Railroad History

A History of Hemphill County and the City of Canadian is the story of the railroad in the Texas Panhandle. H.Y. Wilson engineered the first train, engine 299, into Canadian, thus beginning a way of life which would effect the city of Canadian for more than 50 years.  With the railroad came the Depot, Harvey House, Roundhouse, Santa Fe Reading Room, and a population of citizens.

Read more about the history of the railroad in the Texas Panhandle. 

The historic Wagon Bridge (now the scenic walking bridge) was the largest steel construction west of the Mississippi after its construction in 1916.  This bridge and the railroad bridge would bring the goods needed for the thriving new town. The museum now has many artifacts from the railroad on display. Including the old station bench, railroad timetable, flashlights, and many other smaller items.

The region known as the Texas Panhandle-isolated, known for its sandstorms, mirages, sweeping prairie fires and rolling, treeless plains, and once home to thousands of buffalo- always had an aura of romance that linked it more to the southwest than the Santa Fe Railroad Canadian TexasMidwest it resembles. It was already established cattle country in the 1880's; the Santa Fe saw the market and business potential of this beef and farm area and begin laying track toward a little known settlement called Canadian, on the Canadian River, in 1886.

This country was a true cowboy's paradise, with hundreds of miles of open prairie called the "Llano Estacado". Settlers and the railroad meant one thing to the ranchers: fences and dividing up of grazeland. Like all cattle country, it was a rough area; the Panhandle even had its own Boot Hill cemetery in Tascosa on the Canadian River. Like their Kansas counterparts, those buried here had died because of their love of the six-shooter; but at this Boot Hill, unlike the one in Dodge City, a man was buried well beneath the surface of the ground and given a marker with the Lone Star of Texas carved in stone.