This article is from 1948.
See photos of the old depot.
Honey Grove and Ladonia, two of the oldest settlements in Texas, are rich in history and heritage. Old Bob, the small freight and passenger line that interconnected the two cities, is a vital part of the developmental past of the two cities, and all of east Fannin County.
Very few records exist of the birth of the railroad or its demise, so, all information about Old Bob comes from area residents, as interviewed by Mr. Johnny Avery and myself. Old Bob is barely mentioned in the history books, but lives on in the hearts and minds of long-time residents of the area.
F. L. Yeager of Ladonia recalls the 1920's, when a Hollywood film crew discovered the rail over pass just north of Ladonia spanning Sulphur River, and decided it was the perfect spot to capture a cowboy picture on film. Tom Mix and several other vintage cowboy movie stars appeared around town during the late 20's and early 30's to make motion pictures. Mr. Yeager recollected a scene in one of the films where a cowboy jumped from the bridge onto the top of the train. He said that same scene appeared in several cowboy films afterward.
The track itself could have been called a 'spur line' inasmuch as its primary purpose was to bring in agricultural products and passengers from this area, and pipeline them into regions west of here, primarily Ft. Worth and Dallas. In return, it brought goods to Ladonia and Honey Grove from the metropolitan areas. Most of the time, however, Old Bob ran between the two cities and served as the chief mode of transportation for businessmen, farmers, travelers, and visitors. Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railroad Company built the line, and included a roundhouse and turntable in Honey Grove,and a turntable and connecting lines in Ladonia, where it joined "line 312." 312 is a long line that rambles across all of North Texas and Arkansas, with primary points in Texarkana and Fort Worth.
The loading office in Honey Grove was located south of the downtown area. In Ladonia, the spur connected in a "Y" where the intersection of SH34 and Paris Street. The turntable in Ladonia was located near the old depot there.
Old Bob was named after one of its durable engineers, Bob Ross, who reportedly worked with the little line for forty-odd years. Some residents call it "Bob's Train" or "Bob Train", but most know it simply as "Old Bob."
The line was discontinued in 1944, and more than a few men who went to fight in WWII were surprised to see the train gone upon returning home from the conflicts.
But, the age of the automobile and trucking industry had begun. Highways had improved drastically during the NRA days, and rail technology took a back seat to the development of the automobile. In the post-war boom, nearly everyone had a car, and could travel near and far anytime they wanted to.
So spelled the end of an era for this country. The line was cancelled, the locomotive and cars dispersed, and the track dismantled. The roadbed of the train is all that remains of the line, and serves as a foundation for a number of country roads that parallel SH34.
Almost all the physical evidence that a line even once existed is gone. But, in the hearts and minds of many an area resident, the old rickelty locomotive, belching black smoke, spewing steam, and whistling shrilly, lives on forever.
Dallas Fair via "Old Bob", by Alma Braudrick, From the Honey Grove Signal-Citizen, November 9, 1984
When we were teenagers Edna, Jeff, (my sisters), Joe and Darrell Chafin (daughters of Mr. Walter Chafin) and myself decided to go to the Dallas Fair. None of us had ever been to Dallas, so we took our lunch with us. One of the things they sold on the train was those “big purple grapes” in a basket -there never was or has been anything so delicious! But we had to watch our spending.
I can’t tell you how cute and charming Joe Chafin was - she had bought a pair of high heel shoes to wear to the fair! We were green as a gord, we knew nothin from nothin. I can’t tell you how many blocks we walked before we knew we were on the wrong side of the street to catch the streetcar! We must have cast a green shadow everywhere we went but what fun we did have. On the train coming home that nite Joe sat in the seat next to a young man. and guess what he had - a basket of “big purple grapes. Joe brought back more than she took to the Fair -Blisters On Her Heels!
PEOPLE IN THE HISTORY OF “OLD BOB”
In 1898. October 7, Mr. Bob Bryant expressman for the Santa Fe resigned his job to go into the transfer business of Honey Grove. Mr. Bob had a livery stable on south 5th St., just where The Banner & Tag Company is today. He also owned our picture shows in the days of “silent” films. 5 cents would take you in and you could stay all evening.
1899 - Section foreman was Mr. F. Mennin lived 1200 E. Main St.
