T&P’s Lancaster Yards: Boxcars and Cowcatchers

On at least two occasions June 12 has been a historic day for railroading in Fort Worth—little trains and big trains. On June 12, 1959 the Forest Park miniature train began operation. And on June 12, 1928 Texas & Pacific railway opened its new Lancaster Yards. (The yards, like the street, were named for T&P president John L. Lancaster.)

t&p 1926John Lancaster had announced the new yards in 1926. T&P had bought sixteen hundred acres southwest of downtown near where the Stove Foundry once stood. The chamber of commerce said the new yards would add five thousand to Fort Worth’s population. Lancaster pointed out the importance to Fort Worth of the arrival of T&P on July 19, 1876 after a three-year delay and said that Fort Worth probably benefited also from the fact that after T&P finally got here, Fort Worth was its western terminus for four years.

t&p 10 640On June 10, 1928 the Star-Telegram printed a front-page preview of the new yards.

t&p 12Five thousand people toured the new yards on June 12. The Star-Telegram provided some of the vital statistics of the new yards.

lancaster yard to open 6-12-28 dmnAs did the Dallas Morning News on June 12. The new yards—four miles long with sixty miles of track—would handle a million freight cars a year, T&P estimated. The yards had a crane capable of lifting a Texas-class freight locomotive (225 tons). The new yards were considered to be the “last word” in railroad facilities. 

t&p 13Also on the opening day of the new yards Texas & Pacific president John Lynch Lancaster, who had begun his railroad career as a rodman at age sixteen, was honored for his railroad’s contribution to the Fort Worth economy. Between 1928 and 1931 T&P would give Fort Worth the new Lancaster Yards, a new passenger terminal, a new freight terminal, and three new underpasses.

lancaster yard 29 map peteFrom a 1929 map. (From Pete Charlton’s “1000+ Lost Antique Maps of Texas & the Southwest on DVD-ROM.”)

Lancaster Yards 1930 peteThe yards seen from the east in 1930. (From Pete Charlton’s “1000+ Lost Antique Maps of Texas & the Southwest on DVD-ROM.”)

The Lancaster Yards had two “y’all ain’t from around here, are ya?” visitors in 1930 when two Russian railroad officials visited to inspect the 2-10-4 Texas-class locomotives that John L. Lancaster had begun buying in 1925.

lancaster yard 52 aerialThis 1952 aerial photo shows the Lancaster Yards with roundhouse and turntable. To the east was the Parkaire, an early drive-in theater, at 1400 University Drive.

lancaster yards editorial 6-14-28 dmnAn editorial in the Dallas Morning News called the new T&P facility “the equal of anything in the country.” Clip is from June 14.

lancaster yard cost 1-27-33 dmnIn 1933, in the midst of the Great Depression, the Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce remained optimistic. One reason for such optimism was the $5 million ($90 million today) Lancaster Yards. (Sometimes optimism is unfounded: Note that canalization of the Trinity River was said to be “forging ahead toward realization.”) Clip is from the January 27 Dallas Morning News.

lancaster yard google hulen-universitylancaster yard googleThese contemporary aerial photos show the yards today with maintenance shed and turntable.

train roundtableIn this small area of the yards seen from the Rosedale overpass, the sunken turntable is slightly to the left and above the center of the photo.

Today T&P’s 1928 Lancaster Yards, renamed Union Pacific’s “Davidson Yards” for UP CEO Richard Davidson, is the largest reminder of a time when Fort Worth was a railroad hub.

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