Keeping rail artifacts in Denison

By: Stephanie Brletic Email
By: Stephanie Brletic Email

DENISON, TX -- Nowadays trains are used mostly for freight carrying goods all over the country. More than a century ago, Denison was a major stopping point on the Katy, the common name for the Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad, with a large passenger station.

The artifacts from the bedrock of Texoma history could be in jeopardy.

"The heart of the Katy is in Denison," says David Heyde, President Katy Railroad historical society.

Beginning in 1872, Denison was known as the ‘Gate City of Texas.’ About 3000 people settled here in about 100 days. Many of the transplants were railroad employees.

"Lots of people here have ancestors that worked on the railroad and we get them everyday, saying their grandfather or great grandfather or uncle worked for the railroad," says Delbert Taylor, museum curator.

The Katy Depot in downtown Denison was a passenger station for many years until August of 1988. When the Union Pacific Railroad merger took place, the depot also served as the center of operations. Now it houses the Red River Railroad Museum.

"It's Denison and this reminds you of your heritage,” says Mayor Robert Brady. “It reminds you of where you were born. I think anytime you have something that's this important, we need to do what we can to preserve it,” he says.

The museum houses plenty of artifacts days gone by, including brake men conductor uniforms, switch locks, maps, pictures, train lanterns, and more.

Now the museum is in jeopardy. The museum is open on an "as needed" basis only because of staffing and money issues and other Katy enthusiasts want to move some of the artifacts to their museums. Some in Denison aren't willing to let this part of their history go easily.

Sunday board members of the Red River Railroad and the Katy Railroad Historical Society met at the depot to brainstorm ways to raise money and keep the artifacts right here in Texoma.

"Our first priority is to keep the artifacts and the stuff, the rolling stocks, the engine and the 401-b in Denison,” says Heyde. “The Katy is a big part of Denison and we want to keep that stuff here."

They are trying to come up with a way to make sure the Red River Museum gets the attention and staffing it deserves. Railroad museum workers say there are ways you can help by volunteering time and money.

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