Jump to content

Railroad Bridge Over The Brazos River 1882


John Rich

Recommended Posts

Took a little trip in my canoe, and photographed the remains of an 1882 railroad bridge that formerly crossed the Brazos River, between San Felipe and the present day Interstate 10 bridge. From what I can figure out, this was the Texas Western narrow gauge line, which ran from somewhere (anyone know?) to Sealy. The line died out as soon as it was built, because it was incompatible with other regular gauge lines, so rail cars couldn't be switched to other lines.

First up, three photos of a pair of pilings, consisting of steel/iron tubes, about 6' in diameter, filled with concrete. These would have been embedded in a concrete footing and standing upright, but have fallen over onto their side on the river bottom.

These items are visible only because of the current very-low water level in the river. I think they are normally submerged.

post-7596-0-99998600-1315346064_thumb.jp

post-7596-0-23865700-1315346094_thumb.jp

post-7596-0-41727500-1315346115_thumb.jp

Edited by John Rich
  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Next up are photos of bridge sections that are exposed above the water. I believe these sections are probably laying upside-down. The flat part facing the water must have been the rail bed, while the arched part facing up would have been bracing on the underside. The bridge section is about 16' long, judging by the length of my canoe alonside it. The big nuts on the plate are 4" square. The odd part is that hinged joint with many stringers extending from it. Obviously this was some kind of articulation, but how and why? One theory is that the bridge was a draw bridge or swing bridge to allow steamboats to pass by on the river. Or maybe these were just superstructure support, and were hinged to allow flexing of the bridge as a train passed over. Anyone know?

If anyone can provide any insight on what this bridge might have looked like, or the design of it, I would appreciate it.

post-7596-0-81015200-1315346545_thumb.jp

post-7596-0-26406200-1315346561_thumb.jp

post-7596-0-44690200-1315346573_thumb.jp

post-7596-0-42352000-1315346588_thumb.jp

post-7596-0-57536400-1315346601_thumb.jp

Edited by John Rich
  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

First image: U.S. Geological Service topographical map of the area, showing an old railroad grade approaching the river from the northeast, and then disappearing at the river. Oddly, there is no trace of it ever continuing out the west side of the river. Was this bridge literally the end of the line?

Second: An identical pair of iron pilings, still embedded in concrete, underneath the current railroad bridge over the Brazos at Interstate-10. Apparently from an earlier railroad bridge, which was replaced by the one that is there now. This current bridge is also still pretty old - 1910 I think, and still active.

Third: Finishing my canoe trip underneath I-10, and pondering those odd articulated/hinged joints, I looked up under the modern concrete bridge, and saw this! A hinged joint which connects the horizontal steel rails to the vertical concrete pillars. So, whatever the principle behind this kind of hinged bridge connection, it's been around for quite a while, as we're still using it today.

post-7596-0-15703500-1315347570_thumb.jp

post-7596-0-74387100-1315347608_thumb.jp

post-7596-0-24505100-1315347621_thumb.jp

Edited by John Rich
  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

First image: U.S. Geological Service topographical map of the area, showing an old railroad grade approaching the river from the northeast, and then disappearing at the river. Oddly, there is no trace of it ever continuing out the west side of the river. Was this bridge literally the end of the line?

Nope. Use Google Earth. You can clearly make out the old railroad right-of-way. On the west side of the river, it bends to the west southwest and continues on along Meyer Road into San Felipe. There, it aligns briefly with Sealy Road, which takes it on a heading into Sealy. Not coincidentally, where it enters Sealy, there is still a street called Sealy Road. And from that, you can see how it would've connected with the broader rail network.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Nope. Use Google Earth. You can clearly make out the old railroad right-of-way. On the west side of the river, it bends to the west southwest and continues on along Meyer Road into San Felipe. There, it aligns briefly with Sealy Road, which takes it on a heading into Sealy. Not coincidentally, where it enters Sealy, there is still a street called Sealy Road. And from that, you can see how it would've connected with the broader rail network.

Looking at my topo map again. On the left edge it shows an "old railroad grade" coming from the west into what is now downtown San Felipe, and dead-ends at FM 1458. The next trace on the map is the one I've already shown coming out the east side of the Brazos River, where part of what is now Clemons Switch Rd. is built on top of it. The topo map mysteriously shows no trace of a railroad grade between those two points, a distance of about 3 miles. Hmmm... My map is dated 1960. The trace of that grade seems to have mostly just vanished from cultivation and development.

