Discover Lafayette’s Past – History of Railroad Coming to Town!

The arrival in 1880 of the railroad in Lafayette, in what was then known as Vermilionville, opened a new era of growth and opportunity for locals. It also attracted many new residents.

The Sabine was the area’s first work locomotive that reached Vermilionville as tracks from New Orleans were completed.

The arrival of the railroad opened up new markets for Lafayette to the east and the west, and enabled the transportation of goods to the major port of New Orleans.

Southern Pacific donated the Sabine to the city of Lafayette in 1923 and it stood as a monument documenting the achievements of early railroad workers. The train was later donated for scrap metal to aid the war effort during WWII.

Photo from Images de Lafayette, a Pictorial History by O. C. Guilliot

Lafayette grew to become a division center for 20,000 Southern Pacific Railroad employees. According to a plaque in the Train Depot, the station was originally built by the Texas and New Orleans Railroad in 1911, but some contend it was actually 1912. In any event, it burned in a fire and was abandoned on May 11, 2001.

A new train station was completed in 2007 through an $11 million dollar restoration of the station by city government, the Federal Transit Administration and the Louisiana Department of Transportation.

The Rosa Parks Transportation Center was completed in 2007 and is the depot for Amtrak and the bus system. It is located at 100 Lee Avenue, Lafayette LA 70501

The depot now houses a city transit office, a waiting room for bus and Amtrak passengers, an office of the US Postal Service, and the city-parish Traffic and Transportation Department. If you haven’t visited the beautiful Rosa Parks Transportation Center located at 100 Lee Avenue, it is definitely worth a few moments of your time!

We’d like to acknowledge the inspiration of Lynn Guidry, architect and Lafayette historian, for this post. Lynn has shared the rich history of Lafayette with Leadership Lafayette classes for years and his talks have instilled a deep pride in our community in all graduates. To hear his interview on the Discover Lafayette podcast, please visit