The History of the Denton-Dallas Interurban
by Rodney Walters
At the turn of the twentieth century only the railroad provided fast travel to Denton County residents. Restricted as it was to the steel rails and time schedules, the train compelled the citizenry to plan according to its availability. While the automobile began to make its appearance ignorance and distrust of the machine did not win it quick popularity and the poor roads of the period could scarcely accommodate a car. For these reasons interurban trains became a common subject of discussion and proposition. Citizens reasoned that the interurban could tie together outlying communities and supplement the larger established railroads.
The first interurban proposition of serious intent involving Denton County came from a Dallas businessman, J. Mercer Carter, in 1906. He supposedly had ample funds with which to carry out the project. The undertaking designed to include other North Texas cities never materialized. In 1907 the Denton Mayor, T.J. Simmons, inaugurated the Denton Railway Service, which provided local street car service. In a year's time this company suffered financially, with four creditors suing for unpaid debts, among them the Allis Chalmers Company and Briggs-Weaver machinery Company. The Commercial Club of Dallas, fearing the creditors would dissolve the company, urged "proper parties" in Dallas to purchase the company for the purpose of utilizing some of the equipment for an interurban line between Denton and Dallas. The company, however, managed to regain financial footing and the interurban proposal bore no fruit.
Meanwhile Denton County citizens became interested in forming an interurban line from Denton to Slidell in Wise County. In 1910 a movement began which expressed confidence that the line would be completed the following year. Promoters of the undertaking noted that the planned route would give a connection with the Santa Fe at Krum, and provide an easy route into Denton for the rich territory around Slidell. Owing to the lack of funds and broad based support, this venture also failed. Interurban supporters, however, did not abandon hope.
In 1911 a clamor arose for a Dallas-Denton line which would pass through Irving and Grapevine. Involved communities laid plans, but construction never began. Then in 1912 came the most promising development to date, the proposition to lay a line between Denton and Ft. Worth. On June 17, 1912, a leading citizen of Wise County, A.D. Rogers, outlined the plans initiated by four prominent Fort Worth businessmen, and promised that construction would begin in ninety days or less. Financial backing came slowly; nevertheless, by the end of 1913, enough stockholders had subscribed to shares in the undertaking and Dentonites rejoiced for the railway was an "assured fact." Shortly after the Ft. Worth-Denton Interurban Company's organization, Stone and Webster Company of Boston, purchased it and agreed to erect the line. After a year of little progress, the stockholders learned that the New England company had suffered severe financial setbacks on other Texas ventures, brought on by the development of a new transportation medium, "jitney service," which used cars and busses. The World War also caused a financial pinch. The troubled company's offer to pay $30,000 for release from their contract proved acceptable to stockholders, each of whom suffered about an 8 per cent loss on his investment. Although Ft. Worth and Denton people vowed to continue working for a local railway between the two cities, they achieved nothing.
The only interurban project eventually realized, at least in part, began in 1913. When it appeared the Ft. Worth- Denton proposal would become fact, citizens of Dallas renewed their activities. Dallasites planned a company with designs to purchase the old Dallas and New Mexico railroad embankments and construct a line to Roanoke, where it would connect with the Ft. Worth-Denton line. When this latter line folded so did the Dallas plan, but the idea still had strong support.
Toward the end of 1915, a Dallas promoter, E.P. Turner, announced that construction on a line from Dallas to Denton to Krum would begin in six months. By February, 1916, a new extended proposal as reported in the Denton record-Chronicle, dwarfed the earlier plan.
"Blue prints of the proposed route of the Dallas North- western road have been received here. The route as shown touches Farmers branch, Carrollton, Lewisville, Garza and Corinth using the Dallas and Wichita branch of the Katy or paralleling it. From Denton it runs northwest to Krum thence northwest to Slidell, Greenwood, Dan Newharp, Dorsie and Bowie, while another route is shown projected from Krum north along the Santa Fe into Gainesville. A projection is also shown from Bowie to Wichita falls paralleling the Denver road. The route includes Dallas, Montague, Clay, Wichita and Cooke counties."
The grandiose scheme must have fired the traveling spirits of the inhabitants of these outlying areas, but the hard facts of the shortage of funds and the slim chances of financial solvency held it in check. The promoters realized that many fares would have to be purchased to operate successfully, but they continued to work with the interurban concept. By 1920 the grand plan had been pared down to include only a line from Dallas to Denton to Wichita Falls; however, the depressed economic conditions of 1920 and 1921 eliminated the latter city. In the spring of 1921 a Dallas company called Strickland, Calder and Hobson, later known as the Texas Interurban Railway Company assumed direction of the venture.
A year and a half later actual work began on the line that used the Katy's branch between Dallas and Denton after it's electrification. Work progressed for a year. Expectations ran high; soon a dream would be realized. Then another snag appeared; a permanent injunction restraining the Texas Interurban Railway Company from laying seven blocks of track along Fairmont Avenue in Dallas threatened to ruin chances of completion. The company spent two months settling the suit with the blocking landowners. By the fall of 1924, workers completed construction of the line, and 230 officials initiated the long awaited service on September 30, when four cars carrying them arrived in Denton for celebration of the event. Regular service began the following day with a one- way fare costing $1.25, and a round-trip fare costing $2.40.
Poor response to the new service disappointed the company and those who had worked for the interurban's construction. The company began to seriously consider discontinuing service four months after the start of the operation. During the many years it took to realize the interurban, the automobile industry had made tremendous progress; the county had built roads, and the interurban bus service between Dallas and Denton had become popular but 1925 because of lower fares. Another, and perhaps the chief reason for lack of sustained interest in the interurban, was the already established economic relationship with Ft. Worth. Prior to the inauguration of the first railway to Dallas, Fort Worth had proven more accessible to Denton County residents, who considered themselves more in the Fort Worth trade territory. The habit of going to Fort Worth rather than Dallas had always been strong. This tendency effected a loss of $12,062.00 to the Texas Interurban Railway Company for its first year of operation to Denton. In 1926 the company reported that the loss on the Denton line wiped out the profit on its line to Terrell.32 Service continued into 1930, but each year proved to be financially unsuccessful.
On April 20, 1931, The Denton Record Chronicle counseled the citizens to use the interurban, pointing out that for the seven years of service it had experienced many difficulties and that one could not expect it to continue. The warning went unheeded and in march, 1932, the Dallas Union Trust Company filed suit for foreclosure on the company. John W. Carpenter, president of the enterprise, announced suspension of the service and requested bus lines to accommodate all rail passengers. The short-lived interurban came to an end with outstanding indebtedness of $1,200,000 on its Dallas-Terrell line and $780,000 on its Dallas-Denton line.