Thursday, May 6, 2010

The Railroad comes to Kerrville

During the "Golden Era" of our community's history, the San Antonio & Aransas Pass railroad came to Kerrville.
The last depot for the line still stands and is now one of my favorite restaurants: "Rails, A Cafe at the Depot."
But the depot building housing the restaurant was almost vanished years ago.
There was a period when so many of our old buildings were torn down (in the name of progress) that I wondered if anything old would survive. In the span of a few short years landmarks such as the Bluebonnet Hotel, the First United Methodist Church, the Kellogg Building, the old bus station and the old wool warehouses downtown all vanished; many beautiful old homes along Sidney Baker Street also disappeared. So I am glad the old depot survived.
The depot was in danger of being demolished when the Walkers saved it, if I remember correctly, running a hamburger restaurant there, and I believe there was another restaurant in the building before Rails opened several years ago.
I remember the trains that came slowly through town when I was a child.
By the time I came on the scene here most of the remaining trains were freight trains. I do not remember a passenger train; they must have stopped earlier.
Hugh Hemphill, a train enthusiast and author, gave me a copy of a film made from the caboose of the last train to Kerrville, in 1971. Mr. Hemphill, who has written several histories of trains in Texas, is also with the Texas Transportation Museum in San Antonio.
According to the Texas Transportation Museum website, “at 11:45 AM on October 6, 1887, the first train arrived in Kerrville. On board the six Pullmans were 502 passengers, 200 from San Antonio, 131 from Boerne, 141 from Comfort and 30 from Center Point. Altogether this was 200 more people than actually lived in Kerrville. It was a banner day for the town, with parades and speeches.
The San Antonio & Aransas Pass Railway Depot in Kerrville
“At the center of it all was Captain Charles Schreiner, whose visionary plans for the community were being realized in front of his eyes. He had been a significant part of the effort to raise the $180,000.00 demanded by the railroad, the San Antonio and Aransas Pass, before it began work just over a year earlier, August 26, 1886. With the 71 mile line complete, Kerrville's future growth and expansion were assured.”
The depot which now houses Rails restaurant came later, in 1915, according the website. The first depot had been destroyed by fire in 1913, and for 2 years the community had been without a depot.
Of the new depot, the Kerrville Mountain Sun reported “the structure is to be of brick, and will be modern throughout. When completed it will be one of the handsomest passenger depots in a small town in the state.”
I think it's still a handsome building.
My own memories of the train include its low rumbling and the clacking of its wheels as they passed gaps in the rails; the rail line was next to the playing field beside First Baptist Church, running along North Street there. Many of us children (who should have been inside the church instead of playing baseball outside it) would run alongside the train as it passed, begging the engineer to blow the whistle.
On those evenings we were actually sitting inside the church we’d listen for the train. In those days, before air-conditioning was considered such a necessity, the big blue stained glass windows of the church would often be left open. In addition to the occasional bird (or bat) that flew into the sanctuary, the rumbling of the train was always a welcome distraction. Again from our pews we children would silently urge the engineer to blow the train’s whistle, and when he did, the preacher would pause, look out the south windows, and wait.
Even this brief respite was welcome.
Until next week, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who often daydreamed, as a boy, of hopping the train as it left town, just to see where it went. Especially during evening services at church.

1 comment:

  1. The restaurant before Rails was Choo Choo's Bar B Que.


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