Many of you will have probably noticed by now the construction and widening of US 377 south of I-35 in the last few months. One piece of Denton history is likely to be removed in the process: the Texas and Pacific/Missouri Pacific/Union Pacific railroad bridge.
In 1881 the railroad came to Denton, forever changing our town as this event did to thousands of others. What you are looking at, and probably didn’t realize when you see the trains and the tracks, is a 138 year old footprint. Sure, the technology has changed but the right-of-way and grade is basically the same as when Oran Roberts was governor of Texas and Rutherford B. Hayes was president.
Looking at the first three pictures below, one can barely see the outline of the T&P logo; the words “Texas” and “Pacific”; the names of two cities it served via connections with parent company Missouri Pacific (“St. Louis”, “Memphis”), “New Orleans”, and “California”. We’re not sure of the exact date of the lettering, but, it’s a good guess that it was done in the 1940’s-1960’s range.
In the picture below, folks with hawk eyes will notice “76” painted on farthest right of the bridge; likely remnants of the Denton High School Senior Class of our nation’s bicentennial. (Sorry, kids, I think your senior prank is finally going away. Pretty good run, though.). And, for the truly train-obsessed, if you blow up the same picture, you will see an engraving or stamp that says “Lancaster Shops” in the second to last panel. This undoubtedly refers to the T&P railroad shops at their main facility in Fort Worth: Lancaster Yard.
Located on the eastern abutment is a construction date stamped in the concrete, 1933, which is the same date and font as used for the T&P bridge over Dallas Drive where it becomes Bell Avenue in downtown Denton.
This is what the T&P “diamond” logo might’ve looked like when new:
It wouldn’t be a true “In The Weeds” blog post if we didn’t get into some more minutia so, to fulfill the mission, this bridge appears to be of the “steel plate girder” type. Also, while this construction is going on, the Union Pacific is building a temporary “shoofly” track to accommodate rail traffic while the new longer span is put in place. This is a common thing for railroads to build and has about the greatest name!
So, before this old bridge is replaced, take a short trip down US 377/Ft Worth Drive to see 86 year-old infrastructure.