title of this article was the not-so-affectionate nickname drawn
from the acronym for the first railroad in East
Texas: The Houston East & West Texas, or HE&WT.
The name refers to the sometimes rough ride offered by the line's
best known locomotive, "The
Rabbit," so named because of the many times it "jumped" from
The HE&WT was the fulfilled dream of Paul Bremond. With help of
directors and stockholders, Bremond chartered the narrow-gauge line
in 1875. The plan was to build a railroad through the heart of East
Texas from Houston
to Shreveport, Louisiana. The HE&WT would connect in the north with
the Texas and Pacific and in the south with the Texas and New Orleans,
major trunk lines that served territory between the Mississippi
Valley and California and with major ports.
Twenty miles of track were in place by 1877. Cleveland
was reached in 1878, Livingston
in 1879, Lufkin
in 1882, and Nacogdoches
in 1883. When the mainline reached the Sabine
River in 1885, it connected with the Shreveport and Houston
Railway Company for the final leg into Shreveport. Bremond's dream
did not enrich him; instead it consumed most of his personal wealth.
But it did turn the natural resources of East
Texas into wealth for others. The East
Texas timber industry and the HE&WT complemented each other.
Imagine first how many crossties are required to build its 191 miles
of track. That alone was a great stimulus for expanding the felling
and milling of East Texas timber. Then, with the railroad in place,
billions more board feet could be carried to markets any where in
The HE&WT also enriched the folklore of the region. Consider this
was the county seat of Angelina
County. When the HE&WT crews reached the county, Homer's
citizens were not hospitable to them so the line founded Lufkin,
which was named for a ship captain, and the line bypassed Homer.
Soon the business moved to the railroad and Lufkin
as the county seat. There might have been more to it than that,
but why mess with a good story?
Too, through a recording by singer Tex Ritter, most people in the
English speaking world have heard of "Tenaha,
Timpson, Bobo, and Blair," all stops along the HE&WT. The alliteration
tickled the ears of riders who heard conductors announce these places
along the route. Verses from the song reminds us of the importance
of East Texas'
"On that H E- W- T line, Old East Texas sure looks fine
Drop me off just anywhere, Tenaha, Timpson, Bobo and Blair
Hear those drivers pound the rails, Takin' me back to Texas
Bought my ticket, paid my fair, Tenaha, Timpson, Bobo and Blair
Let'er high-ball en-gineer, Pull that throttle, track is clear
There's a gal waitin' there, Tenaha, Timpson, Bobo and Blair."
Dec. 23-29, 2001Column
A syndicated column in over 40 East Texas newspapers
Published with permission
(Archie P. McDonald is Director of the East Texas Historical Association
and author or editor of over 20 books on Texas)