Aerial view attached. Dashed red lines are just above where the topo map shows an old railroad grade. You can clearly see overgrowth in straight lines along those lines. The dashed blue line is where I surmise the trace of the rail grade which connects those two points must have run. There are some places along there with nice smooth curves like a rail line would have, but other places bear no trace whatsoever.

Thanks for making me take a closer look at that.

post-7596-0-45487800-1315443258_thumb.jp

Edited by John Rich
Link to comment
Share on other sites

http://www.towers.tx...com/163/163.htm

...this link, with map at bottom, shows the Texas Western, as well as other lines.

http://www.tshaonlin.../articles/eqtpg

...another link w/ info. about the line, but not anything specific to the actual bridge construction.

http://www.texasesca...exasBridges.htm

and one more...site, talks about Texas bridge construction types, someone did great research on this site, includes old b/w pics of bridges.

I couldn.t find anything specific to that particular bridge, but maybe someone else can.

* Just a thought, but maybe the missing track runs through the Pattison property.

Edited by NenaE
Link to comment
Share on other sites

http://texashistory....e%3Aimage_photo

I'm beginning to think the original bridge that you found may have been destroyed by the flood of 1899, seen in the above pictures (even though the photos are of the Richmond-Rosenberg area bridge). Right after the flood, the hurricane of 1900 arrived.

Don't have any direct proof, though.

http://bridgehunter.com/tx/waller/bh49393/

This bridge was built in 1906. Is this the one that crosses at the same point?

Edited by NenaE
Link to comment
Share on other sites

http://texashistory....e%3Aimage_photo

I'm beginning to think the original bridge that you found may have been destroyed by the flood of 1899, seen in the above pictures (even though the photos are of the Richmond-Rosenberg area bridge). Right after the flood, the hurricane of 1900 arrived.

Don't have any direct proof, though.

http://bridgehunter....waller/bh49393/

This bridge was built in 1906. Is this the one that crosses at the same point?

Good theory on the flood - that could have done it. The Brazos is known for either being low or flooding, with no in-between stage.

The 1906 railroad bridge is the one that is adjacent to the Interstate-10 highway bridge over the Brazos.

The 1882 bridge in my photos is about 3.5 miles upstream from there.

That's river miles, counting all the bends in the river - not straight-line distance.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

This is an interesting subject, one I've enjoyed learning more about, today. Thank you for sharing it.

The reading I've done on San Felipe & Sealy has been enlightening. Apparently, everyone moved to the railroad town, Sealy, after San Felipe refused to grant a major railroad right of way through it's land, they only offered a small piece of land.

My past knowledge of San Felipe have been in relation to its link to Harrisburg, Texas history.

Railroads are so much a part of Texas history.

Edited by NenaE
Link to comment
Share on other sites

This is an interesting subject, one I've enjoyed learning more about, today. Thank you for sharing it.

The reading I've done on San Felipe & Sealy has been enlightening. Apparently, everyone moved to the railroad town, Sealy, after San Felipe refused to grant a major railroad right of way through it's land, they only offered a small piece of land.

My past knowledge of San Felipe have been in relation to its link to Harrisburg, Texas history.

Railroads are so much a part of Texas history.

Yes, San Felipe was the beginning of Texas, where Stephen Austin handed out Mexican land grants to "the original 300" settlers. And before the railroads spread their web across the countryside, the steamboats and rivers were the modern day equivalent of 18-wheeler trucks and super-highways, transporting goods and people from and to the coast and the interior. There were 12 steamboats sunk on the Brazos River alone, plying their trade on its waters.

Here's a book review I've written for the Houston Canoe Club on this steamboat period of Houston history:

"Sandbars and Sternwheelers"

Edited by John Rich
Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 3 months later...

http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/hnt27

my grandfather was born in this East Texas town. RR's bypassing put an end to it.

http://www.texasescapes.com/DEPARTMENTS/Guest_Columnists/East_Texas_all_things_historical/AlmostAHoustonBB102.htm

Reference to the Allen Brothers of Houston fame, buying land there, as well.

That book on steamboats looks interesting.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 1 year later...

Looking at my topo map again. On the left edge it shows an "old railroad grade" coming from the west into what is now downtown San Felipe, and dead-ends at FM 1458. The next trace on the map is the one I've already shown coming out the east side of the Brazos River, where part of what is now Clemons Switch Rd. is built on top of it. The topo map mysteriously shows no trace of a railroad grade between those two points, a distance of about 3 miles. Hmmm... My map is dated 1960. The trace of that grade seems to have mostly just vanished from cultivation and development.

Aerial view attached. Dashed red lines are just above where the topo map shows an old railroad grade. You can clearly see overgrowth in straight lines along those lines. The dashed blue line is where I surmise the trace of the rail grade which connects those two points must have run. There are some places along there with nice smooth curves like a rail line would have, but other places bear no trace whatsoever.

