When Trains Were Important

Narratives from the Georgetown's Yesteryears Book

A special thanks to The Georgetown Heritage Society and Martha Mitten Allen for letting us post these wonderful first-person stories.

View Foreword and Preface

Berna Sillure Cooke - Interviewer: Rodney K. Kaase

About 1900, the Missouri, Kansas, and Texas Railroad, nicknamed "The Katy," came from St. Louis, Missouri, on south through Dallas to Granger. One section went on to Houston, and the other section came by Georgetown, and into Austin, and on to San Antonio. That was our way of transportation, really, until the automobiles began to come in. There were quite a few trains every day. One Christmas morning, a friend of mine in Austin was marrying. I went down on the train the afternoon before, from Georgetown to Austin, and spent the night with her for I was to be her Maid of Honor. The wedding was at noon the next day, and I caught the 1:00 o'clock train that was coming to Georgetown and came on in here and finished Christmas day with my family.

This same time, 1918-19, about the same age I was when I went to the wedding, we would have a date and go down to Austin for dinner and a picture show. There was a train that came through along about five in the afternoon, and we'd go down then, in time to have our dinner and a show, then we'd catch the 12:00 o'clock train that came back through from San Antonio. It was only about a thirty-five or forty-minute trip then. It was very convenient. The station in Georgetown was on the MKT track beyond the University, between 7th and 8th streets. It was a long building with a waiting room, a good-sized baggage room, and a freight office at the other end of the building.

When World War I came up, there were trains carrying the soldiers. We would get word of when the troop trains were coming through, and we could hear the whistle outside of town, and we'd get over there as fast as we could in cars and wave to the soldiers as they came by. And lots of times the trains had to stop to get water.

The railroad was the principal way of getting to Dallas or San Antonio, for our roads were not paved nor in very good condition. Besides, many people were still without cars to use at all, or only for business purposes. It was also a quicker way than a car because the highways weren't as good then.

In World War II, trains were still used a lot for the transportation of the soldiers. My husband was working in Dallas, and he would either come home in the car to see about the farm on the weekends, or I would go up on the train. It was so crowded at that time that I have stood in the aisle nearly all the way from Georgetown to Dallas many times. And it was fun, really and truly. Everybody was good-natured. We had to keep our suitcase with us, and if it was stiff enough, you could sit on that. But everybody was laughing and making the best of it, and if the train stopped in a hurry, we would all jostle against one another.

Southwestern students weren't supposed to, but they used to walk down the tracks and across the trestle, where the train crossed the San Gabriel River, north of town. They would go down to the river and picnic. There was one girl killed, caught on the trestle. You could feel the train vibrations to know it was coming, but the trains were getting up speed and were nearer than you thought.

George Bryan Dawson III: Michael Seay, Interviewer

When I started school, there were no cars. All the students walked to school, or rode horses, or drove in buggies. All the students at Southwestern came by rail. There were three livery stables that housed horses, and they kept teams that they would rent buggies to anybody. And they would meet on the train. When the students came, they would unload the trunks, and they'd haul them up there on these dray lines with horses and leave them at Southwestern.

Tillman Barron: Mark Graves, Interviewer

Before [the KATY railroad came to Georgetown], there was only one way in and out of Georgetown. Long years ago, they built this little I. and G. N. branch on the west side of town. They called it the Jimmy town Special. That was the only way in and out of Georgetown, and all the drummers and passengers would come over here and depart for Round Rock, where they made connections with the mainline. They'd run about four or five trains a day, just in and out. The train would come in with two passenger coaches and a baggage coach. Of course, back in those days, they also hauled the freight cars on it. That was the way in and out of Georgetown then.

Tommye B. Jefferson: Mike Lade, Interviewer

To ride on the train was very interesting, we didn't get to make too many trips, but we made some. We had two. We had the IGN and the KATY tracks, the MK, and T. The MK and T were on the east side of town, and the IGN was just up the street [on the west side]. It went south, through Round Rock, and around through that way. We would take a walk and go to the KATY station just to watch the train come in and wave at the people. When the train would stop, they would all get out, and if it was at night, they had their lanterns, and they would run up and down the track and check everything. And at the station, we had our ticket agent, the ticket office. We had seats in there for us to sit. If we missed the train or we were there early, they had comfortable places. And they had the big old round belly-like stoves, you know, that they put coal in. It was something that we didn't have; it was interesting to us because we didn't have a lot of things to get involved in, or to go see, to participate in, or whatever. So we would go over there sometime, walkway over there from down here, way across town to visit with the train, and we'd meet some of the people that would come in or go out.

I. M. Hausenfluke - Interviewer: Robert Zearfoss

We shipped all of our cattle to Fort Worth by rail. The railroad, which is the Katy, by Southwestern University, is where we shipped all our cattle . . . . Back in the '20s, there was very little trucking. The moving of livestock was altogether by driving. When my grandma shipped her cattle, we would bring all that cattle together; [from] all of the parkland, all of the North Gabriel to the Weir Road, and they're back to this road [airport road] to the Andice Road. Before the flood, she had her headquarters at the old Glasscock house, west of where McDonald's is. [After the flood] She moved to her new home, where Southwestern Plaza is.

[Moving the cattle to the rail pens] Where the rivers run together is where we always crossed the creek in the park. It was a real straight up-shoot at that bank, and you would hit the park road. You would work the cattle up it. You worked them down to the first street, and then you went around the vacant land, which used to be the sewer farm to the railroad where Mr. Shell lived. The stockyards were close to Southwestern. It was on a spur where Exxon is. Those pens would hold 1,000 heads of cattle. They had a loading chute and would push that car up to that chute and open the side door. A cattle car was slatted so the heat would get out. The railroad man would seal it and put a bar across it, and then they would pull up another car. We loaded them about 7:00 or 8:00 p.m. because the train would pick them up at 10:00 p.m. We would load about ten or fifteen cars. Cattle cars then held about forty calves or twenty grown cows.