Brownwood   Brown Co.  Milepost 348+1927’     

Origin of Station Name


For Henry S. Brown, a member of Austin’s Colony, said to have come here with others in 1828, chasing a herd of stolen horses.


Agency Opened


December 31, 1885

1886 Personnel


E. O. Marshall               Stationmaster          $100/mo

W. J. Pointer                 Cashier                   $75/mo

W. A. Jones                  Clerk                      $70/mo

M. J. Temple                 Operator                $60/mo

C. B. Emerson               Operator                $50/mo

J. D. Scott                     Operator                $50/mo

N. H. Royal                   Whse/baggage        $40/mo

Martin Smith                  Watchman              $40/mo

W. A. Lee                     Warehouse             $40/mo

Henry Brown                 Warehouse             $40/mo

J. E. Mickle                   Messenger              $3.50/mo


Lon Hearne                   Section Foreman    $55/mo


Supervising seven laborers:  John Barnes, A. Campbell, Lewis Kutzler, John Shea, Pat Collins, D. Madigan, Charles Stanley.  Board provided by Mrs. Madigan at a rate of $15/month each.


1890 Insured Structures


Depot                 $1185

Freight Depot    $1775

Section House   $655  (Section No. 40)


1921 Depot(s)


New depot built 1909, concrete/stucco/brick, 40’ by 178’


By this time the station was a significant division and crew change point, with a large switching yard.  To give some idea of the complexity of company operations here, the entire structure inventory (with minor omissions) for 1921 is set forth:


Harvey House (see discussion below, this structure built 1915, 40’ by 108’), freight depot (believed to have been moved from Paris, Texas, where it was the first GC&SF passenger depot, record shows date of 1910 for arrival in Brownwood, 1917 date found on concrete scale housing inside freight room, author rescued a number of windows when this structure was being demolished in the late 1980s), oil storage tanks, oil crane, fuel oil foreman’s office, pump house, oil house, division store house (20’3” by 100’), lumber shed, 12 stall engine house (brick), foreman’s office (brick), bath house, 85 foot diameter turntable, powerhouse (brick), blacksmith & machine shop (brick), storehouse platform (36’ by 80’), fire clay house, engine supply house, sand house, sand bin, car repair shed (51’ by 306’), water service supply house, steel water tank, four water cranes, track scales, roadmaster’s office, ice house, coal house, yard office, telegraph repairer’s house, two Mexican bunk houses, stock yards, hay barn, and misc. water closets and tool houses.  By the end of the 20th century, almost every trace of this industrial center had disappeared.  However, the exact former locations of each structure are known from the line drawings of the rail yard once laboriously prepared by company draftsman, and some photographs survive from the 1920 ICC valuation survey compliance efforts.  The passenger depot and Harvey House remain in place, carefully restored with the benefit of a TxDOT grant for other community usage.


1946 Traffic Report


“Principal shipping and receiving point for Army Camp Bowie.  This was the first large Army training center established in Texas before Pearl Harbor.  Estimated population now 30,000.  At this point the Ft. Worth and Rio Grande and the GC&SF Railway intersect…Thirty five manufacturing concerns located here produce brick, tile, flour, feed, auto trailers and many other products.  Home of Howard Payne and Daniel Baker colleges.  The junction point for Santa Fe lines to Ft. Worth, Temple, Menard and West Texas.  Santa Fe has maintenance and operating facilities here.


Traffic forwarded aggregated 5568 cars in 1944, and 6100 in 1945, consisting principally of 4078 military supplies, 460 flour and feed, 364 brick, 183 other grain, 112 livestock and 111 wheat, and 2403 bales of cotton in 1944, and 4039 military supplies, 605 flour and feed, 302 other grain, 222 brick, 217 wheat, and 11711 bales of cotton in 1945.  Received traffic aggregated 5497 cars in 1944 and 5487 in 1945, including 3025 cars of military supplies, 653 fruits and vegetables, 303 flour and feed, 300 oil and gasoline and 5933 bales of cotton in 1944, and 2424 military supplies, 981 autos and trucks, 496 other train, 292 flour and feed, and 5487 bales of cotton in 1945.”


