one of Texas' most successful shortline railroads celebrates a centennial
in the pineywoods around Lufkin. Before the turn of the century
in 1900, Joseph H. Kurth, Sr., S.W. Henderson, Sr., and brothers
Eli and Sam Wiener, the principal owners of Angelina County Lumber
Company of Keltys, began to see the need for a more efficient method
to move logs from the woods of East Texas into their mill. Charles
L. Kelty and James A. Ewing, who owned the sawmill before selling
it to Kurth in 1888, had previously utilized a crude log tram consisting
in part of four-by-four wooden rails over which a few log cars were
pulled by oxen and mule teams and later by a small shay or "dinky"
For the most
part, oxen pulling eight-wheel wagons were used to transport logs
from the woods to the wooden-tracked tram sites. This worked fine
as long as timber stands were accessible within a few miles from
the sawmill or the tram roads. Commonly called trams or tramways,
these temporary railroads provided the earliest attempts at year-round
production of lumber, creating significant changes in the social
structure and culture of East Texas.
the Kurth, Henderson and Wiener families saw the value of a shortline
railroad capable of moving more than just logs. Communities were
emerging from the forests east of Lufkin and Keltys, necessitating
passenger services and freight deliveries, and the families had
watched with interest as other East Texas lumber companies entered
the shortline railroad business.
On August 6,
1900, in a meeting at the Angelina County Lumber Company offices
in Keltys, Kurth, Henderson, and Eli Wiener called a meeting of
their family members and business associates, "for the purpose of
building, maintaining and operating a railroad to be known as the
Angelina and Neches River Railroad, to be built from Keltys, Angelina
County, Texas, to Manton, Angelina County, Texas, about twelve miles
in an easterly direction from Keltys."
The first ten
miles of track and two wood-burning, narrow-gauge steam locomotives,
known as No. 1 and No. 2, were jointly operated by Angelina County
Lumber Company and the railroad through a lease arrangement.
No. 1 was a shay engine with a 26-inch driving wheel diameter built
in 1887 by the Lima locomotive company. Locomotive No. 2 had a 2-6-0
wheel arrangement with a 40-inch driving wheel and was built by
the Grant locomotive company, but its completion date is unknown.
In 1911,the A&NR completed a line from Nacalina, at the Angelina
River, to Chireno in Nacogdoches County, a distance of 10.74 miles,
after the citizens of Chireno agreed to pay $10,200 to the company
when the tracks were completed to the community.
the construction of Sam Rayburn Reservoir in the 1960s, the railroad
found it impractical to build an elevated line over the lake, and
was forced to abandon its line from Ewing to Chireno. The last train
rolled into Chireno in 1963.
In 100 years,
the A&NR's shortline service helped shape the success of a number
of large corporations in Lufkin, including Lufkin Foundry and Machine
Company, which made the oil field's first balance-type pumping unit;
Angelina Plywood Company, which made some of the first southern
pine plywood in the nation; Texas Foundries, Inc., the first malleable
iron foundry to be located south of St. Louis; and Southland Paper
Mills, Inc., which made the South's first southern pine newsprint.
only nine individuals have served as president of the A&NR. They
are Joseph H. Kurth, Sr., 1900-1930; Eli Wiener, 1930-1951; E.L.
Kurth, Sr., 1951-1960; E.L. Kurth, Jr., 1961-1968; Ottis E. Lock,
1968-1974; Melvin E. Kurth, Jr., 1974-1980; Jack O. McMullen, Sr.,
1980-1983; Jack O. McMullen, Jr., 1984-1990; David Perkins, 1991-present.
6, 2000 Column
Published by permission.
A syndicated column in over 40 East Texas newspapers
(Bob Bowman, a former president of the East Texas Historical Association,
is the author of 24 books on East Texas history and folklore. He
lives in Lufkin.)