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1930 Aerial ~Trinity River Bottoms

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#1 djold1


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Posted 02 September 2008 - 12:32 PM

The image below is a north-looking aerial view taken from my copy of the 1930 TCU Yearbook. This picture may appear soon in Jack White's fabulous Fort Worth gallery. The primary focus of the picture was the FWPL/TESCO generating plant that has now been partially demolished by the unthinking educational powers that be. In getting the picture to Jack for eventual use I did a little work to flesh out some additional history of what was in the early days called the "Trinity Bottoms" or "Buttermilk Flats". I submitted the information below to Jack's group as supplementary detail and am placing it in this Forum for anyonoe interested. Your suggestions, corrections or additions to this small history will be appreciated.



There is much more shown in this 1930 Trinity
Bottoms aerial than just the FWP&L/TESCO power plant. It is one of the few
FW north looking aerials that shows the area between Paddock Viaduct and the
West Fort of the Trinity in any detail in that period. This picture was
probably taken in 1929 as Fort Worth Power & Light, the
owner of the power plant, was merging with TESCO. The merger was apparently
completed in December 1929 according to reports.


Directly to the top or west of the TESCO generating plant, the remnants of
the original 1889 terminal rail yards of the St. Louis & Southwestern
(Cotton Belt) may be seen if you look carefully. The tracks run off toward
the top right of the picture.

According to the maps of the period, in the late 1800's and the early 1900's
the Cotton Belt had extensive rail yards and shops in this location between
North Main and the river and later between the FWP&L plant and the levees.
The also brought coal and possibly oil to the FWP&L plant as well as
probably to the early Citizen's street car line power plant. This relatively
small plant was on the opposite side of first the old North Main iron bridge
and then the Paddock Viaduct and was connected via a spur that looped south
of the TESCO plant and under the bridges.

The 1891 FW perspective map and other period maps show a small building
at the southern end that was used to load & unload passengers before 1900
when the Cotton Belt joined one
of the Union Terminals. There were other structures in the area including a
turntable and perhaps a roundhouse.
I wonder if the small building to the left of the tracks in the picture may
have been the old freight house?

Due to the inconvenient location and the constant problem of the frequent
floods covering everything, the
freight house was moved for a time to a location east of the area near the
junction of Central & North 20th & North 12th street in Marine. And later of
course, they built the still existing Cotton Belt freight house in the rail
yards east of downtown Fort Worth.

As late as the 1940's, pictures and maps still show that this yard was used
for car storage at least. From the early days, a number of businesses grew
up along the incoming line after it split from the Frisco tracks after it
crossed North Main. Even today several metal and salvage companies still use
the upper portions of the old mainline. The south end of the old Cotton
Belt main also had a reverse switch installed that allowed a switching track
to be extended from a point almost opposite the present power plant
buildings north up the center of North Houston street to serve other
industry. Those rails remain visible in the street today. Cotton Belt
track charts from the 1960's call this set of original tracks the "Old Main

Today, in spite of the partial demolition of the power plant buildings and
the stripping of the earth around it for decontamination purposes, the
section of the old main coming into the plant property at North 5th street
is apparently still intact including the reverse switch to the Houston
Street switching lead. Some of the track is buried but aerial photos and my
ground recon indicates that it is all probably still there. From North 5th
back up north to the remaining salvage plants upstream I think that most of
it is still in place under the ground. Very little of it to date has been
ripped up for salvage.

The point of all this?

The Cotton Belt was one of the earliest railroads to reach Fort Worth. It
was here before there was a bridge from the bluffs behind the Courthouse
down to the flats. In my opinion, the original terminal site between
Paddock Viaduct and the Trinity is a very historic location. And, it is one
that has been totally ignored over the years as far as recognition is
concerned. Over the years it has been battered, sometimes thoughtlessly by
power plant construction, levees and the floods themselves. That bothers me.
There is just a small section of the original right of way and rail at the
terminal end west of the power plant. I would like to see it saved and


At the left center of this 1929/1930 picture the slight bulge that is the
confluence of the Clear and West forks can just barely be seen. Just below
that are shown the east approach and some of the physical structure of what
I think are both the elusive "wire" suspension bridge and Sam Rosen's old
steel truss streetcar bridge both of which historically angled together
after they crossed the Trinity below the confluence to exit onto North 2nd
street. North 2nd originally connected to North Main at the base of the oil
Iron Bridge until the power plant was built in about 1912. There certainly
are better aerial pictures of these two bridges taken from the north looking
south, but this picture tends to confirm that both of these bridges were
still intact as late as 1929/1930. This may be the latest picture that shows
these bridges.


Also at this point where the two bridges meet 2nd street, maps show that a
path or street named Cemetery Road meandered either along the levee or near
it up to what now is Oakwood Cemetery. Reports indicate that because the
grades were not so steep for horse drawn hearses going down the bluffs that
this water level approach to the Cemetery was preferred by the funeral
directors of the time for their processions.

2008 Electric Books Collection

Pete Charlton
The Fort Worth Gazette blog
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

#2 TexasPacific52



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Posted 02 September 2008 - 02:14 PM

I think it's also important to note that the entire area you are talking about will be torn up, demo'd and rebuilt into the new Trinity River Vision plan. May be interesting to see what gets dug up during the process. I know that when the Lancaster project tore up the roadway, they found all kind of railroad freight tracks that used to run into town. I'd be interested in seeing if the turntable pit is located which will pinpoint the exact location of the yard.

John Briggs

#3 djold1


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Posted 02 September 2008 - 02:55 PM

The southern part of this site is also where Hermann Park was, early on. There is a lot of history there as well.

Hopefully they will not dig up and destroy the existing trackage, but I am not hopeful that will happen given their relative insensitivity to historic preservation and their propensity for bluff busting.

The turntable pit and perhaps roundhouse is shown on several maps. I would have to check to see which years these were shown. The pit, if it exists, should be a good target for sub-surface radar detection.

I would also have to say that I hope that any search and excavation would be properly supervised and documented. Maybe the present owners might sponsor something like this?

This is a fairly old and fairly historic site.

Pete Charlton
The Fort Worth Gazette blog
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

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