BYSPOT, AND NORTHERN: A TRAM RAILROAD THAT TIME FORGOT By
W. T. Block
the region generally referred to as The
Big Thicket, there remain traces of rotted crossties and rights-of-way, that
were once the logging railroads, over which the various sawmills received their
raw materials. One of the trams near Peach Creek and northward into San Jacinto
County was known variously as the "Bennette tram" or "Tom-Lee tram," before the
35-mile railroad became the Conroe, Byspot and Northern. By 1918, J. O. H. Bennette
had been a pioneer Conroe sawmiller and businessman for decades, and it came as
no surprise that he executed a contract with Sante Fe Railroad and Kirby Lumber
Corporation as follows:|
"Locally, the (log) tram is known as the 'Conroe,
Byspot and Northern,' ... 12 miles in length and running from Butlersburg...,
has been purchased by Kirby Lumber Company on account of Sante Fe Tie and Lumber
Preserving Company...Mr. Bennette to build an extension to the tram 25 miles into
timber already purchased. This tram owned and operated by Mr. Bennette is not
incorporated and is not being operated now as a tram road....."
O. H. Bennette first built a log railroad in 1898 from his sawmill at old Security,
some five miles across Peach Creek to his "log front" at Teddy or Byspot
in southwest San Jacinto County. At first, the log front was named Teddy for the
new hero of San Juan Hill (Theodore Roosevelt during the Spanish-American War),
but Bennette soon changed the name to Byspot, which was the first 6 letters of
his wife's name (Topsy Bennette), spelled backwards. Strangely, the writer only
found references to the C. B. N. railroad in the archives of San Jacinto County.
In 1904, Bennette's Old Security sawmill cut 35,000 feet daily, but in
1907, he bought another sawmill from John G. McGregor of McGregor's Switch, 3
miles north of Conroe. About 1910,
Bennette founded a sawmilling partnership at Butlersburg, named the Bennette-Davison
Lumber Company, and he extended his old tram road from Security to Butlersburg.
Gradually, Bennette extended the Conroe, Byspot and Northern rails northward until
they reached the outskirts of Coldspring.
About 1920, Bennette sold out
his Butlersburg sawmill to Tom-Lee Lumber Company. During those years, the railroad
was often referred to in the San Jacinto County archives as "the Bennette tram"
or the "Tom-Lee tram." About 1925, Tom-Lee Lumber went into bankruptcy, and most
of its assets were acquired at a sheriff's auction by Delta Land and Timber Company
cut out of logs on its 90,000 acre tract northwest of Conroe in the Lake Conroe
area, Delta Land quickly turned to the Conroe, Byspot, and Northern for relief
since large tracts of pines still stood in central San Jacinto County around Coldspring.
In 1926, the Delta loggers were cutting timber within a mile of the outskirts
of Coldspring, and loggers resided in that city rather than at the log front.
According to Ruth Hansbro's thesis, "History of San Jacinto County," Delta Land
also built a commissary at Coldspring in 1926 for the loggers' convenience. And
for five years, Delta Land's commissary and logging continued unabated until financial
distress in 1931 forced that firm to suspend all sawmill activities. About 1935,
the old Delta plant was sold to Conroe Lumber Company, owned by the Kurth families
of Lufkin, and by then all Delta
timber in San Jacinto County had been cut out.
Conroe, Byspot and Northern was never a chartered short-line railroad, but it
nevertheless carried on many of the activities typical of a chartered railroad.
It hauled supplies to the Delta land commissary at Coldspring. Delta also hauled
supplies and box cars of lumber for at last four sawmills it did not own, one
12 miles east of Conroe in Montgomery County, and three, including the Tom Hill
Hardwood Company at Coldspring, and the Fred Jeans and H. S. Lilley crosstie sawmills
between Coldspring and Byspot.
The only thing the writer lacks is proof that the C. B. N. Railroad pulled a passenger
car that carried both mail and passengers to Coldspring as well, but that may
happen some day as well. The 40-mile tram road was abandoned in 1931, and apparently,
its rails and crossties were soon removed.
W. T. Block, Jr. |
November 1, 2006 column
from the Beaumont Enterpirse, Saturday December 5, 1998.