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What is: Often abandoned, standing taller than the local courthouse, grain elevators in small town across Texas and the United States.

What was: Whether they hold corn, milo, soybeans, or sunflower seeds, all grain elevators are basically big storage tanks. The number of operating grain elevators peaked around 1984 at around 1500 members in the Texas association. Today there are fewer than than 500 in Texas.

The small-town, family-owned elevators are going the way of the independent grocers. Kids aren’t interested in continuing the business, so they’re either selling out or shutting the doors. Many of the concrete cathedrals of the plains were built after World War II to store government-owned grain. Like the cotton gins of Mississippi, delivering product to the elevators was a social time, as all the local farmers got together to compare notes and share stories.

What is: Robinson Grain Co., Conway TX. The Handbook of Texas reports Conway had a population of 175 in 1969 but only 50 people in 1970. In 2016 the population was recorded as three

What was: Grain elevators were invented by Joseph Dart and Robert Dunbar in 1842 in Buffalo, New York. They created the grain elevators to help with the problem of unloading and storing grain that was being transported through the Erie Canal. Grain Elevators in Conway TX date back to about 1914 and these ones are beside the abandoned railway roadbed of the Chicago, RockIsland and Gulf Railway.

A grain elevator is a facility for agriculture designed to stockpile or store grain. Bucket elevators are used to lift grain to a and then it can fall through spouts and/or conveyors into one or more bins, silos, or tanks in a facility. It can then be emptied from bins, tanks, and silos, and conveyed, blended, and weighted into trucks, railroad cars, or barges for shipment. Concrete silos are better than wood or metal bins because the thick walls insulate the grain from extreme weather

In 1994, this facility was privately owned and was considered a small regional grain elevator. There were 6 locations in the area with a capacity of 4.5 million bushels of storage. It was part of the Texas Grain and Feed Association representing 900 grain, feed and processing firms at that time. Today that organization supports some 400 member companies ranging from sizable producers to medium and small-scale family-owned companies such as feed producers and grain marketing businesses. Ben Boerner, Texas Grain and Feed president noted, “The small-town, family-owned elevators are going the way of the independent grocers,” Boerner says. “The kids aren’t interested in continuing the business, so they’re either selling out or shutting the doors.” (Source: https://www.austinchronicle.com/columns/2008-02-08/589092/)

What is: “Self serve Diesel” but no pumps…the lights are still there and so is the sign. The garage remains too…but not the diner.

What was: The truck terminal dated back to the heyday of Route 66 in the early 1960s, maybe as early as 1955. The neon wheels, the cowboy truck driver, and his animated hand waved during its hey day.

It was one of seven truck stops and five cafes originally built and operated by Bessie (Rogers) Boren and husband Ira Lionel Boren of the Fort Sumner-based Rio Pecos Oil Company.“We had it from 1963 to 1969,” Martinez said. “We were doing a hell of a business at that truck stop.”The business declined from other truck-stop competition and the coming of Interstate 40.  It closed by the late 1970s or early 1980s.

Since then, it has become a growing eyesore to the city because it drew vandals and homeless squatters. The city tried to buy the sign…the owner wanted too much for it.

What is: Cohasset Depot, is an unincorporated community in Fluvanna County, Virginia

What was: Cohasset became a community because of the Virginia Air Line Railway, with the train station being known as the Fork Union Depot. The station served the community of Cohasset itself which grew up around the depot soon after it was built – a general store and post office, four houses, a very early gas station, all of which still stand. Mrs. Lettie Dickey, who with her husband sold the land for the station to the railroad, had named the community Cohasset for her hometown in Massachusetts.

The train traveled from Strathmore Yard on the James River to Cohasset, Carysbrook, Palmyra, Troy and to Gordonsville or Charlotttesville. The railroad was completed and began operating in October 1908. This branch route was built to handle cargo that would have otherwise been too tall or wide to fit through the tunnels that crossed the Blue Ridge Mountains between Charlottesville and Waynesboro.

Coal destined for Washington, D.C. and Northern Virginia was sent down the James River Line to the southern junction of the route at Strathmore Yard, near Bremo Bluff. The shipments then proceeded up the Virginia Air Line to the northern junction at Lindsay, and continued on to Gordonsville. The Fork Union Depot served as a typical small railroad station of its day. Much of the local commercial business was associated with the nearby sawmill, canning factory, and two small oil storage companies. The passengers came from the surrounding farms, small towns, and the Fork Union Military Academy. The train was the main transportation for Cadets attending nearby Fork Union Military Academy for many years.

The railway also became an important line of communication that connected the small communities along the route with larger cities, such as Washington, D.C. C&O began to operate the company directly in July 1909, and acquired it outright in July 1912. In 1927, dedicated passenger rail service was reduced to one train per day in each direction, and replaced by mixed (passenger and freight) trains in June 1932. Mixed trains stopped running in 1954. The growing adoption of automobiles, trucks and airplanes had been taking business away from railroads since the 1930s.

