Info on train sta­tion near Do­min­ion sought

San Antonio Express-News (Sunday) - - Metro - PAULA ALLEN his­to­rycol­umn@ya­hoo.com Twit­ter: @sahis­to­rycol­umn Face­book: SanAn­to­nio­his­to­rycol­umn

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!

Si McCurdy

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.

Cour­tesy Fort Sam Hous­ton Mu­seum

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...

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