Thanks for making me take a closer look at that.

 

Now, 2 years later, I came across your pictures, conclusion and logic as to artifacts in the river and I believe you are correct overall.

 

I started my own little investigation due to family history and recollections of a railroad that supposedly went across the back of the family property.

 

I didn't believe it until I ran across the USGS topo map showing an "old RR bed" and realized this is why it looks like there is old rail bed running along the south side of Old Sealy Rd (on private property) near the intersection of 8th Avenue in San Felipe. It is really obvious. It also meant that it had to go east from there across former family property.

 

With that information, the topo map and other apparent features that seem logical and obvious, I have created a KMZ for import into Google Earth to trace what I believe is a 15-mile path from east of Brookshire to downtown Sealy. This is as far as I've gotten today and hope to amend this later.

 

I would also point out the "guestimated" path east of Pattison is just that. I have read material that leads me to believe the path east of Pattison may have been much more southerly and possibly paralled FM 359 (which surely didn't exist then). I believe it would make sense but I still have to check Brookshire history relative to this.

 

I'm attaching a JPG of the San Felipe to Brazos path and the KMZ.

post-12475-0-42480600-1378677171_thumb.j

Texas Western Narrow Gauge RR through San Felipe, TX.kmz

Link to comment
Share on other sites

@Techsys You've got it man! I haven't provided an update on my State of Texas abandoned RR map that exists in another thread on this forum. Although you've matched exactly what I've got. Basically it met up with 90 east of Patison and ran east of Katy where it started to run SE again towards the current location of George Bush Park where is continued to run East into Houston. While I can't verify the exact route I believe it to be something close to the present day route of Westheimer and then onto W. Alabama into downtown.

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

SpaceGhost,

 

You are correct in the approximate route. However, the rail was never built, the company was in the process of aquiring the land when the project was cancelled.

 

If you look at the Harris County property maps of the Barker Reservoir you can see the alignment north of the old Westheimer road right-of-way.

 

A friend of mine is the president of the Richmond Railroad Museum, We have discussed this at length and was able to confirm it with the museum historian.

  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

@TexasFreeway.com

 

Huh I never knew that they didn't make it the full way to Houston. However I do know that some of the trackage was built in a few spots. One of them being in the present Barker Reservoir. I was able to confirm this with Henry Nemec who is owner of the Clodine General store. This was quite a few years ago while his store was still open. I spoke with him about tearing up the railroad for the Westpark Tollway (must of been ~2000). He mentioned that when he was a small child there was an abandoned set of tracks out near the current road in the reservoir. He also said there was a building near the railroad that he believed to possibly be a depot although it was only bits of wood left so he didn't know for sure. According to Mr. Nemec the rails where long abandoned when he played on them. He assumed that the rails themselves survived up until the beginning of WW2 when they would of been scrapped although he wasn't completely sure.

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 2 weeks later...

I didn't know I had to manually follow this topic so I was unaware I caused any further activity.

 

I see TexasFreeway's assertion that the TWRR ran through Bush park and down Westheimer. I believe this is very probable.

 

I examined the possible path through Bush park with the historical tool in Google Earth which, in the Harris County portion, goes back to 1944 and seems to be yet obvious at that late date. I used the line tool to follow the path angle back toward Brookshire and, to my surprise, it almost perfectly met the point at which I stopped my logically-concluded route from Pattison, about 2.5 miles east of Brookshire at US 90. The two paths met in the middle, so to speak.

 

As for operations, however, my elder family recalled (and cussed) the train running in stories I heard as far back as the 1960's and the source of my initial curiosity. That side of my family arrived and settled in San Felipe about 1878.

 

According to the Texas State Historical Association (in an article contributed by Mr. George C. Werner), the railroad began operating the 42 miles between Houston and Pattison on April 23, 1877. The 10 miles from Pattison to Sealy was completed in 1882 and had, I assume, at least some type of operation. In a recent discovery, the apparent Texas Western roundhouse turntable was uncovered in Sealy  during a fence-building operation.

 

Note that I included links in the references above.

 

I've read accounts about this railroad company and I believe it's demise was simply that they chose narrow gauge. That choice caused additional costs and logistical issues because it required passengers and freight to be manually transferred to other rail companies.

 

I hope to get back to this soon. As it appears the western terminus for the TWRR was at Sealy, I would like find the eastern terminus and route into Houston.

 

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • The title was changed to Railroad Bridge Over The Brazos River 1882

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...
×
×
  • Create New...