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Marshall depot fix-up taps wartime memories

''TEXAS SKETCHES

In June 1943, I was on my way to the U.S. Navy, along with half a dozen college buddies. We stopped in Marshall, heading for Kansas State Teachers College at Pittsburg and the Navy's V-12 program.

Someone snapped a picture of four of us standing on the Texas & Pacific Railway depot steps. Behind us were the long train sheds where passenger trains were accommodated. We were rather formally dressed for this day and time: In the photo, I'm wearing a high-priced ($55) woolen zoot suit, the pants waist coming halfway up my chest and the cuffs several inches smaller than the full trousers. We traveled in style and pride; we had joined up, not been drafted, and we already tended to look down on the soldiers on the train. (How quickly that changed!) Our stay was not lengthy, but there will always be a part of me marked "Marshall."

We had caught the T&P at midnight in Abilene. There were 14 of us from the various Abilene colleges. It was a dramatic moment, the headlight of the big steam locomotive visible to us from more than a mile west, the rails forming a glistening pathway - and the silent question all of us asked: Will I get back? But as the train steamed to a halt and we boarded, there wasn't a tear or a fear visible. We were keyed up. Nobody slept. Nobody talked much. We watched the night, thinking private thoughts.

We stopped at Fort Worth and Dallas. But those were familiar places. Then we came to Marshall, and that, for this crew of West Texans, was impressive territory. Being a history major, as well as a rail fan, I knew that Marshall was the oldest, most important site on the Texas mileage of the T&P. This was history! And in my photo, one can see exaltation at being in Marshall, at the T&P station, the long sheds behind, changing trains for the great unknown of Kansas.

Passenger service ended on the T&P (now Union Pacific) more than 30 years ago, and the 1912 Marshall passenger depot was closed. I almost cried when I passed through recently aboard Fred and Dale Springer's "Vista Canyon" car pulled by the Amtrak train.

But there is reason to cheer. D. Eugene Strahan has sent a brochure on the groundbreaking for remodeling the T&P depot into a museum based on Marshall's role with the T&P. The three galleries (basement, main floor and first floor) will cover such topics as The Marshall Yard, Iron People (employees), Riding the Eagles, a model railroad, a facility for hobbyists and digital narration on the story of Marshall and the railroad. There will also be an old-time telegraph key to send and receive messages between the Children's Room and another gallery. Perhaps I can reclaim that part of me that remained at the Marshall depot.

A.C. Greene is an author and Texas historian who lives in Salado.


The Dallas Morning News
A.C. Greene