The Houston and Texas Central Railroad
Depot at Anna
by Bert Wetherill, November 28, 2018
The railroad was the “spark” that drew in the people who ultimately built the town of Anna. James Lafayette Greer, known as Captain Greer, migrated to Collin County in 1867. He purchased a large amount of land including what would later become the site of Anna. He donated land for the Houston & Texas Central Railroad (H&TC) main line, switch tracks, and depot. This donation of land guaranteed the route of the railroad through the future town of Anna. When the railroad was first completed through the Anna area there was as yet no town of Anna. There was, however, a flag stop where Anna was later established. A flag stop was a spot along a railroad where a flag or signal could be raised to tell a train crew that passengers or freight was ready to be picked up. It’s not yet known when the railroad sidings at Anna were built. It may have been at the same time the main line was built in 1873, but they were certainly in place when the depot was constructed. By 1883 twenty new residents had moved into the area and Anna was ready for more recognition. The town officially got its name, its first post office, and its first postmaster on May 9, 1883. Anna’s first plat of streets and lots was recorded at the courthouse in McKinney on November 8, 1883.
The Original Anna Depot Configuration
The Anna H&TC depot was completed in early 1885 (Ref. 1). A freight siding ran along the west side of the depot, and a by-pass siding ran along the east side of the mainline tracks (Ref. 2). As mentioned above, it’s not known when the railroad sidings at Anna were built. It may have been at the same time the main line was built in 1873, but they were certainly in place when the depot was constructed.
The depot, as originally built, was 20’-4” wide by 70’-2” long (Ref. 2). It had a 30 feet long platform extending to the north with a ramp down to ground level on the north end of the platform. Freight doors were located on the east, west, and north sides of the freight room. A four feet wide platform ran along the west side and a 9’-6” wide platform ran along the south side of the depot.
A diorama model has been constructed to what is believed to be a fair representation of the original appearance of the depot. See Fig. 1. The original configuration would have been very similar to the original Allen, Texas H&TC depot. See Fig. 2. The agent’s bay window in the model was patterned after the Allen Depot bay window and from a sketch of the Anna depot in Chester Howell’s book A Town named Anna (Ref. 3, pg. 27). All other doors and windows in the diorama model are shown based on evidence in the Anna depot structure as it appeared prior to its restoration, and from information supplied in historic records of the depot (Ref. 2).
Fig. 3 is the only photograph currently available that shows the Anna depot in its original location. The photograph shows a portion of the north end of the building and a portion of the platform at that end. When the photograph was taken is not known.
The Modified Anna Depot
Sometime between the mid 1930’s and the early 1960’s the Anna depot was modified by cutting off each end of the structure. It is this modified depot that now stands in Anna’s Sherley Heritage Park.
Cutting back to the south wall of the agent’s office area shortened the depot’s south end. The original depot had a 30 feet long freight room at the north end (Ref. 2) that was reduced to just over 12 feet resulting in a modified depot length of 38’-8.” There is some evidence to suggest that a platform also existed along a portion of the east side of the modified depot.
The interior of the modified Anna depot was divided into three rooms. The south room was the agent’s office and had the bay window on the east side to permit the agent a view up and down the main line tracks. There was a small window in the south wall with a single sash that would slide up and had notches for detents to hold the window at any of several positions. This may have been a ticket window or a window through which the telegraph operator could serve telegram customers. The window may have served both functions. Where this window was located in the original depot is unknown for certain, but it could have been located inside the depot, a common location for H&TC ticket windows. However, historic records (Ref. 2) state that the window was glass and had wooden shutters to enclose it. The glass pane and shutters were not likely to have been necessary if the window was located inside the depot.
A sign on the northwest corner of the depot notified people that the Western Union Telegraph and Cable Office was located in the depot building (Fig. 3). There was also an Express Office in the depot.
The depot’s central room had a pedestrian door on both the east and west sides and was likely a passenger waiting room. This room connected to the agent’s office through an opening without a closable door. It connected to the north room through a closable door and with two steps leading up to the freight floor. The north room was the freight room and its floor is about 16 inches above the floors of the central and south rooms. This difference in height raised the level of the freight room floor and loading docks on the west and north sides of the depot to better match the floor height of freight cars on the siding. The freight room had two large sliding doors. The east freight door opened directly above ground level for loading and unloading a baggage or freight cart, and the west freight door opened onto the freight platform along the siding. There were platforms completely around the depot except at the east freight door. Steps or an inclined ramp on the west platform gave access to the higher platform at the west freight door.
After WWII, expansion of the highway system and increased use of private passenger cars, and trucks to haul freight was a serious blow to railroad revenues. Depot use was reduced after the war and activity ceased by the early 1960’s. The modified depot was acquired by Lewis ‘Nip’ Roberts and moved from its original location to his property on west Highway 455 for use as a hay barn. Roberts’ property was later sold and the depot-barn was to be razed. Through the efforts of several history-minded Anna residents, the depot building was donated to the Anna Area Historical Preservation Society in 2006 and moved to a temporary storage site in 2007.
The primary goal of the Historic Society was to raise the necessary funds to restore the depot to its original condition. Through fund raising activities by the Historic Society, generous grants from the Collin County Historic Commission, and donations from individuals and various supporting organizations, the depot was moved to its final location in Anna’s Sherley Heritage Park on May 8, 2018 so restoration work could begin. The restored Anna depot will serve as a museum and education facility.
Figures 4, 6, 8, and 10 that follow, show the depot as it appeared prior to its move to Sherley Heritage Park. Each quarter view photograph was taken with the building in its original orientation, but not at its original location. The equivalent diorama photographs are of a model built before information was acquired defining the original depot configuration. The model pictured in Figures 5, 7, 9, and 11 is believed to be a fair representation of the depot’s modified appearance. The finished diorama will become part of the educational displays in the restored depot.
Model of Original Configuration of the H&TC Depot,
Anna, Texas circa 1885. Looking West
H&TC Depot, Allen, Texas circa 1872
Photo Courtesy of Allen, Texas Chamber of Commerce
North Side of the H&TC Depot Anna, Texas
M. C. Powell, Jr. (1918-1988) standing in foreground
Photo courtesy of Brenda Hammack
Anna H&TC Depot, Southwest View
Plywood covers the location of the Agent’s Bay Window
Diorama Anna H&TC Depot, Southwest View
Anna H&TC Depot, Northwest View
Plywood covers the location of the Agent’s Bay Window
Diorama Anna H&TC Depot, Northwest View
Anna H&TC Depot, Northeast View
Note the “step up” from the lower to the higher platform
Diorama Anna H&TC Depot, Northeast View
Anna H&TC Depot, Southeast View
Diorama Anna H&TC Depot, Southeast View
Ref. 1, The Anna Times. Vol. 1, No. 21, December 16, 1915. A Historical Sketch by Judge John F. Greer.
Ref. 2, National Archives, Engineering Field Notes of ICC Parties Surveying The Physical Property of Railroads 1914-1919; Entry A1 11; Box 5884; Records of the Commerce Commission; Record Group 134; pg. 46.
Ref. 3, A Town Named Anna, Chester A. Howell, October 1991, revised February and October 1993, updated December 2008.