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Chairperson, Wood County Historical Commission

The following is taken from an article about Mineola that appeared in The Cotton Belt Star in March of 2003 authored by Arleigh Stanley. Mineola is not the county seat of Wood County but it is the largest town in the county with a population over 5,000 and growing. The town is located about 80 miles east of Dallas and about 25 miles northwest of Tyler. The coast-to-coast US Highway 80 and US Highway 69 stretching from the gulf coast to Minnesota criss-cross in Mineola. Interstate Highway 20 runs east and between Tyler and Mineola.

Mineola is historically a railroad town. It is possible to board Amtrak's Texas Eagle at the newly restored Mineola depot and head to St. Louis and Chicago, or west to Dallas, San Antonio and the West Coast.

Mineola had three railroads at one time. There was a branch line of the International & Great Northern (I&GN) with regular once a day passenger service. The "Katy" railroad - the Missouri, Kansas and Texas (MKT) also had a north/south branch line from Greenville to Mineola. The Kay railroad made connections for passengers who wanted to go up to Oklahoma or Kansas City.

All theses railroad interchanged passengers, express and freight at Mineola and they all used the same depot. Since it was "right downtown", the depot was a sort of gathering place for locals as well as travelers. There was a large brick hotel with a restaurant directly across from the depot parking lot. There was another restaurant around the corner and across the street next to Joe Sharp's hardware store.

For a youngster who liked trains, it was a very exciting place. Freight trains would roar through and "split the wind" causing you to lose your hate if you didn't hold it on your head.

Where Highway 80 and 69 crossed in Mineola was a very busy place every Thanksgiving Day. The annual "turkey day" football game between Jarvis Christian College and Texas College at Tyler was played in Tyler at the Texas campus. Traffic was heavy between the two schools.

If the weather was good in Mineola, no one sat in the waiting room at the depot. All the visiting and well-wishing was going on outside. When the west-bound train left Big Sandy, 24 miles east of Mineola, the station agent would tell the waiting crowd "She's on her way!" and everyone looked down the track.

We anxiously watched the signal block and waited for it to turn from green to amber. When that happened, we knew the train was passing Crow Station. People began to move their luggage closer to them to be ready to get on board. When the signal turned from amber to red, we knew the train had passed Jarvis station and would soon come snorting up the hill, out of the Sabine River bottom and into Mineola.

Generally, but not always, railroads would number their engines according to type and size. The big 900 series engines had a 4-8-2 wheel arrangement and the older 700 series, with a 4-6-2 wheel arrangement, generally pulled the passenger trains. Both were distinctive with the T&P diamond emblem and polished cylinder heads and side rods. They also had a name board on the front of the engine. The trains had names such as "Sunshine Special", "Louisiana Limited", and "Texas Sunshine", among others. The front number plate on each engine was brass on a black background. All these good-looking trains came through Mineola.

Years later, when passenger engines changed from steam to diesel, when passenger service changed from company-operated trains to Amtrak, one famous T&P 600 type engine, the 610, was refinished and was one of the engines used to pull the Freedom Train during our country's bicentennial celebration in 1976.

Train crews changed in Mineola and engines were serviced there. Many railroad employees lived there and some still do. There used to be a roundhouse located out west of town to service steam engines. Today, all that has changed, but Mineola continues to have special memories for me. It is symbolic of fast trains, huge engines and far away places.



Last Updated on Friday, 24 April 2009 17:05  

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