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New Braunfels was “on the track”

By Myra Lee Adams Goff

It seems to me that New Braunfels is one of those towns that have it all; beautiful rivers, good people, and a very interesting historic background. And NB was one of those fortunate towns that was not bypassed by the railroad and had a train whose track curved downtown. These fortunate circumstances ensured that the city survived, for all over Texas small towns literally died as a result of being “off the track”.

Soon after the Civil War the cost of cattle drives and the fencing of rangeland called for a less expensive means of transportation. Railroads were the answer.In New Braunfels, the first steam locomotive was the International and Great Northern Railroad. After the railroad completed construction of a temporary wooden bridge over the Guadalupe River in 1880, the crew pulled into town. This wooden bridge was replaced by a concrete bridge that tragically collapsed in 1890 due to faulty construction, killing the engineer.

The coming of the railroad brought about big changes in the everyday lives of people. New Braunfels was no exception. Moving goods and moving people could be accomplished in a timelier manner. Up until 1880, if a person wanted to go to San Antonio from NB, they could walk, go on horseback, or ride in a wagon. What now takes about half an hour took three days. There were no hotels, motels, or restaurants along the way. Unlike today, most people from NB lived their entire lives without going to San Antonio, Austin, or even Seguin.

David Albright, president of the New Braunfels Historic Railroad and Modelers Society, says that the need of a station house was expressed in the “Neu Braunfelser Zeitung” in 1905. The original depot was built in 1885. The newspaper article states that when hundreds of people came on the train for the flower parade in 1906, they sank ankle deep in mud and slush and with a rain shower, only a few found shelter in the small depot. A new unique depot was built of concrete blocks from the local factory of Mordhurst & Blumberg. (See our Web site at Sophienburg.com for more information on Mordhurst Nov. 26, 2008)

Albright says that by the 1900s the I&GN had a reputation of being unsafe and by 1920 the company went into receivership and was bought by another railroad, the Missouri Pacific. Still another railroad, the Missouri, Kansas, and Texas (Katy), came to NB in 1900. Presently, both the Missouri Pacific and the Katy Railroads are part of the Union Pacific systems with original routes of both railroads still  in operation.

These railroad stories are similar to stories all over Texas, but no one else had spurs into Landa Park but NB. The story is that in 1897 Helen Gould, daughter of entrepreneur J.Gould, was visiting Landa Park when it was owned by Harry Landa. She suggested to him that it might be interesting to run a spur track from the main line into Landa Park for excursions. Landa liked the idea and so the I&GN put a spur into the park cutting off close to Elizabeth St. and stopping at the location of the miniature train. In 1900, the Katy put a spur in Landa Park as well, stopping close to the restrooms next to Fredericksburg Road. These trains brought thousands of tourists to Landa Park. The tracks were pulled up in 1927 when the park went into receivership. The City purchased Landa Park in 1936.

In 1986 the old train depot on San Antonio and Hill Streets became the site of a fine not-for-profit Railroad museum. The museum, open to the public, is loaded with great photos and an ongoing HO-scale model railroad layout. The museum is a good example of efforts to keep historic New Braunfels alive so “get on the track” and go visit them.

On November 5, 1890, a span of the I&GN railroad bridge over the Guadalupe River collapsed, killing the engineer and fireman.

On November 5, 1890, a span of the I&GN railroad bridge over the Guadalupe River collapsed, killing the engineer and fireman.