Stephenville North and South Texas Railway
The Stephenville North & South Texas Railway (SN&ST) was incorporated in Texas on February 4, 1907 by Stephenville and Hamilton business interests. Its original standard gauge 43 mile line was built between Stephenville and Hamilton and completed in late 1907. The first train operated between Stephenville and Hamilton on Christmas Day 1907. Regular service began in January 1908. Four apparently identical wooden depots of a standard design were built at Hamilton, Carlton, Spurlin, and Alexander (where the Texas Central line of the Katy Railroad crossed). The SN&ST shared a union station with its original primary railroad connection, the long established Fort Worth & Rio Grande Railroad at Stephenville. A serious flood in April 1908 caused the owners of the line to seek a buyer. In January 1909 a half interest in the line was sold to Commonwealth Trust Company of St. Louis. The St. Louis Southwestern Railway of Texas (known as "the Cotton Belt Route") bought the railroad in April 1910. The charter of the SN&ST was amended on April 18, 1910 to permit extensions of the railroad from Hamilton to Gatesville, Texas; from Stephenville to Thurber, Texas; and from Edson, Texas to Comanche, Texas. However, the line from Stephenvile to Thurber was never built.
The Hamilton to Gatesville extension of 32 miles was built in 1910-1911 to establish a primary connection with the St. Louis Southwestern Railway at Gatesville. New brick stations of Cotton Belt design were built at Gatesville, Ireland, and Hamilton, with wooden depots at Levita and Aleman. The first train operated on this new line on February 15, 1911. The competing Temple Northwestern Railway sought a similar franchise and graded from Temple, Texas to Gatesville in 1910, with plans to build on to Hamilton and Comanche, but the SN&ST extensions were built first. The new 31-mile line from Edson, four miles north of Hamilton, to Comanche was completed in 1911 and the first train operated on September 3, 1911. A brick depot was built at Comanche, with wooden depots at Gustine, Lamkin, and Edson. Of note on this line was the spectacular curved Bear Creek Trestle, known on the line as Trestle #5, just west of Edson. The extensions of the SN&ST were built under contract with the firm of Thompson and Scott, based on a proposal. The northward extension to serve the bituminous coal mines at Thurber, Texas was never built.
The SN&ST was leased to the St. Louis Southwestern Railway of Texas for operation starting on July 1, 1913 for a period of ten years. After the first 10-year lease, it was renewed for a period of two years five times. On October 17, 1934 all SN&ST trackage north of Hamilton was abandoned. The railroad was then leased by St. Louis Southwestern one more time, for six years, followed by an application to the Interstate Commerce Commission to abandon the SN&ST's remaining trackage between Hamilton and Gatesville in December 1939. Despite strong local opposition from Hamilton interests, this remaining trackage was abandoned on February 6, 1941 and was removed by August 1941.
The first motive power on the line were two ten wheelers #50 and #51. These were known to be former Pennsylvania Railroad locomotives because of their Altoona Machine Shop builders plates. The two SN&ST locomotives were built in the mid-1870s by Altoona. They were retired in 1912-1913 and replaced with St. Louis Southwestern Railway locomotives. The most common types of St. Louis Southwestern steam locomotives used on the SN&ST lines were American and Mogul types. The St. Louis Southwestern General Electric motor cars were used for the passenger accommodation on the lines. Of note in the early days of the SN&ST were excursion trains powered by Santa Fe and Missouri Kansas Texas locomotives.
The station at Gatesville is the Gatesville Chamber of Commerce, the station at Ireland is a private residence, and the station at Hamilton is a car dealership. Parts of the old right of way can still be seen.
(UPDATE: The "car dealership" has moved out since the time of this post. It has been kept intact since the dealership moved out, and parts of the 'depot' can still be seen with the original stain glass windows, and after the Texan Theater Fire burned down earlier this year (2010), the sign 'Hamilton' is visible on the west side of the depot. It has an auto part store in one of the mechanic bays. It is now a 'rental' space for lease for any small business to operate. Much of the old R.O.W. can be followed out to Pecan Creek Park north of town, by Murphy's Wrecking yard, as concrete culverts, drainage portals still exist, and along U.S. 281, there is a billboard sign north of town, and a county road to your left or right facing north or south on U.S. 281 that shows a section of abandoned R.O.W. that goes west north west to an abandoned WYE that splits north through some hills, then crosses U.S. 281 along current County Road 203, crosses through a valley in a western direction toward Spurlin, Carlton, Alexander and Stephenville, TX. The western route, snakes along westerly crossing County Road 101, and a culvert concrete tunnel exists on your right if you take the CR 101 (OLD Stephenville Highway) CR 103 branches to your left and you will find an abandoned R.O.W. with a drainage pipe under the R.O.W. with 1927 stamped on it. C.R. 103 snakes around and meets up with the R.O.W. and goes to a now closed bridge. C.R. 103 is broken on both sides of a rotted trestle bridge, as the rest of the R.O.W. can be seen on the west side of the bridge and take the rest of C.R. 103 to C.R. 106. If you can get an official Hamilton County Road map. (That's from personal experience and road trips.) The 'southern' half of the railroad is obscured from bulldozing and erosion. Much of the R.O.W. south of Hamilton can be seen by U.S. 281 south, and goes east to Aleman, Ireland, Levita, and Gatesville, TX. (This is the section that remained until January 1941 a few months before December 7, 1941.) Take Farm To Market Road 932 from Hamilton, to Ireland, and you can see much of the R.O.W. In Aleman much of it now is private drive way. And sections exist where a railroad shaped mound of dirt once held railroad tracks. Drive past Aleman, and in the distance you can make out the old R.O.W. going east to Ireland. The old R.O.W. does 'snake' around FM 932. If it exists then it hasn't been bulldozed or eroded away totally. What remains approx 1 to 2 miles just north of Ireland is some concrete signal base and support with rusted bolts. It's a stretch of FM 932 along your left side (going north) or right side (going south) along FM 932 in side the barb wire fence before / after you cross C.R. 432 in Hamilton County. )
- See pages 22–23 of Cotton Belt Locomotives by Joseph A. Strapac, Shade Tree Books, Huntington Beach, CA 1977.
- Cooper, Edwin C. (2011). Cotton Belt Engineer The Life and Times of C. W. "Red" Standefer 1898-1981. Author House, Bloomington, IN. ISBN 978-1-4490-6919-3.
Much of the information gathered since the original post on the subject has been road trips
to and from the area, and observation of any evidence since 2001. Maps on the subject can be obtained at the University of Texas at Austin, or by U.S.G.S.
It can contain accurate maps of where any railroad may have been and provide the route where each railroad went. Late Fall to Late Winter are the best times to see any remains of the abandoned R.O.W. or commonly called in Texas "railroad dumps". A friend of mine has two 'railroad dumps' on his private property. A 'main' line and a siding where cars were cut.