Railroad evoked pioneer spirit, sent settlers west

The railroad created Longview, and transportation helps make it what it is today.

From riders on horseback to horse-drawn wagons following “traces,” to the railroad and, finally, to the horseless carriage on modern, paved highways, moving people and goods has been key to the growth of Longview.

But no system of transportation has ever evoked more romance and longing for travel than the railroad.

With its pied piper whistle signaling its presence to all within earshot, literally generations of Americans longed to follow it and did, bringing new cities into existence, including Longview in 1870.

The coming of the railroad set the stage for accelerated economic endeavors in East Texas and across the nation.

At a time prior to the survey and platting of the townsite of Longview, the Southern Pacific Railroad had been completed west of Marshall to Hallsville. The local offices and shops of the company were located at Hallsville and remained there until 1872, when they were moved to Marshall, county seat of Harrison County.

Construction of the railroad from Lansing, seven miles east of Longview, to the city limits was completed in November 1870, shortly after the sale of town lots in Longview was opened.

There is, however, proof that the Southern Pacific had been constructed to Longview before May 24, 1871, and the point was the western terminus of the line.

In the same year, the Texas and Pacific Railway company consolidated with Southern Pacific and the T&P received all rights and benefits of the other rail line.

On Aug. 6, 1872, the T&P entered into a contract with the California and Texas Railway Construction Co. to build the line west from Longview to El Paso and on to California. Construction began at Longview and in 1873 gradually stretched to Willow Springs four miles away, and then to Gladewater 13 miles away.

The engineers worked for a dozen years before the dream of a transcontinental railroad through the Southwest was realized. In 1882, the railroad had spanned with steel rail the Southwest from El Paso to New Orleans. With its connections at these two points, the line from the Atlantic to the Pacific was effected.

Longview Junction

The International and Great Northern Railroad Co. began construction of a railroad on the line from Longview to Palestine at a point called Longview Junction in 1872, and the steel was completed to Palestine the next year.

A passenger depot was erected near Longview at what was referred to as “Depot at Longview Junction.”

Longview, Kilgore and Gladewater began to gain strength on the new means of transportation and the transportation from a farming region to a shipping, trading and manufacturing center was apparent.

Southern railroads history

Starting in 1830, railroads began to be built in the South. They were tiny, smokily dragging uncomfortable passenger cars and were subject to frequent breakdowns. But they were faster than horses, and the ride was smoother than a stagecoach.

Travel was difficult. There were few roads. Riverboats and canals provided some means of access, but they were by and large unsatisfactory, and the average speed was a snail-paced 3 mph.

In August 1829, Peter Cooper tried out his steam locomotive, the Tom Thumb. He had adapted it from a British invention. It was the first mechanical substitute for animal power designed by man.

Five years later, the B&O Railroad announced it had sold 97,000 tickets to passengers. By 1850, there were more than 9,000 miles of track in America. Within 10 years, there would be more than 30,000.

The Civil War brought about changes. The iron horse became a prime military factor. It could move large numbers of men and great quantities of materiel and supplies.

The North also began to appreciate the value of standardization. The roads were rebuilt to standard gauge, and military trains operated on more than 2,000 miles of tracks with hundreds of engines and countless cars.

After the war, the nation needed a coast-to-coast link, so Congress decreed that a railroad line would begin in Nebraska territory and head west, while another would start in Sacramento, California and head east. The two would meet in the middle.

From Sacramento would come the Central Pacific and, 1,800 miles to the east the Union Pacific would start westward. In 1866, construction began in earnest. It was a monumental task at best due to the distances. Each mile of track required 100 tons of rail, three tons of spikes and plates, plus food and supplies for thousands. It all had to be hauled more than a thousand miles, first by rails, then by wagon and even riverboats.

The rail race ended at Promontory, Utah, on May 10, 1869, where the two railroads commemorated the event by driving a golden spike to which telegraph wires had been attached, in order that the nation might know of the completion.

The nation had been spanned. The railroad was king. It linked two oceans, throwing open the continent. In 1870, more than 100 million passengers rode U.S. trains.

In 1890, more than 500 million tickets were sold. By then, there were four transcontinental railroads, more than 165,000 miles of track that went nearly everywhere.

A new era

Railroads became comfortable and stylish. By 1870, Pullman was equipping cars with reclining chairs, upper and lower berths. There were dining cars with a wide selection of food. Millionaires had private cars.

Between 1860 and 1900, the number of farms in America grew from 2 million to nearly 5 million. Now the railroads had a monopoly on transportation.

The automobile

With the advent of the automobile, man discovered a convenient method of personal transportation. Flying machines followed, and the railroad was in for a long fight to maintain its supremacy.