A Trip Into Railroad History / San Angelo Texas

The possibility of a transcontinental railroad, one connecting both oceans, the Atlantic and Pacific, was discussed as far back in time prior to the treaty with Great Britain settling the Oregon question in 1846. Twenty-two years later the nation did indeed celebrate the completion of the transcontinental railroad.

railroad depot santa fe

Old Santa Fe Depot

The fact of the matter was that steam engine technology was advancing and a railroad line spanning that distance was a distinct possibility. In 1849 Eli Whitney published a booklet to promote his idea entitled Project for a Railroad to the Pacific.

San Angelo Texas

San Angelo, Texas, at first named San Angela, had it’s beginnings just after the end of the Civil War when Fort Concho was established in 1867 at the confluence of three rivers in West Central Texas. This was an active frontier military post primarily providing protection against Indian raids. At various times Fort Concho was home to mounted cavalry, infantry, and the famous Black Cavalry whose members were respectfully called “Buffalo Soldiers” by the Native Americans in the area.

locomotive exhibits

Old AT & SF locomotive exhibt

Trips Into History Visits San Angelo Texas Railroad Museum

Trips Into History had the opportunity to visit an excellent west Texas railroad museum in San Angelo.

As was the case with many old train depots, when passenger service to non mainline destinations declined, mostly due to the automobile, plans were made to eventually tear them down. They were not being used and they were a liability to the railroads. As an interesting side note, there actually was a stagecoach operating between San Angelo and Sonora, Texas as late as 1921.

In some cases, and San Angelo was one, local civic groups campaigned to save these historic train stations and turn them into either railroad museums, and/or museums and special event centers. The same was the case with many of the old Harvey Houses that were built all along the Santa Fe Railroad lines. Some were Harvey Houses providing overnight accommodations and others were simply Fred Harvey Dining Rooms.

old railroad passes

A 1912 train pass for a railroad company director, displayed at the San Angelo Railroad Museum

In the case of San Angelo, Texas, some people wanted to turn it into an art gallery while others wanted to divide it into office space to be rented.  Eventually the locals decided to develop the old railroad depot into a railroad museum which officially opened in 1996.

If your travels take you to Belen, New Mexico, just a short drive south of Albuquerque you’ll also find an old Santa Fe Railroad train depot turned into a fascinating railroad museum.

Built by the Kansas City, Mexico and Orient Railroad in 1909 San Angelo depot was one of a kind. For a small town in 1909 like San Angelo, with just over 6,500 residents, this was a very large structure and the second largest building in San Angelo at the time.

The KCM&O used the building for passenger service and as their Texas corporate headquarters up until they were purchased by the Santa Fe Railroad which moved from their smaller facilities on the North side of town in 1929.

The San Angelo museum’s official name is The Historic Orient/Santa Fe Depot, Inc. The museum does a terrific job explaining the formation and development of railroad lines through San Angelo and west Texas. See artifacts and photos covering 150 years of railroading in the West as well as exhibits relating to the railroad lines passing through San Angelo.

Model Railroad Displays

Model railroad enthusiasts will get to view model train exhibits established by the Model Railroad Club of the Concho Valley.  The club was founded in 1997, shortly after the museum was established. Model Railroad Club of the Concho Valley welcomes new members of any skill level.

The club exhibits model trains Z, N, HO, O and Ggauges for the San Angelo museum’s permanent displays. There is a new HO layout of the KCM&O as it heads West out of San Angelo and passes through Barnahart, Fort Stockton and Presidio before passing over the Mexican Border at Presidio.For more information regarding the Model Railroad Club of the Concho Valley see website…..http://railwaymuseumsanangelo.homestead.com/modelclub.html

You may also enjoy the Trips Into History articles found on the links below…

Historic U.S. Train Depots

Railroads in Texas / The Frisco

Historic Dining Cars of the Santa Fe Railroad

model railroad exhibits texas

One of the model railroad exhibits

Visit the San Angelo Texas Railroad Museum

San Angelo, Texas is located in Tom Green County. The city is home to Goodfellow Air Force Base, Angelo State University, the historic Cactus Hotel, the fourth hotel built by Conrad Hilton, and historic Fort Concho. Fort Concho hosts various events throughout the year. For more information on the fort’s activities see webesite...http://www.fortconcho.com/

The city is located about 112 miles southeast of Midland…about 200 miles northwest of Austin…and about 225 miles southwest of Fort Worth.

