The Rock Island Got Rocked, But “a Mighty Good Road” Rolled

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.

ri begins 8-20-93 dmnThe 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.

ri august 25 93This 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.

ri to dallas 11-30-03 telegramFast-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.

 

ri hurst 10-3-02 dmnAs 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.

RI candon 2-3-4 tele“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.

ri irving 12-9-3 teleTo 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.

ri dallas 12-28-03 teleBecause 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!

RI 1913 Tarrant County Road SystemThis 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.”)

RI 26 sanbornThe Rock Island yard and shops, with roundhouse and turntable, were located east of Samuels Avenue and Pioneers Rest Cemetery and north of Pharr Street. Sanborn map is from 1926.

ri 52 aerialThe 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.

RI googleBut 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:

11:23 a.m. (Part 1): Cowtown Gets Back on Track

11:23 a.m. (Part 2): “A Grand Jollification”

11:23 a.m. (Part 3): Panther That, Cougarville!

The 1899 T&P Depot (Part 1): “Finest Passenger Station in the Entire South”

The 1899 T&P Depot (Part 2): “Destructive Fire Breaks Out”

Art Decow: Cowtown’s T&P Passenger Terminal

Two Busy X’s in Texas: Tic-Tac-Go

Forest Park Miniature Train: The Little Engine That Could

Buttermilk and Blood (Part 1): “I’ll Kill the First Man Who Touches This Engine”

Buttermilk and Blood (Part 2): “For God’s Sake, Don’t Shoot”

Once Upon a Platform: All Aboard for Venus, Maypearl, Italy . . .

T&P Engine No. 642: “Next Stop, Oblivion”

Turntables and Roundhouses: Where Dinosaurs Danced

Progress Plays Through at the Seventh Green

Once Upon a Time Table: Along Came a Spider (Part 1)

Once Upon a Time Table: Along Came a Spider (Part 2)

When Coal Was King and Katy Was a Lake

A Time Machine Named “Puffy”: Next Stop, 1896

More video clips of local trains:

Engine 2248: Time Traveler (Part 1)

Engine 2248: Time Traveler (Part 2)

Engine 2248: Time Traveler (Part 3)

“May I Have This Dance?”: Engine 2248 on the Turntable

Cowtown in Motion: Slow Train Draggin’ 

Cowtown in Motion: Big Trains, Little Trains

Cowtown in Motion: No. 844 Movin’ on Down the Line 

Cowtown in Motion: No. 844 Catching Its Breath

Cowtown in Motion: “All Aboard!”

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4 Responses to The Rock Island Got Rocked, But “a Mighty Good Road” Rolled

  1. A. Winkler says:

    I am a Rock Island follower from Kansas and I enjoyed very much this historical account of the Rock Island coming to Ft. Worth and Dallas, TX.

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