Thursday, December 29, 2011

Candlelight Tour: Granbury Railroad Depot

Back on December 3, we served as docents for the Hood County Courthouse on Granbury's annual Candlelight Tour of Homes (and other historic structures).  One of the benefits of our two-hour shift was a free ticket to see other sites on the tour, which I will continue to feature this week.

The Granbury Railroad Depot was built in 1914, replacing an earlier frame structure that burned in 1912.  It has a bay window on the north side (facing the tracks).  Wide eaves surround the building to protect passengers and baggage from the weather.

The building has a red tile roof.  The local garden clubs decorate the outside for the holidays, and it's a popular place for family photographs.
The station sign, visible from approaching trains

The interior features pine floors, twelve foot high ceilings, and two chimneys for potbellied stoves. Below, volunteer Yvonne Ables points out the features (including a curved reflector at the top) of a candle sconce from a late 1800s-early 1900s railroad dining car, to the right of the old ticket window.

The old bay window area now has a working telegraph display.  I learned that the original straight key apparatus (below right) caused "glass arm," a repetitive motion disorder (like carpal tunnel syndrome)...


...so the Vibroplex (below left) was invented to reduce stress on the hand.  It also made transmitting Morse code faster.

A volunteer (I did not catch his name) demonstrated the operation of a Y-shaped train order hoop (or fork).  A train order provided instructions or information on timetable changes from the dispatcher to the train's engineer (with usually a second copy to the conductor at the rear) at stations where the train did not stop, in the days before radio became common.  The message was tied with a slip knot to the center of a pre-cut string.  The string was then looped through notches (like those in an arrow so it would fit into a bow string) cut into the tops of the dowels forming the legs of the Y, and secured at the bottom in a spring clip.  The telegrapher or an assistant would then hold up the pole so that the top of the Y would be within arm's reach of the train crew.  The crew member would slip an arm in the loop and the string would pop off.

Here's a short (35 second) video where "hooping up" train orders is demonstrated twice:

The old freight and baggage room area of the depot is now an archive for county historical and genealogical records, many of which were rescued when they were being discarded out of the courthouse:

Passenger service ended at the depot in the 1970s, and freight service ended in 1983.  At that point, the county's genealogical society and historical society formed a joint committee to restore the building and operate it as a museum as well as the records repository.  The groups have a joint monthly meeting at the Depot except in July, August, and September.  The depot museum and genealogy research library are open Monday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. and by appointment.

© Amanda Pape - 2011 - click here to e-mail me.

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