References for this article and books we recommend include…..Early San Angelo by author Virginia Noelke. Also, Railroad Transportation In Texas (1909) by author Charles Shirley Potts.

(Article and photos copyright Trips Into History)

Features artifacts from150 years of railroading along with photos of the railroad and opening of the West by railroads. – See more at: http://texasfortstrail.com/plan-your-adventure/historic-sites-and-cities/sites/railway-museum-san-angelo#sthash.3p42ToF8.dpuf



The Wells Fargo Stagecoach / Photos and History

Today, at cities and towns all across the nation people can see the sight of Wells Fargo Stagecoach reproductions during parades and special events. The Wells Fargo Stagecoach remains the logo of the modern banking concern and serves as a symbol of it’s service during the American frontier era.

wells fargo concord coach

Wells Fargo Concord Coach

The stage coach used for today’s parades and events is an authentic, Wells Fargo-approved reproduction. The coach is pulled by a specially trained team of six horses, and guided by an experienced stagecoach driver. Viewing these fine coaches is a real trip back into history.

Who Built the Wells Fargo Stages

The beautiful stagecoaches that Wells Fargo is noted for were built by the Abbott-Downing Company of Concord, New Hampshire. The coaches known as “Concord Coaches” were considered the best built coaches in the country.

Today, there is an Abbott-Downing Historical Society whose purpose is to preserve the history of the Concord Coach and the Abbott-Downing Company.Their website is www.concordcoach.org  Plenty of good information on this site as well as an interesting video and information on how to have one of their coaches at your event or parade.

concord coach interior

Interior of Concord Coach

According to their website, the first coach was constructed in 1826/27 and the last circa 1899. The total number of Concord Coaches built totaled approximately 1,700. A Concord Wells Fargo coach weighed about 2,500 lbs and cost about $2,500.

While we’ve usually  seen Wells Fargo coaches pulled by a team of six horses, the coaches have also been pulled by teams of two and four.

Wells Fargo Stagecoaches Operated Throughout the West

Wells Fargo transported their customers business  from 1852 to 1918 by a variety of methods. This included via steamship, railroad, and, where there were no railroads, by stagecoach.

During their early year Wells Fargo contracted with independent stage lines. Then, Wells Fargo came to own and operate the largest stagecoach operation in the world. That operation became famous with it’s Concord Coaches being pulled by a team of six horses.

Wells Fargo was also involved in the old Butterfield Overland Stage and Mail line helping with finances and having the 2,757 mile route surveyed across the American southwest and California.

The Butterfield line was rather short lived because of the onset of the Civil War. Becaue of Confederate control of Texas and parts of the New Mexico Territory, the route had to be moved to the north, essentially along the old Overland Route along the Platte River and through Wyoming.

At that time, Wells Fargo’s express shipments rode the stages of the Pioneer Stage Line from California to Virginia City, Nevada. The Overland Mail Company, which was controlled by Wells Fargo, ran stagecoaches from Virginia City, Nevada,to Salt Lake City, Utah. From Salt Lake City passengers, mail and express shipments connected with the Overland Express running through Denver, Colorado, and eastward to the Mississippi River. After the Civil War, Wells Fargo bought the Overland Express and combined with the other two lines it owned created the largest stagecoach operation in the world.

You may also enjoy our additional articles on old west stagecoaches found on the links below…

The Last Days of the California Stagecoach

Riding a Stagecoach in the Old West

On our Western Trips website see the Black Canyon Arizona Stage Route

wells fargo stage coachWhere to See the Wells Fargo Stagecoaches

Wells Fargo maintains several museums around the country and I recommend you visit one on  your next vacation or road trip. Not only can you view their iconic stagecoaches, but also exhibited are banking and express documents, working telegraphs, western art, gold coins, old money, and more. These are interesting museums and make good family trip stops.

All of the ten Wells Fargo Museums are free to enjoy. They are currently located in Charlotte, NC, Anchorage, AK, Los Angeles, CA, Philadelphia, PA, Minneapolis, MN, Portland, OR, Phoenix, AZ, San Diego, CA, Sacramento, CA, and San Francisco, CA.

For more information regarding the Wells Fargo Museums, see website…https://www.wellsfargo.com/about/history/museums/

The Wells Fargo Stagecoaches also appear at events throughout the year. For a current list of planned appearances see their website…http://www.wellsfargohistory.com/stagecoach/appearance-schedule/

Our references and `two very good books regarding the history of Wells Fargo and their stagecoaches include…..Stagecoach : Wells Fargo and the American West by author Philip L. Fradkin. Also see…..Stagecoach: Rare Views of the Old West, 1849-1915 by author Sandor Demlinger.

