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Fifth Street Station

Cotton Belt railroad train station

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#1 Not Sure

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Posted 18 August 2014 - 07:56 AM

I've been going over a Cotton Belt Railroad employee timetable from 1972 trying to retrace some of the operations of the railroad in Fort Worth. For those who may not know, the freight railroad property that makes up the bulk of the TexRail project from Fort Worth to Grapevine was previously owned and operated by the St. Louis - Southwestern Railway, a.k.a. the "Cotton Belt".


Most freight trains into Fort Worth terminated at Hodge Yard, which is located between Deen Road and Sylvania north of Long Avenue and runs underneath I-35W. [I'd love to know the history of the name Hodge for this area, but that's another topic.] However, the tracks continued farther to the southwest to the large interlocking near the stockyards called Tower 60 and continued somewhere beyond that point about two miles to Fifth Street Station.


Does anyone remember this station and exactly where it was located? There is a reference to the Belknap overpass in the timetable in the portion describing operations to Fifth Street Station, so I suspect it was located somewhere near Tower 55.


I know that Cotton Belt had a track continue across Tower 60 southwesterly from the stockyards parallel to the former Frisco tracks which are today used by the Fort Worth and Western. This served a few industries in the area that will become Panther Island (anyone remember the tracks running down Commerce Street?). It also happened to run right by 5th Street to the old power plant just west of Main Street.


The reference to the Belknap overpass is a pretty strong clue, but I haven't found anything else to help me locate this station. If anyone has any information or recollections of the Cotton Belt in Fort Worth, I'd enjoy reading your responses.

#2 John T Roberts

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Posted 18 August 2014 - 10:02 AM

I think that station may refer to the Cotton Belt Depot which would have been on 5th Street, if the Spur 280 interchange had not changed the street arrangement.  The building has now been converted into the clubhouse and office for the Depot Apartments.  Check out this link: http://www.fortworth...cottondepot.htm

#3 Not Sure

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Posted 19 August 2014 - 12:22 PM

I can't tell you how many times I've passed that building and I never noticed the sign. When I've taken trains down the tracks just to the west of the building I'm usually on the lookout for a red signal, stop sign or some other obstruction so my eyes don't get far from the rails. 


A little more searching yielded a thread started by "djold1" several years ago:




Although the image doesn't show up for me, the description in the thread reveals that the original Cotton Belt passenger depot was located around Fifth Street near the old power plant just north of downtown. Around 1913 the right-of-way was acquired to construct the Cotton Belt freight depot, which was also built on Fifth Street but east of downtown and which is now repurposed into apartments. It's rare for me to say this, but it turns out I was right. Cotton Belt had depots in both Fifth Street locations.


What I'd like to find out next is whether the track leading from just south of the Trinity River to the freight depot was at one time owned by Cotton Belt. Two things make me think this may be the case. First, although the track is not officially named (other than having a number), I work with some folks who have been there forty years and everyone knows this track as "the Gauntlet." Gauntlet has a pretty foreboding connotation but without some particular danger associated with the track, it seems a bit over the top for a siding or yard track that terminates in a yard. The similarly named gantlet track is a pair of interlaced tracks sharing a common narrow right-of-way. There is not enough room for two trains to pass one another on such a track, so collisions were a risk back when these tracks were in use. A similar arrangement with two tracks converging into one and then diverging after an obstruction, such as a tunnel or a bridge, might also be called a gantlet track even if technically it is not. This is basically the railroad version of northeast loop 820 where 121, 183 and 820 all converge and share lanes for a mile or two. While the arrangement leading to the Cotton Belt freight depot is not a true gantlet track, it was common to refer to a dangerous track -- especially one with multiple railroads operating on it -- as a gantlet or gauntlet track. The 1972 Cotton Belt timetable special instructions covering operations on this track call for a trainman to man the switches so they can be lined back quickly if a train approaches unexpectedly. In that case, the danger associated with this track seems to warrant the name Gauntlet. 


Second, from the switch where the Gauntlet diverges from the FW&D main the track all the way down to the Belknap overpass, the track spacing is much greater than normal, even for now, but especially for the early 1900s. Often when tracks are spaced far apart like this it's because the tracks were originally centered in their own rights-of-way. I wonder if this was the case here and if the Gauntlet track was originally constructed in the right-of-way Cotton Belt acquired in 1913.


Getting back to my original question about the Fifth Street station, now that I've found djold1's reference to a passenger depot and original yard located near the site of the old power plant, I wonder if anyone can point me to photographs or maps of this area from the turn of the century to 1915 or so. I'd like to know what Cotton Belt's passenger and freight operations might have looked like at that time.

#4 djold1


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Posted 19 August 2014 - 03:50 PM

"Cotton Belt had depots in both Fifth Street locations."   Both the original Cotton Belt Passenger & Freight depots were near NORTHWEST 5th near the old power plant and in the original Cotton Belt yards that were built around 1889.   Then around 1900 the passengers started using either the new Santa Fe Depot or the T&P depot..can't remember which without looking it up.  The new freight depot which was built 1915?? was near downtown on NORTHEAST 5th. 


Don't have any information on the gaunlet/gantlet track.  You might try the Railspot Group on FB.  I think there is also a Cotton 
Belt Group as well. 


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The Lost Antique Maps of Fort Worth on CDROM
Website: Antique Maps of Texas
Large format reproductions of original antique and vintage Texas & southwestern maps

#5 Not Sure

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Posted 21 August 2014 - 11:16 AM

Thanks, Pete. I don't do facebook, but I just joined the Railspot Yahoo! group. I've been part of the Cotton Belt Yahoo! group for awhile now, but it has very little activity. The Railspot group and the similar Texoma group are both very active. Maybe someone on one of those lists will know.

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