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Answers to Go

The San Marcos train wreck of 1921.
Archive photo submitted by the San Marcos Public Library

Answers to Go


Answers to Go

Sunday, February 19, 2023

Q. I was stopping for a train yesterday and started to think about the history of the trains in San Marcos. Can you tell me about that? What about train wrecks?

A. Trains, while often frustrating and sometimes dangerous, have a long history in the West. Even before the train “came” to San Marcos, it had been a waypoint for cart and stagecoach travelers going between San Antonio and Austin. In 1880, train service was introduced from San Antonio to New Braunfels. That line was then joined from the north to San Marcos in 1881 by the International-Great Northern Railroad (I&GN). The arrival of the railroad, much like other towns throughout the United States, made a huge impact on the development of our town. In 1870, the population of San Marcos was 742. After the arrival of the railroad in 1881, it grew to 2,335. That is a tripling of population — in just 18 years. (Hugh) Compare that to population growth in recent years. In 2000, San Marcos had 36,120 residents. Twenty years later, in 2020, its population doubled to 67,553.

Times have changed, and now most people no longer travel by train. However, when the Missouri, Kansas, and Texas Railroad (M-K-T) nicknamed “The Katy” built its own line from San Marcos to San Antonio in 1900, it carried passengers. Passenger service to San Marcos was suspended in 1969, but fortunately revived, with a less frequent schedule, in 1971. (Boxall, B.) In 1975, Walter E. Buckner (co-publisher of the “San Marcos Record” and “Daily Record”) wrote a column for the paper called “Folks and Facts” and in the June 26 issue, he recounted a story told by Jay Evan about taking his children to San Antonio on the “Katy” so they “could be treated to a sumptuous meal in the diner.” He wrote: We’d ride over to San Antonio and take a later train back home for there were four to six trains each way every day. On one occasion we were late for the regular evening meal and ordered sandwiches and drinks (soft). The tall black waiter delivered them and left a check. Bud, who had learned to read figures by this time saw the amount and exclaimed, “My goodness, look what he charged us for them sandwiches and couple of cokes.” He was further horrified when I left a quarter on the table.

Currently, San Marcos is served by Amtrak’s Texas Eagle. Schedules can be checked on Amtrak’s website at Amtrak. com and the train picks up travelers at the Intermodal Station at 338 South Guadalupe Street.

Sadly, there have been train wrecks in Hays County. The following items are from the library’s history file on “Train Accidents”:

• 1914: M-K-T (Katy) Train 10, a passenger train, derailed. The uneven track caused steam locomotive 362 to rock back and forth, resulting in the entire train, except for the engine and the last sleeping car, to derail. Ten people were injured. The train was going approximately 35 mph and all the cars remained coupled and upright. (Reed, R.C.)

• 1921: A Katy steam locomotive between San Marcos and Kyle, skipped the tracks and the engine fell on its side. It was reported as “not too badly damaged.”

• 1950: Four men were killed in a train-truck crash at the railroad crossing on Hwy 21 near the San Marcos Air Base. Observers said that the locomotive was derailed by the explosion of the load of gasoline the truck was hauling.

• 1984: Buda. The train derailed not far from the public library and City Hall. Witnesses said “it started making a thump, thump, thump sound that was extremely loud. All the sudden, one of the cars pitched up a foot or two” and a “portion of the train broke away to come to tumble over on the tracks west side.” Fortunately, there were no injuries. (Smith-Rodgers) If you are a train enthusiast, here are a few books found at the library to tempt you:

• “Amazing Train Journeys: 60 Unforgettable Rail Trips and How to Experience Them,” by Lonely Planet Publications

• “From the River to the Sea: The Untold Story of the Railroad War that Made the West,” by John Sedgwick.

• “Texas Trains,” by Richard K.Troxell.

• “Train crash at Crush, Texas: America’s Deadliest Publicity Stunt,” by Mike Cox

• “Trains: From Steam Locomotive to Highspeed Rail,” by Franco Tanel.

• Boxall, B. (1976, May 23). “Trains Keep On Rolling.” San Marcos Daily Record, pp. 7–7.

• Hugh, H. (2005). “The Railroad in San Marcos, Texas. The railroad in San Marcos, Texas.” Retrieved Feb. 12 classic.txtransporta-tionmuseum. org/history- san-marcos.php

• Reed, R. C. (1968). “Train Wrecks: A Pictorial History of Accidents on the Main Line,” Bonanza Books - New York.

• Smith-Rodgers, S. (1984, July 6). “Buda Train Derails.” San Marcos Daily Record, pp. 1.

Suzanne Sanders is the columnist for the library. She is the Community Services Manager for the San Marcos Public Library and came from the Austin Public Library in 2015 after having served there as a librarian for over 20 years. She gratefully accepts your questions for this column.

San Marcos Record

(512) 392-2458
P.O. Box 1109, San Marcos, TX 78666