Railroad Depot & Caboose

In 1874, to ensure the railroad would come to Farmers Branch, Dr. Gilbert and other local settlers sold rights-of-way through their land. Around 1877, the Dallas and Wichita Railroad built this depot. The rail line, which runs from Dallas to Denton, was sold to Jay Gould and the Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad in 1881. The Interurban Railway electrified the line in 1924 and until 1931 ran as many as 50 scheduled trains per day. The Depot was relocated to the Historical Park and restored in 1985. The Depot is used to display artifacts that demonstrate the impact different modes of transportation had on early Texas. The 1890s all-wood Caboose includes original bunks, sink, icebox, hardware and potbelly stove.
Farmers Branch Railroad - The Story
In 1874, to help ensure the railroad would come to Farmers Branch, Dr. Samuel Gilbert, John H. Longmire and other local land owners sold rights-of-way through their land to the Dallas and Wichita Railway Company for the price of $1 per acre. For them, the railroad signaled progress –quick transportation and communication; access to goods and services from coast to coast; and a stimulated local economy.

Around 1877, the D & W built this depot in Farmers Branch located near the intersection of Valley View Lane and Denton Drive becoming the first railroad line to reach the Farmers Branch/Carrollton area. The D & W had projected to lay over 100 miles of track when it began construction in 1872 but by 1873 the railroad stopped construction due to finances. Work resumed in 1877 only after Dallas citizens voted $100,000 in bonds for the project and 1878 twenty miles of track had been built from Dallas north to Lewisville. Because of inconsistent schedules and frequent breakdowns, local residents called the D & W, the Dallas and “which a way.” In 1880 the line was bought by the Texas and Pacific Company, which completed an extension from Lewisville to Denton. The D & W was sold on December 15, 1881 to the Missouri, Kansas and Texas Railway Company of Texas, or as locals called it, the Katy.

The depot was the commercial hub of the town. Farmer’s crops and manufactured goods were shipped out and merchandise for local stores and items ordered by citizens through mail order catalogs were shipped in. Depot arrivals included new citizens, visitors, newspapers, mail, and telegraph messages.

The railroad was the major method of transportation in north Texas until the 1920s when better highways encouraged the use of private automobiles. By 1938, passenger service between Dallas and Denton had ceased and only freight trains were running. By 1958, the Farmers Branch Depot had been closed and sold for use as part of a lumber yard. The City of Farmers Branch purchased the depot in 1982 and moved it into the Historical Park in 1985. The depot was restored and dedicated in 1986.

The depot itself was originally 18’ X 42’ and consisted of: a freight room, an agent’s office in the center, and two waiting rooms. In 1946 to cut the square footage and relieve the tax burdens, the two waiting rooms were removed. Today, the depot consists of two rooms: a freight room and a combination office/waiting room.

The exterior of the Farmers Branch Depot is of board and batten construction-vertical planks with wooden strips or battens covering the seams. The deep overhang of the roof and jig-saw trim are common decorative elements used in “railroad architecture.”
The paint colors on the depot exterior were the standard colors used by the M K & T Railroad Company. In addition to the depot itself, other buildings were built nearby for use by the railroad, such as a water tank, stock pens, potato house, and water wells.

The furnishings of the waiting rooms were probably rather sparse, limited to benches, spittoons, and a pot belly stove. The walls might have been “decorated” with calendars, timetables and posters. Light was provided by kerosene lamp. The freight room would have been equipped with scales, a baggage truck and other maintenance equipment. Standard furnishings for the agent’s office would have included a table or desk at the bay window, where the agent could see up and down the track, telegraph equipment, and the ubiquitous regulator or pendulum clock.

The clock was always a prominent feature in the depot. As railroad travel predominated American life, people became time conscious. First, railroads brought a faster pace of life which had to be closely regulated by time. The train did not wait on passengers. Either they were on board or not when the schedule dictated departure. Those left behind quickly learned the importance of synchronizing their time pieces with the depot clock! The second affect on time consciousness was in the standardization of time. Before 1883 there were fifty-four individual or local time standards across the country. Railroad expansion brought uniformity, first by making the depot clock the time criterion of each town, then by establishing four time zones which covered all of the United States.

The world had grown smaller for Americans by the 1890s. The steel highway was now supplying cities and rural areas alike with food, fuel, building materials and access to markets. Travel to far flung locals took a fraction of the time than in a covered wagon and railroads facilitated growth along their lines making suburban living feasible.