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Old Interurban Substation And Depot


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#1 Dismuke

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Posted 12 October 2004 - 10:25 PM

The thread about the width of urban rail right of ways reminded me of some photos I took several weeks ago and never got around to posting.

The first few photos are of surviving ruins of an electrical substation on the old Texas Interurban Railway Company line which ran from Dallas to Terrell from 1923 until 1932. This was a different company than the Northern Texas Traction Company which ran from Fort Worth to Dallas from 1902 until 1934 and which took over operation of the line that ran from Fort Worth to Cleburne from 1912 until 1931.

The substation is located in Lawrence, Texas - a very tiny wide spot in the road community a couple of miles west of Terrell on Highway 80. When I was a kid, there was an identical Dallas to Terrell line substation in a then rural area east of Mesquite. The substation near Mesquite was in much worse condition than the one in Lawrence. A couple of years or so ago I drove past the area again and it was filled with housing developments and the substation was gone.

I am not sure of what the exact function of the electrical substation was. I know they did not generate power. Perhaps Andy can tell us.

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Even in rural areas, idiot kids have nothing better to do with their time than to deface buildings.

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As you can see, the structure is filled with a huge pile of old school desks. From what I could see, the desks were in pretty bad shape from exposure to the elements.

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Here is the old Interurban depot at the end of the line in Terrell. In recent years, it has been used to house the offices of a gasoline distributor - and I assume that is still the case based on some of the signs visible on the property. Several years ago, I was told that the building was going to eventually be torn down to make way for a bypass interchange for Highway 34 which runs not too far away and which can get heavily congested where it intersects US Hwy 80. I do not know if those plans are still in the works. The building is not especially significant architecturally. But it is certainly an interesting piece of history and I hope it can be somehow saved.

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This is the other train depot in Terrell - the old T&P Railroad depot which has been restored.

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I think these are neat windows.


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Not railroad related - but here's an old building in downtown Terrell that I have always thought was interesting.
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#2 AndyN

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Posted 18 October 2004 - 08:42 PM

The first few photos are of surviving ruins of an electrical substation on the old Texas Interurban Railway Company line which ran from Dallas to Terrell from 1923 until 1932.   This was a different company than the Northern Texas Traction Company which ran from Fort Worth to Dallas from 1902 until 1934 and which took over operation of the line that ran from Fort Worth to Cleburne from 1912 until 1931.


The Denton Terrell interurban was one of the last interurban lines built in the State of Texas and was a subsidiary of the Dallas city streetcar system. The Denton line shared the tracks of the MKT railroad, which were accessed near Herrara's Mexican restaurant on Denton Drive, after coming up Fairmont Street from McKinney Avenue. The girder rails for the switch that turned on Fairmont street can still be seen in the track that MATA uses today.

The Terrell line parallelled the Texas & Pacific Railway east of town. The Denton and Terrell lines both used lightweight steel cars built by the American Car Company in St. Louis, Mo. The line didn't last very long and the cars were converted to city streetcars after the line closed. I recently acquired the headlight from one of these cars after it was scrapped, having been used for a barn for the past 50 years.

I am not sure of what the exact function of the electrical substation was.  I know they did not generate power.  Perhaps Andy can tell us.


Power for the streetcars is generated at central power plants (one being the recently demolished power plant in the middle of the Victory development around American Airlines Arena in Dallas. The electricity is usually transmitted great distances at high voltage AC, because there is little loss of current. When the high voltage lines reach the substation, a rotary convertor (motor strapped to a generator) would convert the electricity to a lower voltage useable by the streetcars, which would have been 600 volts, DC.

600 volts will only let you travel a few miles before the resistance in the copper wire will decrease the current to an inconvenient amount for operating a streetcar. Some interurbans got greater distance between substations by pushing the current to 1100 volts DC (like the Texas Electric's lines to Waco & Corsicana). Later substations used rectifiers. Not sure what the Denton Terrell used.

For an example, MATA's power to the overhead wire is 650 Volts DC at the rectifier in the carbarn. At the end of the line, losses reduce the voltage to about 550 DC. You can really see the lights dim when the operator starts the car up the hill leading back towards Woodal Rogers Fwy.

I've been at the convention of the Association of Railway Museums in Ogden, Utah for the past 5 days, so sorry for the delayed reply. Got to see the Golden Spike National Historic Site, which was very inspirational. Got a salute from the Jupiter and UP No. 119 when our tour buses pulled into the park. Even got to recreate the "Champagne Photo" with my fellow conventioneers.
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#3 Dismuke

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Posted 18 October 2004 - 09:58 PM

Andy -

Thanks for the interesting reply and for explaining the function of the substations.


The Terrell line parallelled the Texas & Pacific Railway east of town.



For those who may not know - today's Military Parkway follows the route of the tracks. The Pleasant Grove community of Urbandale was once a small town that developed along the route - and the old downtown buildings were still there last time I was in the area. Military Parkway took its name from the North Texas branch of San Antonio's Peacock Military Academy which was located at Military Parkway and Jim Miller Road and closed in 1934. The school's main administration building survives and functions today as the DISD's Urban Park Elementary School. You can still see a peacock carved in stone on the building.
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#4 Buck

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Posted 19 October 2004 - 03:44 PM

Any other stations survive?

Burleson's old station is in Old Town, right?

And isn't there some water station or power station still out past Handley?

#5 AndyN

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Posted 19 October 2004 - 04:48 PM

Any other stations survive?

Burleson's old station is in Old Town, right?

And isn't there some water station or power station still out past Handley?

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There are many artifacts along all of the electric interurban lines.

The power plant at Handley is the original power plant for Northern Texas Traction. The brick carbarn is still there, although hard to see underneath all the power generating apparatus that has been added over the years. The building at the southwest corner of 3rd & Main with the mural of the Chisholm Trail on the side is the old headquarters building for NTT.

There is an NTT substation at Spinks Airport, but now completely fenced inside the security zone.

The substation/depot at Burleson was recently restored by the City and they are planning to put a restored freight motor next to the station (when the restoration of the interurban car is finished).

The hotel with the terminal at Cleburne is still extant and you can even see some of the tracks in the parking lot across the street where the cars turned around to go back to Dallas.

There is still a bridge over the interurban line underneath old Highway 80 in Handley with wood wire troughs for the interuban's electric wire.

I have heard of at least one wood NTT passenger waiting shed and seen one TE shed still exist.

City of Van Alstyne still has tracks in the street.

City of Milford has some of the old span wires that used to support the trolley wire, now used to hang Christmas decorations on.

The interurban terminal in Dallas is being converted into a grocery store (and possibly lofts?).

Plano has a beautifully restored depot/substation and an interurban Rail Post Office car in their park, right next to the new downtown DART station.

Etc. etc. etc.

For more information, see if you can find a copy of Johnnie Myer's book "The Texas Electric Railway". Although primarily about Dallas, it has good information in it about the Northern Texas Traction line and its subsidiary, Tarrant County Traction.
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#6 John T Roberts

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Posted 19 October 2004 - 06:18 PM

I think the City of Fort Worth is in the process of declaring the NTT Substation at Spinks Airport a City Historic Landmark.

#7 Doug

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Posted 19 October 2004 - 07:47 PM

Here's a link to a brief summary which I don't think has been mentioned before -- if it has -- then never mind.
http://www.tsha.utex...w/EE/eqe12.html




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