

      Good question; I haven’t been by in years. Anyone know?

      1. Tom Maher - Kirkwood MO says:

        It was still there in 2013.
        You might also insert 38.631987, -90.246190 on Google maps and driveby.

        1. jim says:

          Not sure how to do coordinates. Would like to find out who owns it

          1. Tom Maher - Kirkwood MO says:

            jim – just copy the coordinates and paste them into Google Maps or Bing Maps and then zoom in.
            Bing also has a Birdseye view feature besides the regular Satellite mode.

  12. jim says:

    Does anyone know who owns property.

  13. jim says:

    Not sure how to do Coordinates

  14. jim says:

    Would I get into trouble if I wented and looked and took some pictures

    1. Chris Naffziger says:

      No, it’s viewable from the street.

      1. jim says:

        Cool looking forward to it. But I would like a closer look.

        1. Chris Naffziger says:

          Interesting…it’s owned by Bi-State Development Agency–Metro. The square of land to the west is owned by Northfolk and Western Railroad.

          1. jim says:

            That is really cool. Cannot wait to see it.

  15. jim says:

    That is really cool. It would be nice to see it working again. Would be a shame to see it rot into a pile of dust

  16. jim says:

    Got some great pics thank you. It deserves a better fit then to rust away in a field.

  17. Mark says:

    I visited this site in January, it is still there. Some signs of habitation by homeless, who knows…I wonder if the Museum of Transport would acquire it, I know they already have one in their possession.

  18. Mark says:

    Hi, I actually visited the spot recently to take more up to date pictures, the site is considerably overgrown, and I ran into 2-3 men playing cards. They were not too friendly, so I only took a few pictures. You can see them:

  19. fi67 says:

    Now, that’s weird. I recently came across this abandoned and overgrown turntable in Saint-Louis and now wanted to see if there is some information available about it. And I found this page, the pictures looked familiar – yes, that is it. But then I had a look at the text, and – oh, St. Louis, MO. Not the right continent, I was looking for Saint-Louis, Alsace, France. It has a twin of the structure you present: 47.5943918781945,7.551914818817227.

    1. Chris Naffziger says:

      Well, look at that! Thanks for sharing.

  20. Lawrence Thomas says:

    The roundhouse burned in the 1950s – the exact date seems to be in question; Wabash passenger locomotives were serviced there with diesel, water and sand even after it burned until the Wabash roundhouse supervisor job was abolished in 1958. I contacted the St. Louis Fire Dept to see if their archives had an information. If I had an exact date, I could check the Post or Globe Democrat files at the St. Louis Pub Lib.

    1. cnaffziger says:

      Interesting, now I am going to have to look, too.

    2. cnaffziger says:

      OK, here I found it. The roundhouse did in fact close in 1958, but not due to a fire, but just because it was obsolete. Five employees were transferred to different jobs. It had been in operation for 54 years. See page 6 of the May 15, 1958 edition of the Globe-Democrat.

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