|The Train Stations of Waxahachie
When I was in high school, I met my first Waxahachian, or whatever you call people
from Waxahachie. He had just moved to Paris, and I thought he was gorgeous, with his
dimpled cheeks and strong chin. I never went out with him, because a) my mantra was
that I'd never date anyone I'd see walking down the hallways at school the next day,
just in case I had done something I would be embarrassed by, and b) he never asked
me. C'est la vie.
I don't even remember this guy's name, and he's about all I know of Waxahachie. I
decided to learn more, but not for any romantic reasons - I just wanted to know what
was behind all the moanings and carrying-ons about Waxahchie's Victorian
architecture and the gargoyles on the courthouse. At least once a year the Dallas
Morning News has some write-up about a day trip to Waxahachie, and while I've been
to the annual Scarsborough Faire, I still don't know much about the town. So guess
what I did?
A Visit to Waxahachie
I must admit, Waxahachie has one of the nicest downtowns I've seen in a while. In the center sits a remarkably well-scrubbed courthouse,
famous for the sandstone carvings done by an Italian sculptor who apparently used the likeness of a woman who spurned his advances as
the model for the many cherub faces on the friezes. The courthouse is surrounded by high curbed sidewalks, a soda fountain (closed due
to illness), and brick buildings renovated into apartments. Just a block north sits the old jail, which has been converted into attorney's
offices. A small stream and park nestled at the foot of the jail building looks a little like a moat surrounding a fortress. All of this is so
quaint it would make even the most cynical visitor say something fairly nice.
While the city has marked an auto tour around the downtown area, I decided to skip that, since I've never been too impressed by Victorian
architecture. Instead, I spent some time poking around the southern end of downtown, by South Rogers Street. There, I found three
abandoned train stations near the tracks. One track was still used, but the other had succumbed to weeds and various debris. There may
have been a third track, but I didn't see it.
Though Waxahachie was founded prior to the Civil War, its existence as a chartered town didn't begin until 1871. Like most towns in Texas,
the arrival of the railroad solidified Waxahachie's existence. The first one was the Waxahachie Tap Railroad, a citizen-sponsored rail line
which ran a line to Garrett in the east to connect to the Houston-Texas-Central line so that the city would not be bypassed by the railroads.
Later,that line was bought out by Union Pacific.
That brings me to the first of the depots. Union Pacific freight rail stations are never much to look at, consisting basically of a long,
wooden barn/shed. That's why so few exist. However, right there on the south end of Waxahachie sits a UP station - at least my research
(albeit not too deep) and former sightings of other UP freight stations portend it as such.
Across from the Feed Store sits another depot, with a platform made of Thurber pavers. The depot faces an abandoned track and, if my
hunches hold up, may be the old KATY (Missouri Kansas Texas) station. What is even cooler is the telegraph pole and the signal pole that
sit next to the track.
I consulted my handy "SPV's Comprehensive Railroad Atlas of North
America - Texas Edition," to see what railroads crossed through
Waxahachie and sure enough, I see Union
Pacific (formerly Houston-Texas-Central), Burlington Northern
Santa Fe (formerly the Trinity and Brazos Valley Railway), and
another Union Pacific (what was once the KATY).
Since obviously the "Santa Fe Station" harks back to the time
before the Burlington - Santa Fe merger of 1996, it stands to
reason that the station may have actually been
built by the Trinity and Brazos Valley Railway in 1907, or
re-furbished to look more like a Burlington Station once that
railroad (as the Burlington-Rock Island) took over
Maybe my sleuthing is right or wrong... but whatever the case, I
hope that someone more knowledgeable will point out to me what
I might have missed. What I find strange is that I couldn't find a
historical marker anywhere near the depots. I'm sure that the Ellis
County or Waxahachie Historical Commissions/Societies are
making sure to protect them, but I wonder why they're not
prominently marked, as they are in the midst of the Waxahachie
Historic District and sit close by a preserved truss bridge. That
these three stations exist at all is just absolutely fantastic!
In the ensuing years since I've written the article, I've discovered
that the city is protecting all of its depots. It even seems as
though the city will create a walking trail of the former MKT right
|The jail building dates from the 1880s and had a carousel system of security. Today, it
houses attorneys (insert lawyer joke here).
|The UP Freight Station is next to the Feed Store.
|This is the KATY depot, from what I've been learning.
|The Trinity-Brazos Depot, which later on became the Santa Fe depot, has
a roof line that is very similiar to the depot in Corsicana.
|Before the MKT depot was
renovated, the original
(telegraph and signal poles)
|How to get there
Waxahachie (Wahk-sah-ha-chee) is a Wichita word that means
"Buffalo Creek." It's located at the intersections of Interstate 35, US
287, and US 77 south of Dallas in Ellis County.
|Disued MKT bridge near the former MKT depot. The depot has been
renovated and is now used for office space by a contracting
|Waxahachie has some very interesting architecture, mainly due to
its pivotal role as the center of Texas' post-Civil War cotton country.
While the city is known for its stately ginger-bread houses that were
built by local merchants and bankers, the houses of the workers
are, to me anyway, equally as intriguing. In the historically "black
part of town," century-old shot gun houses still welcome tenants.