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).
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.
The 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. The H&TC served Fort Worth under that name 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.
South of East 4th Street, a bridge (1923) of the Rock Island line to Dallas. The big blue boxes dead ahead are D. H. Horton Tower and Wells Fargo Tower.
A 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.
Three bridges, three bikers. These bridges (c. 1900) over the Trinity River just east of Samuels Avenue are sometimes called the “Three Sisters.”
Amtrak’s Heartland Flyer from Oklahoma City crosses one of the Three Sisters headed south to the Intermodal Transportation Center.
A Union Pacific freight train heads north over one of the Three Sisters.
This 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.)
A 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.)
Two crossings of Marine Creek just south of the packing plants used 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.
Lastly, the 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:
The 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.
Need more speed? Some one-minute train video clips: