Info on train station near Dominion sought
In traveling up the “Fredericksburg Highway” in the early 1950s, I remember seeing a railroad water tower along the old SAAP/SAF&N line beyond what is now Fiesta Texas (an old quarry at the time) at the approximate location of The Dominion today near Leon Springs. There was also a railroad sign that proclaimed “Beaver Junction” hard by a siding by the water tower. All is gone today, and so I am hoping you have some data you can share on the subject to substantiate these childhood memories. Too bad the line was torn up. Think of what a steam-excursion train ride even just to Boerne would draw today!
Just to orient us all as we begin this trip: The San Antonio and Aransas Pass Railway, nicknamed the SAAP or SAP, was constructed during the mid to late 1880s, with 222 miles of track connecting San Antonio with Corpus Christi and Kerrville as well as points south and north in between, before being acquired by the Southern Pacific in 1892. The San Antonio, Fredericksburg and Northern Railway was a much shorter and shorter-lived line, built in the mid-1910s to connect Fredericksburg with the SAAP and reach further into the Hill Country.
The route of the old Fredericksburg Highway was replaced, approximately, by Interstate 10 West; Six Flags Fiesta Texas was built into a disused portion of the Beckmann Quarry. The community of Leon Springs, settled in the mid-19th century, lies between two Army installations, Camp Bullis and Camp Stanley, both more than 100 years old and still in operation.
Besides the town, quarry and Army camps, there were ranches in the area, all of which needed rail service, while the trains themselves and those who worked on them needed service stops of their own. There were several stations around Leon Springs — which had its own proper depot and platform — but none named “Beaver Junction” is documented. A historical story on the railroad in the Kerrville Mountain Sun, June 14, 1967, cites a 1912 map of the railroad’s north-south leg, listing the stops as “Center Point, Comfort, Waring, Welfare, Boerne, Van Raub, Leon Springs, Viva, Beckmann, Robards and San Antonio.” Military maps later show Camp Stanley Junction and an unnamed stop that served Camp Bullis, but no Beaver Junction. An undated list of SAAP stations between San Antonio and Leon Springs adds Shavano and Olga to the 1912 map’s stops, but no Beaver.
Experts consulted for this column think you’re remembering either Viva (sounds like Beaver) or Beckmann (starts with the same letter), both of which were in the area.
The Viva Ranch lent its name to the Viva watering station, milepost 256 on the SAAP’s station number list, included in “The Settlement of Leon Springs,” by Jeanne Dixon and Marlene Richardson. “Located near the entrance to the present-day Dominion,” wrote the authors, Viva was “an essential watering stop for the steam locomotives” and later was a flag stop (one where trains would only stop if passengers flagged them down). A 1930 photograph in this book shows the Viva depot, which had a freight platform, section house (for storage or housing railroad workers) and handcar shed.
Dixon and Richardson quote Maurice Reagan, son of Viva section foreman Claude Reagan, who remembered “a big old water tank, and it was my dad’s job to keep that tank full of water, pumping it out of Leon Creek.” A map sketched by the younger Reagan shows the Viva stop, 1 ½ miles outside of Leon Springs, with several structures — the water tank, a pump house, section foreman’s house, cattle-loading pen and section crew housing.
The same station is shown with a small cluster of structures that could correspond to these recollections on a 1920s topographic map of the Leon Springs Military Reservation area consulted by Fort Sam Houston Museum Director Jacqueline Davis.
Other military maps “show Viva, about .3 miles north of the intersection of Highway 87 and Heuermann Road (probably named for William Heuermann, original owner of the Viva Ranch land) until 1953,” said John Manguso, author of “Camp Bullis,” a recently published history of the training reservation established in 1906.
The station at SAAP milepost 254 was Beckmann, named for “John Beckmann, artist and recluse, who spent his last years there,” said Dixon and Richardson, as was the vast limestone quarry that became the site of the Fiesta Texas amusement park. Beckmann, also the name of a small community, was a flag stop; Davis found it on the Army topo map to the west of Camp Bullis Road with seven structures on the west side of the tracks. Richardson believes that Beckmann also had a water tank, since the station served the quarry and was as such a busy and important stop.
Anyone with information about a Beaver Junction station in the Leon Springs area may contact this column. All replies will be forwarded and may be used in a future column.
The 38th Infantry arrives at Camp Bullis on Aug. 8, 1940, at the Old Bullis Road railway stop, between the Beckmann and Viva railroad stations. There were several such stops in the area, serving the community of Leon Springs, nearby ranches and a...