On October 26, 1971, the Fluvanna Board of Supervisors unsuccessfully sued the Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad to keep the railway in operation; it was abandoned in November 1975. Source: Wikipedia

What is: the railroad running through the abandoned rail yard towards the mountains.

What was: Transportation across Texas was originally hindered by impassable roads across large expanses of land often damaged by unpredictable weather. Shallow rivers and desert prohibited major water routes across the State. The railroad changed that. For about 160 years the trains have rolled across the large state of Texas. Freight trains, a mile and half long or more, roll right on by the small towns, around the mountains and pass through the countryside. The railroad was not just a path to economic development, but also settlement. The early steam locomotives needed water every thirty miles and so across great swaths of Texas, there was a small town every 30 miles. Wherever the train went, a community built up and commerce bloomed. Short lines connected to larger cities connecting people and commerce throughout the State. The longer rail lines went across the country and connected to both coasts and the midwest.


What is: A Ford panel sedan delivery truck, at the side of the road, Route 66

What was: Chevrolet is often credited with offering the first true sedan delivery body style in 1928. However, Ford was a leading purveyor of Sedan Delivery vehicles throughout the 1930s. Much of the sheet metal, including the fenders and front doghouse, is shared with the ’37 Ford passenger car. In the 1940s Ford’s Sedan Deliveries carried the styling of Deluxe-series cars — slated “gills” flanking a horizontal-bar grille. Sedan Deliveries also got a larger cargo body that year.

Inside was a beautiful art-deco dashboard, in contrasting colors. Standard equipment included a column gearshift, dual wipers and visors, ashtrays on both sides, full insulation and interior lining — even a clock. Many connoisseurs of design declare it the best-looking sedan delivery ever. There were about 5300 Ford Sedan Delivery models made in 1940. The 1942 Ford Sedan Delivery is rare, as all civilian vehicle manufacturing was halted shortly after Pearl Harbor. Passenger car-based delivery models would not return at Ford until 1952.

Panel trucks were used by construction and maintenance contractors, by farmers for selling fruits and vegetables, delivery vehicles and configured as ambulances and hearses.

The period of time spanning the late 1940’s to the late 1950’s was the golden age of the Sedan Delivery. While Chevrolet and Ford dominated the Sedan Delivery market, a few other manufacturers (such as Pontiac and Studebaker) got in on the action as well. In 1960, Ford’s Sedan Delivery ambitions were transferred from the full-sized Ford line to the brand-new Falcon platform. The Falcon-based vehicle was offered through 1965.

What is: A bit of a backroad excursion to a bridge in need of structural repair.

What was: an engineering marvel and key part of the 1930s realignment of Route 66. 3/4 mile Pony bridge uses 38 pony trusses acrosss the South Canadian River. It was a 1930s engineering marvel, on the upgraded alignment of Route 66. It is the longest truss bridge on the mother road. HistoricBridges.org believes it to be the longest simple-span pony truss in the entire country, both in terms of number of pony truss spans (38) and total spanning length (3,800 total spanned feet by pony trusses). With this realignment of Route 66, Bridgeport OK became a ghost town and the private toll bridge in the area was replaced by this modern pony bridge. A scene in the 1940 “Grapes of Wrath” movie was filmed here. Its official name is the William H. Murray Bridge.

What is: Shiprock Park, Richmond, VA

What was: Replacing locks built in 1816, the great lock was constructed in the 1850s. It is the lowest point that connects the James River with the Richmond Dock, completing the James River and Kanawha Canal system that bypassed seven miles of falls. The Great Ship Lock connected the navigable part of the James River with the Richmond city dock, which extended for ten blocks to the west. Ocean-going vessels were raised up from sea level to the level of the city dock which accommodated ships as large as 180 feet long by 35 feet wide.

Originally, George Washington was searching for a way to open a water route to the West. He believed that was the key to helping Virginia become an economic powerhouse in what would emerge as the United States. He surveyed and planned the original canal system to bypass the rocky rapids of the James River, intending for it to stretch all the way west to the Ohio River Valley. It only made it as far as Botetourt County in western Virginia, about 197 miles through Virginia’s western mountain ranges. The James River and Kanawha Canal was the most ambitious public works and engineering project in Virginia during the 19th century.

This canal served as an important transport hub for the tobacco, flour, wheat, fish, oats. Lime, coal and shingles. Flat-bottomed boats floated down the James to Richmond laden with tobacco, hogsheads and returned with French and English imports, furniture, dishes, and clothing.

After the American Civil War, funds for resuming construction were unavailable from either the war-torn Commonwealth or private sources and the project did poorly against railroad competition.The Railroads had emerged as a more efficient form of transportation, midway in the canal’s construction and ultimately the canal’s towpath became the roadbed for the Richmond and Allegheny Railroad, following the same course.