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 Texas : Features : Columns : All Things Historical

Hell Either Way Taken

by Archie P. McDonald, PhD
Archie McDonald, PhD

The 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 track.

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 world.

The HE&WT also enriched the folklore of the region. Consider this story: Homer 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 replaced Homer 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' first railroad:

"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."


See Tenaha, Timpson, Bobo, and Blair by Archie P. McDonald

All Things Historical 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)
Related Topics: Texas Railroads | East Texas Towns | Texas

 
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