History of a railroad

Southern Pacific Fairland to Llano branch.

The branch was constructed in 1891-1892. At that time its only metal bridge crossed the Colorado River just above its confluence with the Llano River. All other creek crossings were trestles. A wye was provided at the eastern end of the branch where it connects with the earlier Austin to Granite Mountain railroad and another wye at the railroad terminus in Llano. In the 1930s a number of steel truss bridges were relocated from other parts of the Southern Pacific rail system as a way of upgrading the trestles.

The branch was constructed in anticipation of Llano becoming a boom town due to the discovery that the Llano Uplift contained a variety of valuable minerals including gold and iron ore. For a while, Llano attracted numerous investors, speculators and prospectors but enthusiasm waned after it was determined that the quantity and quality of the deposits were insufficient for commercial exploitation.

During those boom years Llano was a popular destination for revellers from Austin with numerous saloons, gambling dens and houses of ill repute along with at least one large, high class hotel. For a while, Llano was a Wild West town with gunfights in the streets but after the speculators and prospectors drifted away the railroad continued to be a valuable asset to the community - allowing essential supplies of building materials and finished products to be transported into the town and local products such as cattle, hogs, sheep, horses, mules, cotton, wool, turkeys, chickens, pecans, furs and granite to be shipped out. At that time no good transportation alternative existed so the presence of the railroad had a significant affect upon the town of Llano and the surrounding villages and ranches.

The branch also made a great contribution to the construction of the Buchanan Dam. A wye and a special branch line was built to allow the huge quantity of materials to be transported to the site of the dam.

As time went on, motor vehicles provided a more flexible means of transporting goods and passengers so traffic on the line decreased. The last passenger train left Llano in 1936. Freight traffic continued until 1981. The section of line from Scobie to Llano was embargoed in 1994.

Funds were raised in the late 1900s that enabled the track to be restored to use but only two excursions from Llano are known to have occurred as a result. There has been no commercial traffic on the line for around eighteen years at the time of writing.

For those would like to dig deeper into the history of this line I would refer them to the application for inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places that can be found in the National Archives under reference number 40971427.

 

In the early 1900s the Austin and Northwestern Railroad promoted the Llano branch line as the Granite and Iron Route. This picture is from an old poster. Their logo forms the basis for the Llano River Railroad logo.

 

Panel from old map showing the Austin and Northwest Railroad Historic District

 

Historic Photos

Early photo of Llano Depot with steam train and stagecoach.

 

Llano Railyard around 1900

 

Loading granite blocks - 1907

 

Llano Railyard in 1908 with view over town.

 

Colorado River bridge - 1892

 

Colorado Bridge after 1962

 

Cedar Creek Bridge, Kingsland - after Lake LBJ was filled.

 

Tantrough Creek Bridge

 

Little Llano Creek bridge.

 

Pecan Creek bridge and trestle

 

Llano Railyard post 1961- after depot building burned.