(Article and photos copyright Trips Into History)

Rare Antique Telephones and Where to See Them

Trips Into History wishes to take you on a tour to the several excellent telephone museums spread around the country with their large collections of antique telephones and telephone equipment.

telephone swithchboard 1940

1940’s era telephone switchboard

In this day of instant messaging and mobile phones, antique telephones take us back to the period when communication in the U.S. and the world was in it’s infancy.

Walk through a museum with impressive collections of old telephone equipment and you’re transported back in time. Take a look at some of the earliest experimental equipment and you might find it difficult to recognize it as a communication tool.

There was a time when simple telephone communications represented cutting edge technology. After all, some in 1910 were still arguing that the horse was more reliable than the automobile. Arguably, communication technology continues to move forward with our IPhones and Androids.

magneto wall pay station

Magneto Wall Pay Station

Below are interesting historical examples of what people used to communicate with many, many years ago.

Magneto Wall Pay Station

This telephone apparatus dates back to the year 1900 and was manufactured by Stromberg Carlson-Gray.

Magneto meant that the power to talk was supplied by two dry cell batteries. Customers created signaling power by turning a hand crank on the telephone box. The operators were alerted to a call when a metal hook holding a drop in place retracted and released the drop. The buzzing sound signaled someone wanted to make a call. The difference with using a common battery was that all power was generated from the central telephone office including power for the customer’s phone. This phone was used for coin telephone communications.

gallows frame telephone

Gallows Frame telephone

Gallows Frame Telephone

This particular telephone was designed and manufactured by Alexander Graham Bell and is thought to be one of only two left in existence. It is on display at the Fort Concho Museum in San Angelo Texas.

The Gallows Frame Telephone dates back to 1876, the same year as Custer’s Battle of the Little Bighorn in Montana.

This apparatus takes you back to the invention and early development of the telephone. This device was not good enough to distinguish intelligible speech, but it was a significant breakthrough in the development of the telephone.

Bell was able to send not just a single tone beep, but actual sounds between one room and another. This was accomplished using an electromagnetic signal which was picked up by a metal reed. The metal reed vibrated against a cloth diaphragm. The unit was considered  experimental.

The other Gallows Frame Telephone is one of the exhibits at the Science Museum’s new gallery called Information Age in London, England.

See our Trips Into History articles on the links below. Articles also describe fun venues to visit regarding both subjects.

Crossing the Atlantic With Marconi’s Wireless

Laying of the Trans-Atlantic Cable

bell centennial telephone

Bell’s Centennial Telephone

Bell’s Centennial Telephone 1876

This type early telephone was exhibited at the 1876 Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia by Alexander Graham Bell.  “My word! It talks!” exclaimed Emperor Dom Pedro of Brazil on June 25, 1876, when he listened to the receiver of Bell’s telephone at the Centennial Exposition. The voice he heard was coming from 100 yards away and this type of publicity helped make Alexander Graham Bell’s telephone the talk of the international scientific community. Prior to all this publicity generated by Emperor Dom Pedro it was said that the Centennial judges were pretty much ignoring Bell’s telephone.

Another interesting fact is that the first U.S. President to have one of Bell’s telephones in the White House was Rutherford B. Hayes. The phone was installed in 1878 and Hayes’ first call was made to Bell. It was reported that Hayes’ first words were said to have been, “Please speak more slowly.”

alexander graham bell postage stampAn interesting venue to see Bell’s Centennial Telephone and other rare antique models is the JKL Museum of Telephony. John K. La Rue’s Museum of Telephony, part of the American Museum of Telephony, is dedicated to preserving telephone history. The museum contains telephones and related items from the dawn of telephony (late 1800s) to the present day. One of the telephone museum’s goals is to have working telephones from all eras.


This museum is located near San Andreas, California. For more information and directions see website…www.jklmuseum.com

(Article copyright Trips Into History. Photos of Gallows Frame and Magneto Wall Pay Station from Trips Into History Collection. Bell’s Centennial Telephone and postage stamp image from the public domain)



All About Dr. Pepper / Waco’s Dr. Pepper Museum

Waco, Texas, located about 100 miles south of the Dallas / Fort Worth Metroplex along Interstate 35 is home to two unique museums, among other Waco attractions, which are very well worth your time to visit.  These include the Texas Rangers Hall of Fame and Museum and the Dr. Pepper Muuseum.

dr pepper museum waco

The Dr Pepper Museum in Waco, Texas

This article takes you on a visit to the Dr. Pepper Museum located at 300 S 5th St, Waco, Texas. The building housing this museum  is the 1906 Artesian Manufacturing and Bottling Company structure.

