Monday, June 19, 2006

Houston's Southern Pacific Depot

A Saturday morning breakfast was the only ceremony that marked the opening of Houston's Southern Pacific Depot.

Sometime in September 1934, the descendants of Gen. Sidney Sherman gathered around a breakfast table at the terminal with other newspaper reporters and munched on fried chicken and toast.

No speeches, no ribbon cutting. A woman from San Angelo was the first to purchase a ticket at the new terminal. The trip: Houston to Bay City.

According to the WPA guide to Houston, the total cost of construction came out to $4,347,000 in 1934 dollars ($62,050,368 in 2005 dollars).

The building was located at 329 Franklin Ave., where the downtown post office is today. It was open from 5:30 a.m. to midnight daily.

The building was demolished in 1960. Two items from the old structure were rescued from demolition. The lighted Southern Pacific sign outside the train station was moved to the Southern Pacific building on Travis.

The other item...well, I'll save that for another day.

UPDATE: The Southern Pacific sign lives on at the Houston Railroad museum.

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At 8:34 PM, Anonymous Neal Meyer said...

Would anyone like to take a guess as to why the train depot was demolished in 1960? In particular, I am looking for an answer from any light rail fanatics and anyone else who insists that we must have lots of public transportation.

At 9:08 PM, Anonymous Tom Scotty said...

The lighted Southern Pacific sign survives today at the Houston Railroad Museum, also known as the Gulf Coast Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society, of which I am a member. The museum is open on weekends and is near the North Loop and McCarty. Check here:

At 9:12 PM, Blogger J.R.G. said...

Neal: It was torn down to make way for the downtown post office. Bear in mind that by that time, passenger rail was losing ground as a main mode of transportation.

Tom: No kidding? They took it down from the Southern Pacific building? Wow.

Hey, maybe you can provide some information on an upcoming blog item. I'll have it up here in a couple of days.

At 6:44 AM, Anonymous mikefromtexas said...

Can't remember where the depot was but I did ride a passenger train to my grandparents house in Texarkana sometime in 1965. Seven years old and made the trip by myself. Man, did I feel like a big kid.

At 2:34 PM, Blogger J.R.G. said...

Mike: It sounds an awful lot like you left Union Station, especially since the Southern Pacific station was gone by then.

At 4:31 PM, Anonymous Chris said...

What was the other item that was saved from the old SP depot?

At 4:32 PM, Anonymous Chris said...

What was the second item saved from the SP depot?

At 8:56 PM, Blogger J.R.G. said...


Check out this link:

It describes the items saved from destruction.

At 10:12 PM, Anonymous jallaway said...

Not sure if the downtown post office was the reason for it's destruction. I believe part of it stood in the way of I45 construction. Regardless, the comment on diminished rail traffic was very true. Houston sure didn't need two stations at that point.

At 10:32 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

my dad worked for the SP RR throught the 40-60's. He was an "engine man" When SP deceided to give up on passangers it broke his & many others hearts. The RR carriers were going through a big change in the 50's with airlines, super hiways & such. they viewed passanger service as a losing operation. The depot was very elegant, not sparatan like the general depot which is now the ball park. riding a train, eating in the diner was very special.

My dad was J.r Lewis, engine man 1941-1964

At 9:30 PM, Blogger Kathleen I said...

My dad worked for Southern Pacific all his life. The RR transfered my family from Lafayette, LA to Houston in 1963. We used to take the train back to Lafayette to visit relatives. The large depot had been replaced with the post office by then, however there was a small depot where you could buy tickets and catch the train. It was located just behind the post office.

Kathleen I

At 9:33 PM, Blogger Kathleen I said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At 6:44 PM, Blogger David Currey said...

At least one other thing was saved from Houston's Grand Central Station. The current Amtrak station's train platform shed was moved from one of the platforms of the Grand Central Station. The new platform and station is located where the old coach yard was located. I imagine they took out one of the coach yard tracks and put in a platform utilizing the old shed. With all terminating and originating trains discontinued, there was no need for a coach yard. Also, I imagine the current benches inside the Amtrak station probably were taken from the old station, as well as some of the ticket office furniture.


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