MERKEL, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) – For many Merkel locals, it’s familiar sounds of a train rumbling by that may signify home. That’s a sentiment that certainly blows true for Tootie Bland, who recently made a peculiar purchase as part of her goal to revitalize the small town.
“We have a train that runs through here about twice a day. It’s a good reminder of where your roots are and where you came from,” shared Bland.
One day while driving in Tye, Bland happened upon a piece of history: A passenger car, number 6184 of the Missouri Pacific which used to run through Merkel before retiring in 1965.
According to railroad historian Corrender Taylor, the passenger car was built in July of 1927 for the Missouri Pacific Railroad Company. It was a 76-seat coach car with rust-colored upholstery, and featured two restrooms.
“Texas and Pacific Railway that went through here originally was majority owned by the Missouri Pacific Company. So, a lot of their equipment was interchangeable,” Taylor explained.
That train now lives in merkel, where it had to be cut in half to be moved… But this wasn’t the first time it had major work done.
“They actually just covered the top of the original roof with just some sheet metal. So, now that it’s cut in half you’ll see some of the cool features underneath,” revealed Taylor.
Bland told KTAB/KRBC she plans to fill the cart with people, just as it would have been during the glory days of public travel. However, she’s turning it into a small eatery instead of using it as transportation.
“[You] Pop off the highway, come through Merkel, eat on a train car. Not everybody gets to eat in a train cart,” Bland listed.
A piece of the train will serve Merkel in a different way, Bland said, “To look into this train and make sure that it lasts the test of time, we didn’t want anything to go wrong with this, or that it end up in a scrap yard because it is a big piece of history, and it’s a big piece of Merkel history.”
Whatever does come next for Merkel’s historic train, Taylor said its future is sure to have a lasting impact on the community.
“It is in good hands. Whatever comes of it will be good no matter what because the condition it was in was far worse than it is now. The chance that it gets to get saved is good now,” added Taylor.