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

 

 

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