When Wood and Steel Carried Steam Over Water

Here and there around town we can still find reminders—in wood and steel—of the era when steam locomotives roamed the Earth, Cowtown was a railroad center, and trains had to cross the Trinity River (and its tributaries).

H&TC trestle berry with stacks The Houston & Texas Central railroad built this bridge over Sycamore Creek in southeast Fort Worth near Mansfield Highway. Down the line are two brick smokestacks of a former municipal solid-waste incinerator just east of the International & Great Northern railroad’s Echo Lake.

trestle berry dateThe date 1906 is cut out in stencil on a top girder of the bridge.

The Houston & Texas Central bridge stands on iron-clad legs.

The Houston & Texas Central railroad is one of the oldest in the state, having received its charter in 1848 as the Galveston & Red River Railway and renamed “Houston & Texas Central” in 1856. Under various names the railroad served Fort Worth from 1886 to 1928. Through mergers the H&TC was absorbed into Union Pacific.

A mile and a half southwest of the H&TC bridge, the International & Great Northern bridge over Sycamore Creek also stands on iron-clad legs.

The International & Great Northern began serving Fort Worth in 1903.

rock island bass towers

South of East 4th Street, a bridge (1903) of the Rock Island line to Dallas. The big blue boxes dead ahead are D. H. Horton Tower and Wells Fargo Tower.

rock island TRE trainsA Trinity Railway Express train from Dallas crosses from the Rock Island bridge’s steel spans onto its wooden approach.

The Rock Island was another early railroad, incorporated in 1847 as the Rock Island and La Salle Railroad Company. The Rock Island began serving Fort Worth in 1893.

3 trestles 3 bikersThree bridges, three bikers. These bridges (c. 1900) over the Trinity River just east of Samuels Avenue are sometimes called the “Three Sisters.”

3 trestles amtrak chicagoAmtrak’s Heartland Flyer from Oklahoma City crosses one of the Three Sisters headed south to the Intermodal Transportation Center.

3 trestles union pacificA Union Pacific freight train heads north over one of the Three Sisters.

3 trestles googleThis Google aerial photo shows that the Three Sisters are made up of a total of five spans.

As this 1939 Corps of Engineers map of the proposed Trinity River floodway shows, the three bridges were once the property of (from east to west) the Rock Island, Fort Worth & Denver City, and Santa Fe railroads. The Katy railroad also used the FW&DC bridge.

Today the Three Sisters have a new sibling: Just east of the Rock Island bridge a fourth bridge was built to carry TEXRail trains over the river.

The Fort Worth & Denver City railroad was granted its charter in 1873, although the railroad would not begin serving Fort Worth until 1882.

The Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway was chartered in 1859.

The Missouri-Kansas-Texas (Katy) Railroad was established in 1865 as the Union Pacific Railway, Southern Branch. (Photo from Wikipedia.)

trinity tarantulaA Grapevine Vintage Railroad train headed from Trinity Park to 8th Avenue on a bridge (1931) of the Fort Worth & Rio Grande. The track later belonged to the St. Louis-San Francisco (Frisco) railway and served the nearby Chevy plant, Montgomery Ward store, and E. G. Rall grain elevator.

The Fort Worth & Rio Grande Railway, chartered in 1885, was an ambitious project conceived by B. B. Paddock and other civic leaders to link Fort Worth with New York and the Pacific coast.

But by 1887 the FW&RG track had reached only as far as Granbury.

By 1890 the FW&RG had reached Dublin. The railroad was a major sponsor of Fort Worth’s Spring Palace exhibition in 1889-1890. In 1901 the Frisco line bought the FW&RG and extended the track to Menard in 1911.

The St. Louis-San Francisco (Frisco) railway was incorporated in Missouri in 1876.

In the Frisco ad above, Fred Harvey founded the Harvey House restaurants, which served passengers along several major railroad lines, including the Santa Fe. This postcard shows the Harvey House next to the Santa Fe Union Station on Jones Street. (Postcard from Barbara Love Logan.)

Poster for the Frisco line, 1899. (Photo from Wikipedia.)

marine creek wooden rr bridge marine creek

marine creek trestle Two crossings of Marine Creek just south of the packing plants used today by the Grapevine Vintage Railroad, which travels the old St. Louis-Southwestern (Cotton Belt) track.

