TCT Passenger Service

The above photograph from the Texas City Library collection shows what appears to be locomotive No. 10 at the original Texas City station which was located on 1st Avenue North between 5th and 6th Streets. As mentioned in the Motive Power section, it is not clear what type of locomotive is pulling the passenger train, but it is an older one. The “train” that it is pulling is a wood single car, with a baggage section in the center.

By the way, the angled wood frames in the foreground are “cattle guards”, structures meant to keep livestock inside fenced areas yet allow other traffic to pass through. Or outside fenced areas.

In 1909, the Texas City Transportation Company issued bonds which were then used to improve the physical plant of the port and it’s railroad.  This included moving the location of the passenger station to a spot close to the Company’s offices.

This move was not without controversy. Wheaton writes:

The construction of a new depot in a location then outside of the platted townsite did not meet with the approval of the inhabitants who had bought lots and built houses and business enterprises in the First and Second Divisions. It was well known that the development intended only to enhance the value of a proposed extension of the city. Before automobiles were common, a mile made a lot of difference. Discussion and agitation did not result in action until the new depot was nearly completed and a new track ready for the first train, when some of the indignant citizens traveled to Galveston and obtained an injunction against the abandonment of the old depot and the use of the new. Word reached the Terminal Company that a temporary injunction had been granted and would be served on the company the following morning. During the night, the contents of the old depot were loaded into box cars. To the astonishment of the citizens, when morning dawned even the railroad track leading to the old depot was gone, and the new depot was open for business.

A Sanford Insurance map shows the passenger station being located adjacent to 10th Street N, near 9th Avenue N.

Another map shows the station trackage in greater detail.  Notable is the wye track which was needed to turn locomotives around in the opposite direction.

In particular, one unique Texas City Terminal passenger unit, their #22, absolutely needed to be turned at the end of each passenger run.

The McKeen motor car was an unusual contraption in the first place, and it had several odd features such as the windsplitter front and porthole windows.  To reverse direction, the McKeen’s motor had to be stopped and then the engine itself was reversed, making for slow turn arounds. It even came to the Texas City Terminal in an unusual way, coming to the railroad under its own power:

The McKeen car offered the cost savings of needing only a two-person crew instead of the typical five-person crew of a steam locomotive and train. However, such cost savings could not offset the general decline in passenger traffic on the TCT, and the McKeen was soon gone.

It was replaced by a series of gasoline powered motor cars, a highway vehicle that had been converted to operate on steel rails. Typically built on a truck chassis, these vehicles would have provisions for passenger seating along with space for parcel freight.  Many short line railroads tried this approach with varying degrees of success.  In more than a few cases, these railroads’ charter required that passenger service be offered, so there was incentive for the short lines to build something on the cheap.

Texas City Terminal experimented with two such homemade units. Their #25, called the “Molly O” hit the rails around 1919, later burning up in a mysterious car barn fire. Their #26 was built on a GMC truck frame in 1926.

  Texas City Terminal’s passenger service was meant to connect to the Galveston-Houston Electric at La Marque, Texas.  The Terminal’s passenger service became increasingly inefficient, with improved roads making a trip over to the GHE by car easier than waiting for the Terminal’s passenger service.  The Electric line ended operations in 1936, and it is assumed that this resulted in the Texas City Terminal’s passenger service ending, too. If not sooner.

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