Railroad Journey of Denison, Texas
Founded by the Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad (the Katy) in 1872,
Denison, named after a railroad executive, was the entry point of the
first non-Texas based railroad. Then the Houston & Texas Central
connected to the KATY in the mid-1870s, and Denison became home to
the first north/south railroad connection in Texas. The city grew as a
transportation hub throughout the 20th century, and was a very
important economic center for all of northern Texas and southern
Oklahoma.

Then passenger services diminished in the 1960s. When freight service
declined in the 1990s, Denison's rail switching yards were dismantled
and sold for scrap.  A bypass for US 75 was built west of town, and now
the city that once was giving Dallas a run for its money is struggling to
hold on.
Dwight D. Eisenhower was born in this small home near the
KATY tracks in Dension, where his father worked for the
railroad. Eisenhower, we all know, became the Commander of
US Armed Forces in WWII and President of the United States
from 1952-1960.

Here's a funny coincidence that will appeal mainly to history
nerds (like me!): Eisenhower called
Abilene, Kansas, his home
(it's where his presidential library and museum can be visited).
Abilene was the first terminus of the
Chisholm Trail, which was
founded by Joseph McCoy in 1867. Joseph McCoy would later
move to Denison, where he became part owner of the nation's
first refrigerated car company, which was built to supplant the
Chisholm Trail.
Across the tracks on Main Street sits the old Traveler's Hotel, built by a
German sea captain and now a private residence.
Denison opened the first free, public, white school in Texas that was
segregated by grades. In 2007, the beautiful mission-style high school on the
western end of downtown was razed.

What was weird about this unbelievably short-sighted act was that the high
school was owned by the city. The city justified their act by explaining that it
wants to use the site as a library (and sell the rest of the land to developers).
So, one should ask: isn't the city responsible for keeping the town's cultural
heritage? Therefore, shouldn't the city leaders have kept the main part of the
school, renovated it, and built it into a library?

Many Denison residents thought exactly that way. They tried their best to
stop demolition, but money won out.To read more about this senseless and
unnecessary destruction, click on these links:

National Trust Article
Save Denison's History  - Excellent research paper by Mavis Bryant
Save Denison's History Site
Preservation Texas
Texas Observer Article

Oh, how I wish the city leaders would have taken a page from Jefferson's play
book.
Jefferson,Texas, an important in-land port city in the 19th century, was
on the verge of historic demolition when it decided to re-create itself into a
tourist attraction. Today, Jefferson is one of Texas' most interesting and
visited destinations. Its history, while older, parallels Denison's in many, many
ways. It is a sad day when city leaders do not, WILL not, think of generations
to come.
The KATY Flyer steams through Denison. Museum of the
American Railroad.
KATY diesel locomotive sits next
to the
Red River Railroad Museum.
This 1908 bridge over the Red River replaced the 1872 bridge
that succumbed to the tremendous floods of that year. The
KATY, H&TC, and Frisco railways used this viaduct.
Though the city does not have near the amount of rail traffic it
used to, Denison still sports remnants of the vast infrastructure
that supported several railroads.
Click on this map to visit Denison in 1891,
courtesy of the
Amon Carter Museum.
Some good eating can be
had at Watson's Drive-In on
Main Street.
Texas and Pacific Railway
survey marker in someone's
front yard near the old KATY
switch yards.
Are you a "foamer" like I am (railroad people know what
I'm talking about)? Then let
me know - and share your
photos with readers!
Questions or comments? E-mail me:
robin@redriverhistorian.com
The Missouri Kansas Texas yards and roundhouse,
just west of the viaduct, in 1895. (MKT Archives)
Steamboats, like the Annie P, landed near Denison at the turn of the 20th
century. These boats were mostly used for excursions, however, as
travelers deemed the rails much more efficient.
A Texas & Pacific
locomotive barrels
through the tunnel,
with the tracks of the
MKT passing
overhead. (T&P
Archives)
The remains of a bridge
abutment from the
Kansas-Oklahoma- Gulf
(nee Missouri-Oklahoma-
Gulf) railroad line.
Last remaining pole for
the interurban line
between Dallas and
Denison, which was
decommissioned in the
1940s.
I love finding remains of railroads. Read my blog
about
"Mapping the Red River Valley" using old
railroad tracks.