SA&AP Depots - San Antonio, TX

The SA&AP passenger depot which no longer exists.

The following is from the San Antonio Express-News:

The local premises of the San Antonio-Aransas Pass Railroad were more important than they looked. Starting with a trial run to Floresville on Jan. 7, 1886, the S.A. & A.P. eventually linked the city with Corpus Christi and Laredo to the south, Waco to the north and Houston to the east.

"All along the right-of-way, towns began to spring up,'' says the San Antonio Express Magazine, Nov. 11, 1951.

"Vacationists rode in style, speed and comfort from San Antonio to the coast and vice versa.'' Cattle from South Texas had a less pleasant journey but arrived "fatter and sleeker'' because they "no longer had to be driven up the trail.''

Built in 1885 at the corner of Aransas (now Alamo) and South Flores streets, the SAAP station lacked the Mission-style grandeur of the Southern Pacific depot (built in 1901) or the copper-domed elegance of the Missouri Pacific (Mopac) Terminal (1907).

The pioneer-spirited S.A. & A.P. did without sweeping staircases or statuary, but it got a lot done. In his 1885 guidebook, "The City of San Antonio, Texas,'' Andrew Morrison says the railroad "runs three passenger trains ... and from three to six freights in and as many out of San Antonio daily."

Photographs of the depot show a two-story, wood-frame building that could pass for an old hotel, with its many windows and wraparound verandah. Its most distinctive architectural feature was a tower above the corner entrance.

As whimsical as the rest of the building was stolid, this pointy little steeple was laden with ornamentation: a small dormer window, a couple of pagodalike wings, a four-paned oval window, a weather vane and wood trim in diamond and cross motifs.

While it was in use as a train station, the ground floor was dedicated to passenger services such as waiting rooms, baggage check and a lunchroom. Railroad offices occupied the second floor.

During World War I, the railroad began to run trains through the new Missouri-Kansas and Texas (M.K.&T.) station but kept offices in the older building. During World War I, the vacant ground floor "was used to entertain men who had been trained at Camp Stanley and Leon Springs prior to their being shipped out to overseas,'' say John W. Hedge and Geoffrey Dawson in their 1983 history, "The San Antonio and Aransas Pass Railway.''

After the Southern Pacific took over S.A. & A.P. holdings in 1925, the entire depot was leased to various businesses. In 1926, it still looked good enough to play itself in 1898, as depicted in a departure scene of "The Rough Rider,'' a Spanish-American War movie filmed here.

A second-hand furniture store was the last tenant before the building was sold to Leppard Wrecking and Lumber Co. and razed in December 1939.

"Pieces of the depot might now be in all parts of the United States,'' says the Express-News Magazine. Hunks of splintered wood were sold, and souvenir hunters also purchased shingles, window and door trim, as well as more valuable interior fittings.

Pictures of the depot are included in Hedge and Dawson's book, which you may read or photocopy in the non-circulating Texana/Genealogy Room of the San Antonio Public Library, 600 Soledad St.

The library at the Institute of Texan Cultures also has S.A & A.P. photographs; you may view them there or have a copy made. Call photography curator Tom Shelton at 210-458-2241 for details.

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Last Revised: 11/17/2007