Visiting the Kyle Railroad Depot & Heritage Center provides opportunities to experience a typical day at a train depot by walking through the building and examining artifacts from 1917 to 1965. Photos below show the late Ralph Randow, former docent for the depot, demonstrating how a train whistle sounds.
The Historic Kyle Railroad Depot
A Train Stop that Built a Prairie Town
The town of Kyle emerged in the 1880s when the International and Great Northern Railroad (I&GN) established a townsite and a depot. The Kyle Depot and the early history of Kyle are inextricably linked, and one could not have existed without the other.
The I&GN began laying tracks for routes in Texas in the 1870s. A crucial part of the route was in Central Texas between two main cities, Austin and San Antonio. Steam engines required periodic refills of water to run so I&GN needed to establish water stops or depots every 10-15 miles. Captain Fergus “Ferg” Kyle granted I&GN 200 acres of his open prairie farmland approximately 12 miles west of Lockhart and four miles south of Mountain City for $1 and other considerations to I&GN on July 24, 1880. Texas landowners like Kyle understood the advantages of partnering with railroad companies to get their cattle and crops quickly to markets and for local land development.
On September 1, the I&GN sold approximately 176 acres to the Texas Land Company for $2000 for real estate development and kept the remainder for track right-of-way and to build a Depot. Martin Groos surveyed the land surrounding the Depot and the Texas Land Company conducted an auction of commercial and residential lots on September 25, 1880. The auction was a festive occasion with local farm families traveling in wagons and sharing their homemade Texas country cooking of “fried chicken, deviled eggs, potato salad and the usual cakes, pies, and home baked bread,” according to author Ann Miller Strom in her book, The Prairie City, A History of Kyle, Texas….”
The first permanent Depot was built by December 1880 and the new town of Kyle grew with the building first of a saloon, hotel and meat market to meet the needs of new residents, laborers, and travelers. In 1916 the first Kyle Depot building caught fire and the station’s clerk, porter, and all-round helper Robert Parks, who lived at the Depot, courageously risked his life to save a majority of the shipments and an important delivery receipt book by throwing them out a window while the flames roared around him. Mr. Parks moved up in rank to become station master and spent 27 of his 48 years with the railroad at the Kyle Depot.
A new Depot was built in 1917 which was then located at the end of Center Street. It was moved slightly north to its current location in 1951 to allow access from downtown Kyle to Highway 81. The Depot increasingly became an important hub for shipments of cotton and cattle to and from the surrounding area. The Depot also grew into a center of activity for local residents who received telegraphs at its Western Union office, retrieved big and small shipments, and of course, traveled from, or greeted their out-of-town guests arriving at the Depot. During both World Wars, the Depot was particularly busy as soldiers left or returned from overseas.
By the 1960s, however, passenger cars, trucks, and interstate highways became the preferred mode for traveling and transporting goods and the Depot’s business drastically declined. In 1965 the Depot closed after serving the town for nearly a century. Thanks to local prominent business owner Charles “Chuck” Nash Sr., Kyle city leaders, the Burdine Johnson Foundation, the Hays County Historical Commission, and many volunteers, the historic Kyle Depot building was preserved. The Depot is now operated as the Kyle Railroad Depot and Heritage Center for visitors to tour and stands as a reminder and a symbol of the founding of the City of Kyle.
The Kyle Railroad Depot & Heritage Center is open on Saturday from 10am to 2pm. Special arrangements can be made for visitation by calling 512-262-1188, or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Inside the 1917 building, visitors will find two waiting rooms with period furnishings and a documentary video of the establishment of Kyle, Texas by the International & Great Northern Railroad. The land for the city was purchased at a land auction in 1880.
Experience the station master’s office restored back to yesterday and hear an audio presentation with train announcements and station master comments that help create the realistic feel of the train station.
Inside and outside of the railroad depot provides visitors with an authentic experience in an historic treasure of Hays County.
click to view larger