1892 - James Moler Porterfield born February 13. 1859, Martinbury, W. Virginia, at 18 years of age become a brakeman in Doming. New Mexico. Then a conductor on Southern Pacific out of El Paso from there to the. Cotton Belt from Texarkana to Pine Bluff then Honey Grove “Old Bob” conductor for 34 years. He died 1926. He was a fat, jolley man, wore a huge gold watch chain a cross his vest and loved little kids. He was taken back to W. V. for burial.
Thomas Walter Chafin was born in the Rio Vista area March 7. 1884. He was 97 years of age when he died. He was the grandson of Dr. Will Buchanan, pioneer doctor of the 1st County Seat of Johnson County was named for. He was fireman on the Santa Fe here - later became an engineer. He worked for the Santa Fe Railroad 59 years. In 1932 when the Santa Fe was taken off here he moved to Cleburne.
1904 • L. F. (Shorty) Gray - “Old Bob."
1908 - Lewis George - engineer on “Old Bob" was severlv scalded Tuesday. November 13. 1908. (Mr. George married Mrs. Willie (McClure) Green's sister. Miss Willie as everyone knows worked for "Lane Bro's" - Maybe like 100 years!
W. E. (Red) Sheffield came to Honey Grove 1911 he was employed by the Gulf, Colorado and Santa Fe Railroads. He was one of “Old Bob’s” roundhouse foreman. The nickname “Red” was not for naught - he was not a large man but that didn’t spell “Red" but “fiery” did. He was a great baseball player. I believe he at one time almost became a pro. One of his sons was known as “Gorgeous George” at one time. Now he is a young Revival Minister. “Red” served here 10 years in our Volunteer Fire Department and when he left Honey Grove in 1942 he was the oldest living volunteer fireman in the United States. He died in 1950.
Mr. Biggers, one of “Old Bob's” brakeman left here in 1916 and moved to California but in 1918 he returned and got his job back. His wife's health was not so good in California.
September 27. 1918 - M. S. Rowcn for 20 years, agent of “Old Bob”, was transferred to Paris Santa Fe Station. Mr. Rowen worked 50 years for this railroad. Mr. Rowcn's move was from the merging of the Santa Fe and T.P. stations agents.
Stewart Rowen started in 1906 with the Santa Fe here in Honey Grove as telegrapher - cashier. Then into World War I, then March 1, 1920. he was our agent and remained such till July 1938. He worked 49 years for the Santa Fe.
In 1934 - L. C. Hill from Paris, bought the material of the roundhouse of the Santa Fe that was being torn down and he moved it to Paris. Mr. Hill later moved to Honey Grove and died here. He is the father of the late Mrs. A.B.C. Diedrick.
Although the articles above say that the "Old Bob" line was discontinued in 1944, the two articles below from the Bonham Herald say that the line was discontinued in 1938.
Bonham Herald Thursday 09 Jun 1938
SANTA FE ABANDONS ITS HONEY GROVE SHORT LINE
The Interstate Commerce Commission has granted permission of the Gulf, Colorado & Santa Fe R. R. to abandon 11.7 miles of road from Ladonia to Honey Grove, a branch line Honey Grove people put up a lot of money on as a bonus. (The order did not include the return of the bonus the folks had put up.)
Years ago "Bob," as the little train on this branch was called, made a couple of trips a day to Honey Grove from Ladonia. Then it was cut down to one trip each way, and that is the history of many short lines over the country which were built to keep the haul on the main line and its subsidiaries
J. M. Porterfield, who died a few years ago, was conductor on "Bob" for years and years. Children were born, grew up and married, who had ridden with Mr. Porterfield. First they rode as infants, then on half fare, then full fare, and lastly carrying their own children on the train at half rates. J. M. Porterfield wsa a pleasant man, and he knew about all of his passengers by their first names. He was known wherever there was a railroad of any consequence, for he was a man, once seen, was never to be forgotten.
Bonham Herald Thursday 30 Jun 1938
SANTA FE TO PULL UP STAKES SUNDAY, JULY 10
Santa Fe Agent S. S. Rowen has received official orders that the last day that the railroad will be in business in Honey Grove will be Sunday, July 10.
Railroads have always set Sunday as their day for making schedule changes and this is the way the orders read for the closing of its business of the
branch line between Honey Grove and Ladonia. The last train to arrive will probably be Saturday night.
