The Llano Railroad Museum

 

In 1893 the Texas-based Austin and Northwestern Railroad Company (ANRC), which operated from Giddings to Austin, Burnet, Marble Falls, and San Saba, extended its train service into Llano from the Fairland Wye where the tracks split east of Granite Mountain.  Here, the train arrived at a location named Cotton Platform. With the consent of the Texas Railroad Commission, the Houston and Texas Central Railroad took over the operation of he ARNC in 1894. It built the first passenger depot one hundred yards east of Cotton Platform. Handling passengers on the west end of the platform and light freight on the east, the agent's office was located in the center of the building under the peaked roof (Figure 1).

 

(Figure 1) Original Passenger Depot circa 1894

 

According to agent Richard Fishbeck, when passenger service ceased in 1935, C. R. Stolz purchased the depot for $225 and moved it to a lot he owned nearby, presumably to use as a rent house. A short time later, a freight depot (Figure 2).Was constructed 200 yards west of where the passenger depot had been. It operated a freight service for Llano, transporting lumber, barbed wire, metal products, dry goods, and sundries, as well as the occasional passenger, until it was destroyed by fire on February 2, 1962. Southern Pacific freight agent Clarence Wilson stated that the cause of the fire was unknown. Until another freight office could be built, a passenger car served that role. Freight service continued into Llano until August, 1974. (Figure 3).

 

Figure 2

(Figure 2) Llano Freight Depot by E.L. Deg Jr. June 21st 1954

 

Figure 3

(Figure 3) 1974 Last Freight Train to Llano

 

In 1992, with the aim of preserving 29.9 miles of track, bridges, and historical buildings along the rail line from the Fairland Wye to the end of the line at the Llano rail yard, a group of local enthusiasts formed the non-profit Hill Country Railroad Association, Inc,. (HCRA). An application to the Department of the Interior to designate those 29.9 miles as the Austin and Northwestern Railroad District proved successful, and the A&NRR was added to the National Register of Historic Places on October 6, 1997.(Figure 4).

 

Historic District

(Figure 4) Map of the Austin Northwestern Historic Railroad District Showing Historic Sights

 

The HRCA then applied for and received grant money from the U.S. Department of Transportation to construct a new depot reminiscent of the old one.


Designed to be a visitor center, railroad museum, and transportation hub, the current Llano depot was built in 2005 on the same footprint as the original freight depot. The Llano Railroad Museum, established in 2005, was operated by the HCRA until 2006 when the organization disbanded. The museum assets were donated to the City of Llano which still manages the visitor center inside the depot.


In 2021, a group of local enthusiasts formed the Llano River Railroad Corporation (LRRR). Registered as a non-profit entity in the state of Texas, it is a designated IRS 509(a)(2) Public Charity and operates the railroad museum for the city in the current depot visitor center. The LRRR has recently added several new exhibits and photos to the museum collection (Figure 5 & 6).

 

Crossing Sign

(Figure 5) Crossing Signal, Press Button to Start

 

Signal Light

(Figure 6) Signal from Baltimore and Ohio Railroad

 

The long term plan for the LRRC is to offer rail car touring excursions on weekends and holidays, traveling several miles east of the depot through the beautiful Hill Country along the Llano River before reversing for the return trip. Lasting approximately forty-five minutes and scheduled every hour on the hour from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., these excursions will provide travelers with a taste of Texas rarely experienced.
            Visit the updated Llano Railroad Museum to experience train travel back in time and learn about the history of the railroad in Llano County through a variety of artifacts, photographs, and educational exhibits. The Llano River Railroad is currently working on the next installment - an outdoor mining exhibit with original equipment from a local mine that operated during the 1920s and 1930s.

Chris Slade     

 

Caboose