TEXAS SOUTH-EASTERN RAILROAD
TEXAS SOUTH-EASTERN RAILROAD. The Texas Southeastern Railroad Company was chartered on October 9, 1900, by T. L. L. Temple, founder of the Southern Pine Lumber Company, and still belongs to the same, now diversified, organization (see TEMPLE INDUSTRIES). On February 6, 1931, the railroad was renamed the Texas South-Eastern Railroad Company. The company, capitalized at $100,000, has offices at Diboll. Members of the first board of directors were Temple of Texarkana, Arkansas; C. M. McWilliams of Texarkana, Texas; and W. J. Williams, Charles Frederick, Watson Walker, W. P. Rutland, and William Ashford, all of Angelina County. In 1898 the Southern Pine Lumber Company purchased a seven-mile narrow gauge railroad from W. N. Atwood, which became the basis for the Texas Southeastern. After the incorporation of the railroad, the line was rebuilt and extended about fifteen miles eastward from Diboll to a connection with the St. Louis Southwestern Railway Company of Texas (Cotton Belt). This gave the Texas Southeastern a second outlet for its traffic, as the company already connected with the Houston East and West Texas Railway Company at Diboll. With two railroads now competing for its traffic, the Cotton Belt connection gave the Texas Southeastern a more assured car supply as well as a higher division of the freight rates on outbound lumber.
In May 1906 the charter of the Texas Southeastern was amended, authorizing the railroad to build in a westward direction to Everett in San Jacinto County with branch lines from Blix to Lufkin and from Vair to Neches in Houston County. In March 1908 the company sold its mileage east of Diboll to the Southern Pine Lumber Company. On November 28, 1908, the railroad was recognized as a common carrier by the Railroad Commission, and by early 1909 the company had completed nearly twenty-eight miles of track between Diboll and Neff and between Blix and Lufkin. The company did no additional construction, although during 1915 and 1916 the Texas Southeastern operated more than seventeen miles of a logging railroad built by the Southern Pine Lumber Company between Neff and Bluff City. In December 1915 the company also obtained trackage rights over the Cotton Belt for log trains between Lufkin and White City, a distance of forty-two miles, which briefly expanded the Texas Southeastern to eighty-seven miles. However, in August 1916 service was discontinued to Bluff City, and in March 1919 the company also sold the 7.7 miles between Vair and Neff to the Southern Pine Lumber Company. Between 1908 and 1932 the Groveton, Lufkin and Northern Railway Company operated over the company's track between Vair and Lufkin.
The Texas South-Eastern is one of three short line railroads remaining from the boom period of the East Texas lumber industry. This can be attributed to the policy of the parent organization, now Temple-Inland, Incorporated, which practiced sustained cutting of timber and to the development of ancillary industries at Diboll. In addition, the railroad also serves various industries at Lufkin. Its principal traffic has always been lumber and forest products, but daily for more than forty years it also ran a mixed train known affectionately as either "Take it Slow and Easy" or "Tattered, Shattered, and Expired." Between November 1, 1962, and December 31, 1969, the Texas South-Eastern also leased the Texas State Railroad from Palestine to Rusk. Until 1938 the vice president of the Texas South-Eastern was E. C. Durham, who had previously worked for the Texas and Pacific Railway Company. Durham was general manager of the railroad during the "Tap Line Case" before the Interstate Commerce Commission and was selected to speak on behalf of the other tap lines. He was succeeded by H. G. Temple, who was also vice president of the Southern Pine Lumber Company at the time. The railroad and lumber companies were closely associated throughout their histories.
In 1978 the 2.4 miles of the Texas South-Eastern between Blix and Vair was abandoned, leaving the railroad with 17.75 miles of track. Like other railroads built to tap the forests of Angelina and neighboring counties, it spawned far-flung logging camps which eventually died or were moved when the timber in the area was cut. Unlike the other camps, the town of Diboll continues to prosper. The partnership of Temple-Inland and the Texas South-Eastern played no small part in the prosperity of Diboll and the surrounding area of East Texas. However, the coming of railroad deregulation in the 1980s and the abandonment of the Cotton Belt line into Lufkin has meant changes on the Texas South-Eastern. The railroad now finds it advantageous to interchange freight directly with the Southern Pacific, successor to the Houston East and West Texas, at Diboll rather than to haul the cars to Lufkin. Likewise, the freight originating or terminating at Lufkin is interchanged at that point. As a result, the Texas South-Eastern no longer operates trains over its main line between Diboll and Lufkin and limits itself to industrial switching at the two points.
Laurence C. Walker, Axes, Oxen, and Men: A Pictorial History of the Southern Pine Lumber Company (Diboll, Texas: Angelina Free Press, 1975).
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The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.Handbook of Texas Online, Megan Biesele, "Texas South-Eastern Railroad," accessed January 24, 2017, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/eqt15.
Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Modified on October 26, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.