Mr. Rowen stated that he did not know what disposition would be made with the depot nor when the work would be started in taking up the rails between the two towns. He also said that he did not know where he would be located, as he will have to "bump' the youngest man in service, and he has not been informed just where he is located. Honey Grove Signal-Citizen
Nothing remains of the train that ran between Ladonia and Honey Grove for many years except this monument which says:
In Memory of Old Bob and the Bagby Community
On this site in 1886, Honey Grove's interested citizens donated $12,500 for rail connections from Honey Grove to Ladonia. The surveyor, whose name was Bagby, named this community. The train that ran the railroad between Honey Grove and Ladonia was 278. The conductor of the train for 34 years was James Porterfield. The first engineer was Bob Rusk, from whom the train got its name Old Bob. Old Bob would stop here at the Bagby store which was run by Bud Castle. W. H. Thomason was section foreman of the railroad in 1896. Inn 1895 W. T. Porter donated land for the Bagby school which held classes from 1895-1943. In Aug 1939, Old Bob made his last run. This marker is located in the middle of the railroad track in front of the store.
Historical marker donated by Oscar H. Thomason 1994 who helped dismantle Old Bob's track in 1939.
Photo from the 1920s and articles by Johnny Avery and John Shaw from the November 2, 1984 Honey Grove Signal-Citizen.
In the year of 1887, a group of citizens made up money to pay the Gulf, Colorado and Santa Fe Railroad a bonus of $12,500 for a rail connection with Ladonia. They built a roundhouse, on a big roundtable here in Honey Grove and a round table in Ladonia. The engine would drive into the round table at Ladonia and two men would turn it around where it could head back to Honey Grove. At Honey Grove the engine would drive into the roundhouse, where it would be maintained and turn around for the trip back the next day.
The train got its name of "Old Bob" after the train engineer, Bob Russ. The railroad built a siding to the Floyd Quarry and the railroad cars hauled the stone to many places. The tracks were kept in good condition but if the training was late and Honey Grove residents could hear a constant scream of a whistle, they knew "Old Bob" had jumped the track. They had a good crew that kept the track in good shape. Jewel Stevenson was working on that crew. He was up to being made foreman, the hand-car hit an object on the track. He was thrown off and the hand-car cut one of his legs off. He died a few weeks later. The object on the track was meant for the train.
Being the train left Honey Grove around 3:00 o'clock, it would get to Rock Point School, which was close to the track, a little while after school had turned out. Little Albert Carter, who lived down the track better than a mile, thought if he could catch that train, it would save a long walk home. He did it, but, after Mr. Porterfield talked to his Dad, he said he sure didn't do it anymore.
Lloyd Blair who had a corn sheller at the depot said he has seen myself and Mr. Pirtle load five or six cards of cattle many a time. Back in the thirties Lloyd was paying fifteen cents a bushel for corn. It was the best corn I have ever seen. I know Dad bought some and the ears were so large, it was three or four days before our mules would eat it, they were used to nubbins. At one time Lloyd had ten or twelve cards of corn, he had given fifteen cents for and asking twenty cents a bushel. Those were the days!
Talking about a roundtable, Dr. H. H. Milford, said when he was just a lad, he and some boys would spin the roundtable at Ladonia. He has pictures of "Old Bob" in his office. I guess, since he opened it.
I asked Jessie Smith if he could tell me about "Old Bob", as his family lived close to the track when they were small. He said he and Johnnie would put pennies on the track to let the train mash them. I asked him if he put any nickles, he said No, No. I never did either.
"Old Bob" ran a special train during football season and a 5 a.m. extra during the Dallas Fair season. Round trip to Dallas was $1.50. Curfew for many homes was 9:45 p.m. whistle of "Old Bob" back then.
After Bob Russ, "Dad" Morgan was engineer on the line. E. J. Robinson was an early brakeman, as was Walter Chafin. Mr. Porterfield was the conductor. The ticket agent was Mr. Rowen and was followed by his son, Stewart Rowen. Some of the roundhouse foremen were Mr. Ayres, Red Sheffield and Doe Green. The train was discontinued in 1944.
Thanks to each of you, also Mr. Willie Clark, Bedford Wilkerson, Joe Huffer and his Centennial History, my older brother and others for your comments. Now we hope and pray we can put up a Historical Marker for "Old Bob."