On April 30, 1903, with a spray of sand, a belch of smoke, and a hiss of steam, International & Great Northern Railroad Company began service from Fort Worth, leaving the 1899 Texas & Pacific passenger terminal for points south.
The I&GN railroad had been formed in 1873, once had been owned by railroad tycoon Jay Gould. The words International and Northern were in International & Great Northern’s name, but I&GN was a Texas-only line, stretching from Longview to Laredo and from Fort Worth to Galveston. I&GN’s headquarters—including a railroad hospital similar to the Missouri Pacific railroad’s hospital in Fort Worth—was in Palestine. I&GN’s Fort Worth office was in the 1894 Worth Hotel. Note that the first ticket in Fort Worth was sold to J. W. Watson, who paid thirty cents to ride the train to Everman, which was named for John Wesley Everman, who had worked for I&GN and later for Texas & Pacific.
“The new road,” “the Texas road”: A few weeks after I&GN began Fort Worth service, the railroad ran this full-page ad in the Telegram (the Star and the Telegram would merge in 1909).
I&GN trains definitely were not expresses: I&GN stopped at fifty-seven stations between Fort Worth and Galveston, some of the stations just one mile apart.
By 1931 I&GN had 1,106 miles of track in Texas. But it also had a lot of debt. I&GN, like many other railroads, sporadically suffered financial trouble. I&GN went into receivership in 1878, 1889, 1908, 1911, and 1922. In 1924 Gulf Coast Lines bought I&GN, but in 1925 Missouri Pacific bought Gulf Coast Lines, although Missouri Pacific operated I&GN as a separate division. In 1933 IG&N again went into receivership. Finally, in 1956 Missouri Pacific absorbed Gulf Coast Lines, and I&GN ceased to exist.
Today what relics remain to remind us of I&GN?
An I&GN rail bridge, standing on iron-clad legs, still spans Sycamore Creek in southeast Fort Worth.
On the near East Side, the trestle carrying the I&GN track over Stella Street survives. The railyard was just beyond where Lone Star Metals is today.
This aerial photo of 1939 shows the I&GN railyard, including the roundhouse and the railroad trestle over Stella Street in the upper left. In the lower right is Hub Furniture Company. I think at least part of the locomotive turntable may survive on the property of Lone Star Metals but could not get permission to look. (Photo from University of Texas at Arlington Library.)
But the biggest relic of I&GN survives just east of the South Freeway and south of Berry Street. On July 4, 1902 the railroad announced that it would dig a storage lake near Fort Worth to supply water for its steam locomotives. Clip is from the Telegram.
The I&GN storage lake is shown in this 1920 Rogers map.
Today that 1902 I&GN storage lake is called “Echo Lake.” The park around the lake was developed by the county in the 1970s. Unlike nearby Katy Lake (a reservoir built for the Missouri-Kansas-Texas railroad), which was drained in 1959 to make way for Seminary South mall in 1962, Echo Lake lives on. Water from the lake flows into Sycamore Creek.
The I&GN track still runs over the dam of Echo Lake and over the track of the Houston & Texas Central railroad. Today Fort Worth & Western leases the track from Union Pacific to reach Carter industrial park in Everman.
And there are other I&GN relics to be found farther afield. On Google aerial photos the old I&GN rail bed can still be traced through open country through southeast Tarrant County to Waco and beyond. Sometimes the rail bed runs parallel to a vehicular road; sometimes it runs across farmland. For example, this photo shows the old I&GN rail bed running parallel to Old Maypearl Road southeast out of Maypearl. Then Old Maypearl Road veers northeast, and the I&GN rail bed continues southeast, lined by trees, across farmland into the lower right corner of the photo, reminding only cows and crows of a time when International & Great Northern was “the new road,” “the Texas road.”