The St. Louis-Southwestern (Cotton Belt) railroad was organized in 1891.

red river train gvrr wideLastly, a Grapevine Vintage Railroad train crosses the 1902 bridge of the Red River, Texas & Southern railroad near Oakwood Cemetery.

The Red River, Texas & Southern Railway Company was chartered in 1901 to build a railroad from the Red River in Grayson County south to Fort Worth. Except for four miles of new track in Fort Worth, the Red River, Texas & Southern used Cotton Belt track into Fort Worth. In 1904 the Red River, Texas & Southern railroad merged with the Frisco line.

More images of the Red River, Texas & Southern bridge:

red river trestle sunsettrestle red river 4

cone red river

wooden rr bridge red river boltThe steam long ago evaporated, but the wood and steel survive.

Time table of 1904 shows the service of these railroads during Fort Worth’s golden age of steam.

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This entry was posted in Cowtown in Motion, Downtown, All Around, East Side, Life in the Past Lane, North Side, Rails 'n' Roundhouses, Rollin' on the River, South Side, West Side. Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to When Wood and Steel Carried Steam Over Water

  1. James Hefner says:

    You just confused, then un-confused me. 🙂

    I knew about, and have looked around the old incinerator facility on the north side of Ft. Worth, next to the athletic center and across the river from the Tandy Center.

    I did not realize there was another one on Echo Lake. This one featured prominently in the aerial footage of the derailment and fire that happened a few months ago. The surrounding scenery did not make sense to me, I now realize that there are two of them, and that this the one south of town.

    We lived in Beaumont prior to Hurricane Rita, and they also had one next to I-10 and the superfund site that was a creosote plant. Galveston also had one east of I-45 as you came on the island; both of these have since been torn down. I wonder how many more there were across the state; I don’t think any of them operated for very long before the Clean Air Act in the 1960s (I believe) shut them all down.

    Thanks for confusing me, then clearing things up for me.

    • hometown says:

      The two Echo Lake stacks are hard to miss, but you would not believe how long I had lived in Fort Worth–and on the Southeast side!–before I knew that Echo Lake exists. I suspect that the stack just north of downtown will be a victim of the Panther Island project. The police and fire training facility has already relocated.

  2. Don Wenslow says:

    Looking back at my childhood, I am just now coming into the awareness of how much history my family was a part of. My father’s full time job during the week was at Union Pacific. My mother had a part time job on the weekends. She admitted and registered patients in at the historic St. Joseph’s. I can remember the front entrance like it was yesterday! Much love Mike!

    • hometown says:

      My parents worked at All Saints (old and new), and I have no memory of that grand St. Joseph’s building. Or of the original JPS before it was enclosed by the new building.

  3. Dennis Hogan says:

    What’s at Hemphill St. and Railroad Ave. today?

    • hometown says:

      The closest features of interest today are the Jennings Avenue-Vickery Boulevard underpass (1931) and the Lamar Street underpass (2020), which will extend Lamar from downtown south past the T&P freight terminal (1931) and under the railroad tracks and I-30 to Vickery.

  4. Jimmy Barlow says:

    Your 6th photo from the top is captioned, “Amtrak’s Texas Eagle from Chicago headed south.” But the Eagle does not come thru that area up near the Stockyards; it only comes east from Dallas (i.e, from Chicago) straight into downtown Ft. Worth, then turns south to go to Cleburne (thence San Antone). The Amtrak train that DOES cross the bridge shown is their Heartland Flyer to/from Oklahoma City.

    • hometown says:

      Yikes! Thanks. As much time as I’ve spent checking the status of the Eagle and the Flyer at Amtrak’s website and then going out to shoot them at various places, I can’t explain that mental lapse.

  5. Steve A says:

    Now that’s a thought. “Join the AARP hobo program. Your acceptance is guaranteed!”

    • hometown says:

      Steve, as a member in good standing of AARP, I think there is a sitcom in this. Get Betty White’s agent on the phone!

  6. Ramiro says:

    Makes me want to hop a train, but that would be impossible with these old joints, and dangerous. I do have a memory I reflect on now and then, of one glorious summer of unloading boxcars (with a forklift) at a warehouse facilty on Felix & Hemphill. Back from the war and feeling bullet-proof. Great pictures!

    • hometown says:

      Now THAT’S what boxcars need–easy-access ramps for the AARP generation of hoboes. I knew a few guys like you and Larry Roberts who had RR jobs, and it sounded romantic. I doubt that it was. Still . . .

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