From Pampa to Childress on the Forth Worth and Denver Line

On July 15, 1932, Olin E. Hinkle, then managing editor of the Pampa Daily News, wrote that the scenery from Pampa to Childress was picturesque to passen- gers traveling on the new Fort Worth and Denver line. – – When leaving Pampa, travelers could see level wheat fields where recently “the song of the combine harmonized with the symphony of rail-laying crews.” Near Lefors trains traveled swiftly over ravines that gave travelers “the illusion of looking down on a carpet of green patterns studded with hundreds of oil derricks.”

Photo of Eloise Lane

Eloise Lane

From the forest of derricks, smoke from carbon black plants rose lazily at intervals, and occasionally white steam puffed from exhaust pipes of gasoline plants and booster stations. In the sandy soil of central Gray County, trees were more abundant, cattle ranged the rolling hills and oil derricks continued plentiful. Continuing southward to Childress, travelers could see farms increasing in number, new towns springing up, cotton fields in abundance, row crops in luxuriant growth, cotton gins instead of oil industries, smartly appointed towns older and prouder, and lazy streams with little water.

Probably no one was more pleased than Mel B. Davis to have the Fort Worth and Denver come through Lefors. Davis and J. M. Shaw had developed the town site of Lefors and adjacent lands after the discovery of oil and gas. Doubtless Davis had an important part in obtaining the railroad since a stop was named Meldavis, and he may have been responsible for giving everyone a free ride to Childress and back on the first train. An article in Focus, Summer 1987 relates experiences of several Lefors resi- dents in regard to the Fort Worth and Denver. Charles Lisenbee, his father and brother, who lived at Quanah, began work- ing with the FD&W track at Childress.

They returned to Quanah when work on the railroad ended, but Charles came back while working on the highway. He liked this part of the Panhandle and got a job with the Texas Company that lasted the remain- der of his life. Herman Cates, who worked at the Saunders Ranch headquarters near the Texas Company Picnic Grounds, said that the ranch crew plowed the road bed and used fresnos (big scoops) to build the grade. The ranch boss loaned Herman to drive a truck during the building of the Shamrock Gasoline plant when an open line was laid from the main track. F. C. Jones,”Jonesy,” was a riveter who riveted all the steel together to build the tanks at the station.

Herman used a winch to unload the tank iron from the railroad cars after track was laid to the station. Bobby Thacker hauled water to Childress from Lefors and Shamrock. He and several other contractors raked the lava rock from the railroad and hauled it for local driveways and also driveways in Pampa. After the termination of rail service, a sawmill was set up northwest of the Senior Citizens Center at Lefors where timbers from the trestles were sawed up. Joe Clarke said that the track costing a half-million dollars was constructed with used steel and paid for itself in one year. Much shipping went to Keller- ville and Bellco oil fields. Crews made up the train and loaded tank cars at the depot and banged cars around until programs at school could not be heard.

Some cars were filled with oil at night. Once a train was stopped so that someone could buy an antique ice cream table in Joe Clarke’s yard. On one occasion Imogene Clarke and Grace Lee Brown rode the caboose home to Lefors after shopping in Pampa. When trains stopped for water, some of the school students would scoot under or between the cars, and there were two boys who would climb into the caboose. After they received repeated warnings to stay away from the train, which they ignored, teacher Ardelle Briggs spanked them. When they reminded her of this at a class reunion 31 years later, she said that she wished she had gone with the boys because she had always wondered what the inside of a caboose looked like.

While Pat DeGray Steele was cleaning house, her three young children who were playing outside decided to go walking. Pat missed the children and was beginning to look for them when she heard a train whistle and then a screeching of brakes. She was panic-stricken to see two-year old Vickie sitting between the rails. The brakeman, in a split second decision, pushed Vickie down flat and six cars ran over her. Vickie was rushed to a hospital where it was learned that she had a twisted baby tooth and a skinned place on her forehead. The brakeman was commended by his superiors for his quick thinking.

Over 200 Articles, written by Eloise Lane, were published in the Pampa News. These articles may be accessed by clicking on each section below. A list of articles will be revealed that are linked to a page containing the text of the article.

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