A Visit to U of H Leads to Railroad Excitement

I’ve written quite a bit about early infrastructure construction on campus and in particular the role of the site engineer that Dr. Lovett hired, a Princeton man named Wilmer Waldo. We have a good deal of correspondence from Waldo in various files but his own papers are housed in the archives at the University of Houston. I’ve intended to go over and see what’s there for a long time but only recently had the chance to do so. It was a short visit and I only had time to look in one box, but that box was completely mind blowing–it was a veritable mother lode of dry, arcane, technical matter, all of it completely new to me. Much of it relates to Waldo’s considerable work for the city of Houston but there are also records from the Rice job. Here’s the folder that leapt out at me:


My attention was initially attracted by the “pipe drains” but when I opened it up I found something even more exciting than that. Look at this:


Bills of lading for the materials that were used for that early campus infrastructure! These are important for one big reason: they tell us exactly where the building supplies were shipped to, which in turn will help me understand precisely how they got all that stuff out to a site in the middle of nowhere. This has come up before several times, as I’ve struggled to figure out the various pictures that show what seem to be at least two different sets of railroad tracks on the Rice property. (Here, here and here).

Everything Waldo ordered was sent to the same station, a place I’d never heard of: Blodgett. I turned to the internet and of course found what I needed in a matter of moments. (There’s apparently a fairly large population of railroad enthusiasts out there who are interested in this kind of thing).

The Blodgett station, also known as Tower 12, was a crossing of the Galveston, Harrisburg and San Antonio Railway and the San Antonio and Aransas Pass Railway. It was established in 1903 near the intersection of South Main and Blodgett, south of downtown and near the future site of the Rice Institute. There’s lot more information at this Texas Railroad History site and maps that show the station’s exact location. (The link is seriously broken and I can’t find a way to fix it but if you google “Blodgett tower 12 Houston” it will pop right up. I promise!)

I still have no idea how they got the materials from Blodgett to here, but at least I now know what direction they were coming from:

Construction c1910 rr spur

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16 Responses to A Visit to U of H Leads to Railroad Excitement

  1. C Kelly says:

    This is great info — both railroads passed through Fort Bend County, so they interest me. The fellow who does Traces of Texas on Facebook posted a 1890 photo of a bar in Helena, Texas (home of the ‘Helena Duel’). I bring it up because Helena has a connection (or ‘disconnection’) with the San Antonio & Aransas Pass Railway (also known as The Sap), which ran a line from Karnes City to Houston in addition to one from San Antonio to Corpus Christi. Karnes City eventually turned Helena into a ghost town because of the railroad. I always wondered why the San Antonio & Aransas Pass Railway ran to Houston.

  2. mjthannisch says:

    Truly neat stuff. I am also fascinated by Texas RR, especially since various members of our family worked for the Texas and Pacific RR (ans some for the T&P Coal company as well.

  3. Would there have been one of the rail spurs from the Blodgett station? My guess is that stuff was brought here by wagon teams. This is really too early for reliable heavy trucks.

    • Melissa Kean says:

      But look closely at that last photo. It shows construction materials for the Admin Building and you can see train cars and what looks like a temporary set of tracks laid directly on the ground.

  4. James C Cooper says:

    Note: link for the RR history site is broken: needs a colon after the ‘http’.
    will work.

  5. Karl Benson says:

    William Marsh Rice was an early investor in the Houston & Texas Central Railroad Co., and the mainline town of Rice, Texas is named for him. The railroad, commonly known as the Central, was the first railroad to reach Dallas. It provided access to Galveston’s port for Dallas-area cotton growers thus eliminating the need for wagon carriage to Jefferson, Texas from where the crop was barged to New Orleans. The Central joined the MKT (Katy) at Dennison, Texas, and opened the first direct rail route from St. Louis to Houston. Dallas’ first freeway was built on the Central’s right of way, hence the freeway’s name – Central Expressway.

  6. That is a seriously cool photograph. There is a lot going on in the foreground and in the background. Am I correct that the view is toward Harris Gully?

    • So Blodgett/Tower 12 would have been east a little ways along the SA&AP line shown in the blueprint in the post at http://ricehistorycorner.com/2012/03/07/the-rail-spur/

      I’m really puzzled now looking at the photo above with the rails curving off to the left. The relationship to the classic Rice street lamp is puzzling as well. Is the negative flopped, or am I just looking at it all backwards?

      • Nevermind, I have finally convinced myself that photo is not flopped and the tracks are pretty much where the more permanent spur was. The power plant site would be just out of the frame to the left.

  7. Mark Kapalski says:

    Writing of tracks. When I worked for Brown ad Root at the Physical plant in 1992. There were a set of tracks that ran into the building where the boilers were. I do not know if they are still there. I always wondered what they were for , coal hoppers perhaps ?

  8. A bit of railroad trivial humor, the H&TC was called by some “Hell & Terrible Confusion”. I used to have a newspaper clipping that covered most of the Texas railroad’s satire names. I think Leon Hale wrote it back in the 1960s. An example, the Waco Beaumont Trinity & Sabine – WBT&S was known as the “Wobble Bobble Turnover & Stop”

  9. mjthannisch says:

    Which of course reminds me of TTA (Trans Texas Airline) more affectionately know as Tree Top Airlines or Teeter Totter Airlines.

  10. Pingback: Wherein Someone Else’s Notes Shed Light on the Power Plant | Rice History Corner

  11. Dennis Hogan says:

    The San Antonio & Aransas Pass Ry. had a spur to the Rice campus. I think it served to bring in building materials and possibly fuel for a campus power plant.

  12. Dennis Hogan says:

    The correct link to the Blodgett interlocking tower (No. 12) is:

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