The Chicago, Rock Island and Texas railroad began service to Fort Worth south from Bowie on August 20, 1893—but not without some last-minute drama at the Cowtown end of the track.
The railroad needed right-of-way on Alex Canto’s land in the Third Ward east of downtown to build a wye (triangular) junction so its engines could turn around. Without that wye, the railroad claimed, its engines would have to go all the way to Bowie to turn around. The city’s right-of-way committee condemned the Canto land and offered Alex Canto a settlement. Canto rejected that amount and later the amount suggested in arbitration. So, Canto’s fences were cut; workers began grading the right-of-way. Canto got an injunction to halt grading. He also hired a “burly Irish woman” to live in a tent and guard his property in his absence. When Chief Deputy Sheriff William Rea went out to the Canto land and informed the woman that the injunction against the railroad had been dissolved, she was ready to put the “rock” in “Rock Island”—literally. She picked up “a large rock” with both hands and offered to part the hair of the contractor who was overseeing the grading. Then a teenage boy got in on the “rock the Rock” action: He appeared on a rocky ledge and “stoned the men until threats of arrest stopped him.” Then Canto appeared with “a loaded shotgun.” To keep the peace, a deputy stayed overnight with the graders as they finished their work so the trains could roll the next day. Clip is from the August 20 Dallas Morning News.
This ad ran in the Gazette the week that service to “Panther City” began and touted the comfort of the Rock Island coaches and the food served both on and off the trains en route to Chicago. Vestibuled cars, introduced in 1887, had enclosed ends instead of open platforms.
Fast-forward ten years. Things went more smoothly when, on December 1, 1903, the Rock Island opened a track between Fort Worth and Dallas, and the railroad’s branch lines in Texas were consolidated under the umbrella name “Chicago, Rock Island and Gulf.” Note that among the stations between Fort Worth and Dallas were Hurst, Candon, and Irving. Even into the twentieth century the railroads were the godfather of many new towns in Texas. Clip is from the November 30 Telegram.
As in the case of Alex Canto, railroads had to secure rights-of-way from landowners to lay track between Fort Worth and Dallas. East of Fort Worth near present-day Highway 10 William Letchworth Hurst granted right-of-way to the Rock Island on his land. In return, when the Rock Island built a depot there, the company named it “Hurst Station.” The station grew into the city of Hurst.
Also note the name of cotton gin owner and former Sheriff Elisha Adam Euless, for whom that city is named. Clip is from the October 3, 1902 Dallas Morning News.
“Buy some Texas dirt.” On February 3, 1904 the Telegram ran an ad for town lots for sale in Candon, “the new town on the Rock Island.” Candon, south of Euless, later became the town of Tarrant, which merged with Euless.
To the east of Candon on the Rock Island line, lots were being sold at the new town of Irving. Note that J. A. H. Hosack was the auctioneer for both Candon and Irving. Clip is from the December 9, 1903 Telegram.
Because the timing of the financial panic of 1873 was such that Dallas got the railroad that year but Fort Worth, just thirty miles away, had to wait another three years, the rivalry between Fort Worth and Dallas naturally extended to railroads. Soon after the Rock Island began running between the two cities in 1903, the Telegram on December 28 disputed the math used by the Dallas Morning News to determine how many daily passenger trains each city had. By the Telegram’s math, Fort Worth had more daily passenger trains than any other city in Texas. Put that in your firebox and smoke it, Big D!
This 1913 county map shows the new railroad towns of Hurst and Tarrant (previously “Candon”) on the Rock Island line to Dallas. The map also shows the several other railroads serving Fort Worth. With nine years yet to live, B. B. Paddock had seen his 1873 tarantula map prediction come true. Along the railroads notice the names of towns or stations that are no more: Tarrant, Oak Grove, Brambleton, Hodge, Tremble, Mosell, Bethel, Bisbee, Britton, Plover, Primrose, Bransford, Smithfield. (Some of these towns and stations live on in the names of roads, such as Bisbee Road in Forest Hill, Smithfield Road in North Richland Hills, Webb-Britton Road in Arlington, Bransford Road in Colleyville, and Winscott-Plover and Crowley-Plover roads in south Tarrant County.) Northwest of town the map also labels the “new reservoir” of Lake Worth. (Map from Pete Charlton’s “1000+ Lost Antique Maps of Texas & the Southwest on DVD-ROM.”)
The roundhouse and turntable could still be seen in a 1952 aerial photo. The turntable bridge is “pointed” at the semicircular roundhouse to the left. Pioneers Rest is in the lower left corner of the photo. The roundhouse and turntable were gone by 1956.
But some maps still label the neighborhood “Rock Island.”
The Rock Island line reached the end of its “mighty good road” on March 31, 1980.
Today the old Rock Island track is used by the Trinity Railway Express. Here’s a one-minute YouTube video:
Other posts about Fort Worth’s railroad history:
More video clips of local trains: