Located in downtown Plano, the Interurban Railway Museum is housed in a building that served as a primary stop on the Texas Electric Railway that ran from Denison to Dallas beginning in 1908. On December 31, 1948, the Denison to Dallas Interurban made its last run.
The station remained closed until early 1990 when a complete restoration of the building was completed and the building was converted into a museum by the City of Plano. The museum exhibit contains many artifacts associated with the Interurban Line, as well as a history of Plano. The museum is also home to the Johnnie J. Myers Research Center.
The Role of the Conservancy
The Plano Conservancy for Historic Preservation, Inc., along with the City of Plano, maintains the Interurban Railway Museum and has implemented projects to improve the exhibits at the museum.
The City of Plano owns the museum. The Plano Conservancy for Historic Preservation, Inc. staffs, operates and offices there and has been instrumental in developing and maintaining the museum and its exhibits.
If you were fortunate enough to live in Plano between 1908 and 1948, then you most likely had an opportunity to experience the rollicking, clickity clack sway of riding on a Texas Electric Railway Interurban Car. This second generation of rail transportation extended from Denison to Waco, with connections to Fort Worth, Cleburne, and Denton possible through the “hub” station in Dallas.
Rail transportation powered by steam first arrived in Plano in 1872 and forever changed the agrarian lifestyle of early settlers who had traveled to this area by covered wagon. While steam engines guaranteed the survival and likelihood of growth to a community and transported farm crops to distant locations, the laborious process of producing enough steam to drive the train forward limited the frequency of stops along a line. In the late 1880’s ingenious inventors discovered the wonder of electricity and devised ways to harness this marvel into driving trolley cars previously drawn by mules or horses.
Entrepreneurs, capitalizing on ways to market this new transportation, developed systems throughout the United States that connected small towns and outlying farms to a large, regional city. Overnight, farming families isolated from society by distance had easy and affordable access to opportunities and amenities available to urban populations.
Located in downtown Plano, the Texas Electric Railway Station served as an early form of the Internet bringing people, goods, newspapers with worldwide coverage, and traveling salesmen together in a timely fashion. A contract signed with the United States Post Office in 1914 permitted mail to be carried and delivered to the many towns along the line via the Texas Electric Railway System. Three interurban cars were refitted with bins, sorting tables, mail slots and cancellation stamps enabling two postal employees, in a secured rear compartment, to process mail as the car traveled north and south on its daily schedule.
Connecting Past to Present
The Interurban building in Plano was also an electric sub-station that converted the high voltage alternating current to direct current in order to power the line. This is the only remaining sub-station example on the Interurban line, which served as a primary stop on the Texas Electric Railway, linking Denison and Dallas beginning in 1908. The Interurban’s impact on rural life was dramatic as it ended the isolation of distant farm families. Not only did it bring the mail, salesmen and new products to small towns and their stores, but it gave rural residents a means to explore the bright lights and big city cheaply and safely. Trains ran hourly from 6:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.
The advent of the automobile contributed to the closing of the Plano station on December 31, 1948, when the Denison to Dallas Interurban made its last run. The building was used in a variety of ways until 1982. It was then closed until 1990, when a complete restoration of the building was completed by the City of Plano. The dedication of this Texas Historical Landmark was held on June 17, 1991 and was opened to the public as a museum.