Stephen F. Austin State University

You Can't Get There from Here! (February 2013)

Clucking Heard 'Round the City - Part V - You Can't Get There from Here!
By Marvin Mayer

In the late 1930s and throughout the 1940s, the primary mode of transportation across the United States was by passenger train. Air travel was in its infancy and was considered a luxury, financially out of reach for many people. Although highways crisscrossed the states, they were a far cry from the interstate highway system of the 21st century. So, cross country travel most often was left to the railroads.

One would think Tyler, the largest city in, and seat of government for, Smith County would have become the hub of passenger travel, but such was not the case. While the St. Louis and Southern Railroad, A.K.A The Cotton Belt Railroad, offered some passenger service through Tyler, extending as far north as East St. Louis, IL., most travelers found it more expedient either to be routed to/through Troup (to the southeast) or Mineola (to the northwest). Tyler became almost an afterthought as these two smaller communities seized the opportunity to get strangle holds on cross country rail passenger service.

This odd arrangement meant inconvenience for many passengers wanting to get to Tyler from population centers around the country. People traveling great distances to visit their soldiers at Camp Fannin, for example, often found it best to take a train to Troup. That left them about 16 miles from their destination.

Elmer 'Tubby' Holsomback heard opportunity 'knocking'. Sixteen passenger trains per day, half north bound and the other half south bough, all stopping in Troup. He acquired a Flxible bus and started providing service between the two "T"'s; Troup and Tyler.

Imagine the chagrin of experience travelers as they exited the train in Troup and realized that still hae another half hour of travel over rather bumpy highways to get to their ultimate destination, Tyler.

Bus service benefited locals at both ends of the route. Troup resident Jim Carlyle recalls being allowed to ride the bus to Tyler to visit the Carnegie Library, which today is home to the Smith County Historical Society.

From the Bus Depot, it was a short walk south on Bois D'Arc street to the library. He read as much as he could before time to head home. Checking out the maximum 4 books he could borrow on any given visit, he returned to the bus depot for the return ride.

At the same time, Tylerites interested in passenger rail service to destinations like Chicago, Atlanta, Denver, could take Mr. Holsomback's bus directly to the train depot in Troup, where they could board one of those 16 daily trains and be on their way. But if you called Tyler your home and you wanted to travel anyplace in this country, you almost couldn't get there from here! Your journey usually began with a bus (or car) ride to 'Little T', a.k.a. Troup, TX.