Stored in boxes in the archives of the Grace Museum is a collection of Texas and Pacific Railway photographs and memorabilia from one of the greatest eras in America’s history – the rise of rail travel. This collection chronicles the expansion and growth of the railroad, Abilene, and West Texas during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The ALC and the Grace Museum have long wanted to make this collection available on the West Texas Digital Archives, and now, thanks to a generous grant from the Union Pacific Foundation, we have the necessary funds to fulfill this vision.
Abilene owes its beginnings and heritage to the T&P, but the lack of open digital access leaves this wealth of regional rail history largely hidden from public access. Few people even know of its existence. Fortunately, with the region’s past so strongly influenced by the railroad, putting selections of the T&P collection online will make West Texas rail history from 1881 through the 1970s come alive.
Once digitized and searchable on the WTDA, railroad enthusiasts will enjoy perusing T&P records, photographs, maps, timetables, blueprints, annual reports, letters/correspondence, and other items that tell the story of trains and West Texas. Out of 8,000 items, approximately 1,000 are directly related to the railroad’s influence on Abilene and its surrounding areas.
At the Grace Museum on April 11, 2016 the Union Pacific Foundation presented a check for $5,000 to the ALC for the digitization of selections from the collection. Selection of photographs and documents has already begun, and we want to thank Alice Specht (who is a member of the Grace Museum Board of Trustees and a founding member of the ALC) for volunteering for this task. Now that work has begun, we will continue the project over the next several months and hope to have the digital content up for public view by early 2017.
With items and photos going back to 1895 related to T&P engines, train cars, stations, and train wrecks, this collection promises to bring the vibrant nostalgia of West Texas train travel back to life. Just a little bit interested? We will keep everyone up on the progress of the T&P project. We think you’ll be very pleased with the final results.