The 100 year-old building is listed in the National Register of Historic Places as the “Home of Dr Pepper.” The Dr. Pepper Snapple Group supports this museum but is not the owner.

It All Began in an 1885 Pharmacy

Dr. Pepper is a soft drink invented in Morrison’s Old Corner Drug Store in Waco Texas and is the oldest of the major soft drinks in America.

Waco pharmacist “Doc” Charles Alderton is the man responsible for inventing this soft drink which was sometimes referred to as a “Waco” for the reason that it wasn’t available outside of town. Doc Alderton was an M.D. who graduated from the University of Texas Medical School in Galveston.

dr pepper memorabilia

The first floor entrance to the Dr Pepper Museum

Charles Alderton was born in Brooklyn, New York to British immigrants. He went to England to attend college in Stowmarket and returned to Brooklyn  During the Westward Expansion Alderton traveled to Texas where he enrolled at the University of Texas in Galveston. After graduating there with a medical degree, Alderton made the choice to work as a pharmacist, moving to Waco, Texas to join W. B. Morrison in his Old Corner Drug Store.

The Need For Something New

While working at the drug store the doctor noticed that customers at the store’s soda fountain were becoming tired of the same drink flavors being offered. Dr. Alderton decided to do some experimenting and hoped to come up with a new and original concoction that was pleasing.

dr pepper memorabilia

Memorabilia displayed in the Dr Pepper Museum

Alderton mixed together different fruit extracts and syrups and did the tasting himself. After putting together many different mixtures over a period of time he finally found one that stood out from the rest and pleased his taste buds. The store’s owner, Morrison, was invited to taste the soda and likewise found it quite good. The real proof however was when the drug store started selling the new soda to it’s customers and the reaction was extremely positive. The new soda drink caught on fast with the locals and gained new drinkers every day.

Customers began asking for “Doc Alderton’s drink.” when they visited the drug store. Eventually Morrison came up with the name for it, naming it “Dr. Pepper“, after the father of a girl he had once courted. Over 125 years later this soft drink remains one of the country’s most popular and it’s contents are pretty much the same as originally created by Doc Charles Alderton.

A Unique Museum Visit

The Dr. Pepper Museum, one of the best Waco attractions, occupies three floors of the old 1906 Artesian Manufacturing and Bottling Company.building. The building was donated to a non-profit organization in t988 and work began for renovation in 1990.

According to the Dr. Pepper Museum, the museum is home to the W. W. Clements Free Enterprise Institute.  The Institute was created in 1997 for the purpose of educating school children as well as adults about the economic system that underlies American life. Another important thing to note per the museum is that the Dr. Pepper Museum has received contributions from Dr Pepper Snapple Group, the Coca Cola Company, Coca Cola Enterprises, Big Red Corporation, and several independent soft drink bottlers.

You may also enjoy additional Trips Into History Texas attractions found on the links below…

A Trip to Luling Texas / Railroads, Oil and Watermelons

Visit the National Ranching Heritage Center / Lubbock, TX

Visit Historic Round Rock Texas / Outlaw Sam Bass and the Palm House

Santa Fe Depot and Harvey House / Brownwood Texas

The first floor of the Dr. Pepper Museum has a gift shop and a cute room with a soda fountain along with tables and chairs. It’s the perfect place to sit down and enjoy a cold Dr. Pepper. Memorabilia is found throughout the museum. Clocks, thermometers, signs, all with the Dr. Pepper name are on display and span many years. Also see the well which of course was essential for washing bottles in the bottling plant. You’ll also view interesting bottling machinery from the day along with descriptions of each.

dr pepper waco texas

Dr Pepper Museum soda fountain on first floor

A favorite of many visitors is a touch button TV screen showing some of the most popular Dr. Pepper television commercials spanning decades. You’ll also view many photos taken as far back as when the soda was developed. Also, interesting early photos of Waco are in their collection.

The Dr. Pepper Museum makes a perfect side trip for the entire family while traveling through Texas. The museum is easily reached being just a few blocks west of Interstate 35 south of the Brazos River.

(Article and photos copyright Trips Into History)