"Lone Star Historian" is a blog about the travels and activities of the State Historian of Texas. Bill O'Neal was appointed to a two-year term by Gov. Rick Perry on August 22, 2012, at an impressive ceremony in the State Capitol. Bill is headquartered at Panola College (www.panola.edu) in Carthage, where he has taught since 1970. For more than 20 years Bill conducted the state's first Traveling Texas History class, a three-hour credit course which featured a 2,100-mile itinerary. In 2000 he was awarded a Piper Professorship, and in 2012 he received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Wild West Historical Association. Bill has published over 40 books, almost half about Texas history subjects, and in 2007 he was named Best Living Non-Fiction Writer by True West Magazine.
Within moments our vintage steam train pulled out of the Texas State Railroad depot in Rusk, bound for Palestine. Engine No. 316, built in 1917, belched white smoke and hauled us into East Texas pine forests. Steaming along at 20 miles per hour, we enjoyed gorgeous scenery on both sides of our refurbuished coach. Our gracious attendant Joyce kept us supplied with snacks and beverages in the air-conditioned comfort of "Lone Star Seating." And so we commenced a delightful travel experience from the past of the Lone Star State.
Texas, with its vast size, along with almost limitless agricultural and commercial potential, was the site of feverish railroad construction. Entry of the Texas Republic into the Union as a state was unique, and unlike any other state, Texas retained its public lands, rather than turning them over to the federal government. Therefore Texas was able to emulate the U.S. government in offering vacant lands as an inducement to promising railroad companies. Texas gave a staggering 32,150,000 acres to the railroads. By 1890 there were 8,486 miles of track in Texas, an important factor in a population that soared from 818,579 in 1870 to 2,235,527 in 1890.
|Bill with TSR Marketing Manager Janet Gregg|
|With Brakeman C.B. Gunter|
|Our friendly and informative attendant, Joyce|
|Lunch in the shade|
|Rare 1890s Turntable|
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