“The Earth” Press Coverage


Two references, one in the January 1922 issue and one in the January 1936 issue, the latter regarding turkey shipments.  See index.


Employee Magazine Coverage


One reference, in the May 1946 issue.  Photographs of the first and second depots, no text.


Junction Other Lines


Building southwestward from Fort Worth, the Fort Worth & Rio Grande Railway Co. reached Brownwood in 1891.  In 1903, it built westward from here to Brady, and in 1911, responding to competitive pressure from the Santa Fe’s construction of its new branch line from Lometa to Eden, The FW&RG extended its line from Brady to Menard.  This was done in an effort to prevent capture of the Santa Fe of lucrative livestock traffic from the Edwards Plateau territory, which was never thoroughly penetrated by the railroads due to the sparseness of its population.  In order to serve this territory, until the late 1920s the FW&RG maintained a fenced livestock trail called Tillman’s Lane from Sonora to its railhead at Brady, later cutting the trailhead back to Menard after it extended its rails to that point.  For a discussion of the battle between these two railway companies for the Edwards Plateau livestock traffic, see article by the author.  On March 1, 1937, the Santa Fe purchased out of bankruptcy the FW&RG line.  Until this date, Brownwood was the fulcrum on which the competitive seesaw of Edwards Plateau area livestock shipments balanced, for it was more than 100 miles closer to travel from there to the Fort Worth livestock auction by the FW&RG line’s direct route rather than via the Santa Fe route southeastward to Temple and thence north to Fort Worth.  The shorter route meant a cheaper freight charge and quicker transit time, causing less shrinkage in livestock weight.


Agency Closed


This agency survived to the 1980s.  The closing date is unknown.


Photographic Images


 Harvey house and depot.Unused postage card, date unknown.

Operating Bulletins


There are about three dozen operating bulletins specific to this station, see index.  Some examples:


  • Discontinue sweeping litter from cabooses in yard (July 8, 1927)
  • Do not permit passengers to board Train 76 before brakeman has completed his work in connection with preparation of the train, his breakfast, etc. (May 26, 1930)
  • Prohibiting practice of riding corners of engine tanks or box cars through yard – limited clearance…(July 15, 1941)
  • All inside crossover switches leading to main track, Brownwood, must be lined and LOCKED in normal position in accordance with Rule 104-B.  Failure to comply with these instructions will result in disciplinary action.  (Sept. 5, 1947)
  • Conductors train 76 will furnish passenger report at Brownwood covering revenue passengers daily for Temple and beyond so that we will know in advance whether to furnish extra equipment at Temple on either trains 15 or 16.  (Dec. 31, 1947)
  • Two-way radio between yard engines and yard office at Brownwood and Sweetwater placed in service and following instructions will govern…(Nov. 4, 1952)


Railroad Commission Complaints


Seven complaints, see index.  Sample extract:


  • (Inadequate heat)  “…If the complaint is true, your depot agents and dispatchers, or negro porter, demands your attention.  We cannot see very well why a depot agent would permit servants at the depot to warm up a house for negro passengers and not for white passengers…”


Legal Department Files


25 files, see index.  Topics include division yard issues (1912-1948), discontinuance of passenger service to various points, discontinuance of U.S. mail service between Brownwood and Temple in 1955, etc.




            Before the arrival of the railroad, the population of Brownwood was 725.  The most evocative published account of life during this era is found in “Frontier’s Generation” by Tevis Clyde Smith (self-published, 1931).  Smith speaks wistfully on his last two pages of a sense that the frontier era was passing away as the first Santa Fe train rolled into Brownwood.  The male citizenry indulged in a riotous celebration in the community’s saloons that evening, but it was perhaps a triumph tinged with sadness for some, who savored the freedom of their pioneering days. 


