Mineola’s train heritage steamed into view Saturday in recognition of 90 years of Texas & Pacific Railroad history and the T&P employees who helped to shape the character of Mineola.
According to local historian and Landmark Commission Chairman Jim Phillips, the contribution of the Texas & Pacific to the development of Mineola cannot be overstated.
It was early 1929 when the T&P moved its railway terminal from Longview to Mineola, according to Phillips. He cited accounts from the Longview newspaper at the time, which reported that roughly 700 employees were being transferred to Mineola.
“That’s the biggest impact that’s happened to Mineola in its history,” Phillips told a capacity crowd squeezed into the train depot. “Because you’re talking economically, culturally, civically and even spiritually. Because you had 700 men, and that doesn’t even count their brides and their families that moved here, scrambling to find rooms in January, February and March of ’29.
The influx of newcomers caused a spike in school enrollment, prompting the school district to build East Ward Elementary, Phillips said.
“There would be new churches, new streets and new additions because of all these people in town,” he said, and many of them came to regard Mineola as their new hometown.
The presence of the T&P – and its $3.7 million in annual payroll in Mineola – was crucial to the city as summer transitioned to fall. It was in October 1929 when the stock market crashed, setting the stage for the Great Depression.
“The T&P saved Mineola economically,” said Phillips. “And then when you have these people who moved here and started working here; it’s going to carry Mineola for years as the largest employer,” he said.
So 90 years later, Mineola is a city that still shows gratitude for the T&P’s impact.
The T&P was established through a federal charter in 1871. It initially was expected to become a transcontinental railroad running between Marshall, Texas, and San Diego, Calif. The T&P merged with the Missouri-Pacific Railroad in 1976, and the line eventually merged with Union Pacific in 1997.
Saturday’s event was sponsored by the Landmark Commission, the City of Mineola, and Mineola ISD’s Junior Historians.