title of this article was the not-so-affectionate nickname drawn from the acronym
for the first railroad in East Texas:
The Houston East & West Texas, or HE&WT.
The name refers to the sometimes
rough ride offered by the line's best known locomotive, "The
Rabbit," so named because of the many times it "jumped" from the track.
The HE&WT was the fulfilled dream of Paul Bremond. With help of directors
and stockholders, Bremond chartered the narrow-gauge line in 1875. The plan was
to build a railroad through the heart of East
Texas from Houston to Shreveport,
Louisiana. The HE&WT would connect in the north with the Texas and Pacific and
in the south with the Texas and New Orleans, major trunk lines that served territory
between the Mississippi Valley and California and with major ports.
miles of track were in place by 1877. Cleveland
was reached in 1878, Livingston
in 1879, Lufkin in 1882,
and Nacogdoches in
1883. When the mainline reached the Sabine
River in 1885, it connected with the Shreveport and Houston Railway Company
for the final leg into Shreveport. Bremond's dream did not enrich him; instead
it consumed most of his personal wealth. But it did turn the natural resources
of East Texas into wealth for
others. The East Texas timber
industry and the HE&WT complemented each other. Imagine first how many crossties
are required to build its 191 miles of track. That alone was a great stimulus
for expanding the felling and milling of East Texas timber. Then, with the railroad
in place, billions more board feet could be carried to markets any where in the
The HE&WT also enriched the folklore of the region. Consider this
story: Homer was the county
seat of Angelina County. When the HE&WT crews reached the county, Homer's
citizens were not hospitable to them so the line founded Lufkin,
which was named for a ship captain, and the line bypassed Homer.
Soon the business moved to the railroad and Lufkin
replaced Homer as the county
seat. There might have been more to it than that, but why mess with a good story?
Too, through a recording by singer Tex Ritter, most people in the English
speaking world have heard of "Tenaha,
Timpson, Bobo, and Blair," all stops along the HE&WT. The alliteration tickled
the ears of riders who heard conductors announce these places along the route.
Verses from the song reminds us of the importance of East
Texas' first railroad:
"On that H E- W- T line, Old East Texas sure
Drop me off just anywhere, Tenaha, Timpson, Bobo and Blair
Hear those drivers pound the rails, Takin' me back to Texas
ticket, paid my fair, Tenaha, Timpson, Bobo and Blair
en-gineer, Pull that throttle, track is clear
There's a gal waitin' there,
Tenaha, Timpson, Bobo and Blair."
Timpson, Bobo, and Blair by Archie P. McDonald
Things Historical Dec. 23-29, 2001Column
A syndicated column
in over 40 East Texas newspapers
Published with permission
McDonald is Director of the East Texas Historical Association and author or editor
of over 20 books on Texas)
Related Topics: Texas
Railroads | East Texas Towns