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Texas | Columns | "It's All Trew"

Pioneer Texas railroad system drew snickers


by Delbert Trew
Delbert Trew
The career of friend Gerald Hook of Russellville, Ark., spanned nearly 40 years in railroading plus he is an avid historian on the subject. Among the more interesting history of railroads is that of the Texas Panhandle. Here are a few tidbits, thanks to Gerald and his gift of the book, "The Quanah Route," by Don L. Hofsommer.
In early America a vast majority of freight tonnage moved on inland river and canals. People moved by walking, riding a horse or by buggy and stagecoach. Overland freight was hauled by heavy wagons in good terrain or by mule pack trains in the mountains.

The first successful railroad, the Camden & Amboy, was built in New Jersey in 1831. By the start of the Civil War, railroads were being built by the dozens with the first bridge over the Mississippi River opening in 1853.
Owners and operators of these early railroads became rich and powerful and soon began to abuse the public. The answer, after years of legal battles, was for the government to establish the Interstate Commerce Commission. The ICC did not set rates but forced the railroads to publish their rates so customers could choose an alternate and cheaper route. The fine print of the rules empowered the ICC to grant permission to build, abandon, purchase or merge railroad companies. The purpose of this was to preserve competition in rail transportation.

Early travelers to the desert predicted the area would never be settled and remain an uninhabitable wasteland. Railroads built across these lands converting them into fertile farm-and-ranch country, raising produce for market.

The first railroads earned land script from the state for each mile of track laid.

This construction was done as quickly and cheaply as possible often ignoring quality. The result was a somewhat rough ride and quirky scheduling to say the least. Those riding quickly coined nicknames based on the initials of the rail company.

For example, the C& S Railroad was called "The Crooked and Slow." The Fort Worth & Denver Railroad was called "The Flat Wheels & Dirty Coaches." The Gulf, Texas & Western Railroad was called "The Get A Ticket & Walk."

Other Texas railroads include The Houston & Texas Central called "Hobos & Tin Cans." The Paris & Mount Pleasant Railroad was christened "The Ma & Pa." The Marshall & East Texas Railroad gained the title of "Misery & Eternal Torment." A road connecting the Louisiana Railroad and Navigation Railroad somehow, maybe from bad experiences was called "Loose Rails & Nasty Coaches."

Evidently the Texas & Pacific Railroad was slow as its name was "The Time & Patience." The Waco, Beaumont, Trinity & Sabine Railroad was christened "The Wobble, Bobble, Turn Over & Stop." The Houston, East & West Texas Railroad must have had employee and equipment problems as it was called "Hell Either Way Taken."

A track laid down Quanah and Acme Way was eventually abandoned and torn up. No wonder as its nickname was "Quit Arguing & Push."


Delbert Trew
"It's All Trew" February 3, 2008 Column



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