            With arrival of the railroad, which continued building westward toward San Angelo, Brownwood’s population exploded.  The 1890 census recorded 2176 residents, and by 1900 the population of Brownwood was reckoned at 3965 people.  The New Handbook of Texas entry for Brownwood reports that by 1900 the city was dominated by the cotton industry, serving as headquarters for the Western Compress Company, the Brownwood Cotton Oil Mill, and 16 cotton gins.  This source reports that by 1920, Brownwood was the largest cotton buying center west of Fort Worth, with a population of 8223.  The 1920s saw a small boom associated with shallow oil production in the area, but by far the biggest single impact on the city during the 20th century was the establishment by the Army of Camp Bowie in the fall of 1940.  This facility more than doubled the population of the city, and generated a tremendous quantity of rail freight for the Santa Fe, as noted in the 1946 traffic report cited above.  The camp closed in 1946, and fifty years later there were still many acres of old concrete slabs visible among the high grass at the southwestern edge of the city.  The most casual glance by a passer-by revealed it to have once been a very significant place.


            Brownwood was one of the few points on the G.C.&S.F. which had a Fred Harvey dining room and hotel.  Pursuant to a partnership arrangement beginning in 1878, the Fred Harvey Company independently provided food and lodging of legendary quality at various points along the Santa Fe, as well as on all of its dining cars.  The 1908 system timetable described the dining car service as “the best in the world…the tables are very inviting, with their snowy linen, glistening silver, and cut glass.”  Passengers were invited to vacation at luxurious Fred Harvey destination hotels across the western part of the Santa Fe system such as the Alvarado at Albuquerque, the Castaneda at Las Vegas, New Mexico and El Tovar at the Grand Canyon.  In addition to these jewels of the crown, Fred Harvey ran a number of smaller, unnamed hotels at various strategic junction points along the Santa Fe such as Brownwood, all having first class restaurants much exceeding local standards of service for travelers.  In the late 1800s the Santa Fe stopped its passenger trains for meal service at some of these hotels.  All of these restaurants were staffed by waitresses known as “Harvey Girls”, young ladies carefully screened and hired under a contract requiring at least a year of employment, the company having found that it usually lost the service of these women rather soon as they were apt to quickly meet and marry citizens of the community.  A young Judy Garland starred in a 1944 musical called “The Harvey Girls” which romanticized this phenomenon.  Real Harvey Girls were not allowed to sing as they worked, or flirt from the balconies.  Thousands of women came West under the careful and paternalistic eye of the company, which enforced strict rules of dress and curfew in conformance with the morality of the times.  Those who did not marry might remain in the service of the company for decades, assuming positions of responsibility for local management generally denied to women in other business environments before World War II.  Brownwood’s Harvey House closed in 1938, but was reopened during World War II to meet heavy demand by the military.  The Brownwood establishment was one of a chain stretching westward along the Santa Fe from Temple, with other west Texas Harvey Houses located at Sweetwater, Slaton, Amarillo and Canadian.  More than 150 photographic images of the Texas Harvey Houses are available at the website of the University of Arizona Library, including ten images of the Brownwood House.  The most authoritative treatment of the company’s history is “The Harvey Girls - Women Who Opened the West” by Lesley Poling-Kempes (Paragon, New York, 1989).  The community of Brownwood is to be commended for having rescued its Harvey House from destruction, and obtained significant grant money for its restoration and re-use.


            Visitors approaching Brownwood on Highway 84 from the east may have noticed a substantial assembly of Santa Fe railroad memorabilia, railcars, and a small wood frame depot located on the south side of the highway near the Early community.  These materials were collected by “Mournful” Martin Lehnis, who worked in the maintenance of way department in and around Brownwood as a company employee for 49 years and ten months.  He retired two months shy of his 50th anniversary with the company because many of his friends died immediately after retirement and he wanted two months to enjoy life.  Instead, he has been favored with more than two decades since then.  The author acted as counsel to Mr. Lehnis in the donation of his collection to the City of Brownwood, which will incorporate it in a railroad museum.  Mr. Lehnis has kindly consented to the tape recording of his recollections of life “on the job” for the Santa Fe, and extracts from the transcript will later be added to this website.


            Compare Brownwood’s relatively good economic fortune to that which is discussed elsewhere on this website for the adjoining county seat of Goldthwaite, and consider how the outcome might have been different had that station been able to retain the Santa Fe shops and freight sorting yard rather than lose them to Brownwood.  Within just a few years of their movement to Brownwood, those facilities employed several hundred men, providing a substantial economic boost to the city at a critical time.  Sometimes, and seemingly in this particular case, the very smallest of factors is sufficient to entirely change the course of history.