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.

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
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:
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)
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.
The remains of a bridge abutment from the Kansas-Oklahoma- Gulf (nee
Missouri-Oklahoma- Gulf) railroad line.
One of the few remains of the MKT Roundhouse... it's a shame that most
of Denison's fantastic infrastructure has fallen into ruin. To see what I
mean, read up on
Denison's Roundhouses.
Old sign that denotes the now-defunct St. Louis-San Francisco Railroad's
property (aka the Frisco Line.)
Take a road trip to Denison - you'll be glad you did. Just drive
around.. you can't get too lost in this fantastic town.