TYLER (KYTX) - Trains were an important part of the EastTexas area during the early 1900's. The Cotton Belt route transported passengers and goods from downtown Tyler to places near and far. Tonight in J.B.'s Journal, J.B. Smith takes us on a ride of the history of the rails.
"We're seeing a resurrection of passenger service."
For the volunteers of the Cotton Belt Depot Museum, it's exciting to see history roll through East Texas each day.
"The Cotton Belt was formed in 1877here."
"They needed to move their crop,produce, to Eastern markets, they built a tap from Tyler to Big Sandy to do that."
Construction of the original Tyler Tap Railroad began in the late 1870's.
The Cotton Belt Route eventually connected northeast Texas withArkansas and Missouri.
"The name of the railroad St. Louis southwestern railroad company but it was in the cotton belt as we are in the bible belt, name cotton belt route hung on."
Today the Cotton Belt Depot holds artifacts from Tyler's rail history but during it's peak usage in the early 1900's, thousands of passengers'
boarded trains here.
The museum has an impressive collection from James McDaniel who worked for the railroad for 50years.
"This means move back,pull forward, this means stop, was the light red?
Kind of an amber."
Before couplers were created, this link and pin connected train cars.
"You put a pin in this car here, pin that car, That was link joined them together."
"One of the displays at the museum is a huge collection of Lionel electric trains, 200 locomotives, 1600 rail cars."
Seeing children's reactions to this massive train display is fun for the volunteers.
"One of the reasons were here enjoy this so much they come in and say oh
wow that's a thrill to us."
Trains still pass through Tyler and while they are not as frequent, David believes you will hear that familiar sound across the EastTexas landscape for many years to come.
"I think trains are here to stay."
For CBS 19, I'm J. B. Smith and that's my story.
The Cotton Belt Depot Museum is located in downtown Tyler and is open 10
a.m.-4 p.m. Monday through Saturday and admission is free. And don't forget Tyler's annual train show at Harvey Convention Center in May
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