JAMES H. LONG RAILROAD MUSEUM

JAMES H. LONG RAILROAD MUSEUM, 100 NW 1st STREET, Smithville,Texas

Call 512-237-2313

Whether you’re a railroad aficionado, or just enjoy the charm of small, historic towns, the James H. Long Railroad Park and Museum is an experience not to be missed.  With railroad history and artifacts dating from 1886, the museum is chock full of engaging exhibits of authentic railroad artifacts, all of which tell Smithville’s railroad story from its first one-room office through the large second and third depots, until the end of passenger service and the maintenance facility in Smithville. The park is the perfect place for a picnic and contains a children's playground nestled between two actual railroad cabooses.

The railroad stop in Smithville's earlier days.

Today the James H. Long Museum serves as the home to Smithville Chamber of Commerce. Click here for more information about the Smithville Chamber.

Smithville Texas Veterans Memorial Park

A child, pen in hand, reaches for the angel, commissioned by The Deep in the Heart Art Foundry, at the Veterans' memorial just a short distance away.

Click here to read about the Smithville Veteran Memorial Park.

An image of the Smithville Railroad Round House is displayed on the back wall.

For more information about the 1911 Roundhouse blast, click here.

You'll find the Museum buildings and playground at the intersection of Main and 1st Street in downtown Smithville.

Bridge over the Colorado River

An early image of the bridge leading to the City of Smithville.

Smithville, just off State Highway 71 and 10 miles southeast of Bastrop in southeastern Bastrop County, was established by Thomas Gazeley, who in 1827 settled near the present site. Gazeley operated a store there until his death in 1853, and the community that sprang up around the store was named Smithville, after William Smith, another early settler. J. P. Jones and Frank Smith opened a store in the community in 1867, and four years later the Smithville Presbyterian Church was organized. A post office was established in 1876, and Smithville was described in May 1879 as a thriving village.

 

With the coming of the Bastrop and Taylor Railway eight years later, the community of 17 families moved two miles west to meet it. By 1890 Smithville had 616 residents, and its businesses included two hotels, three millineries and a medical practice. In the 1890s the community boomed. Extension of the railroad line to Lockhart in 1892 brought more business, as did extension of the line to Houston the next year. The line was renamed the Taylor, Bastrop and Houston in October 1886, and it was merged with the Missouri, Kansas and Texas system in 1891. The biggest boost came in 1894, when the Missouri, Kansas and Texas established its central shops in Smithville. The population quickly doubled, and the town was incorporated in March 1895.

 

In 1896 it had an estimated 2,500 residents, Methodist, Baptist, Presbyterian and Catholic churches, two hotels, and numerous other businesses, including four physicians' offices. In 1900 Smithville had a population of 2,577, which was 10 percent of the Bastrop County population. A 1909 newspaper account described Smithville, headquarters for three divisions of the Missouri, Kansas and Texas line, as having a population of 3,500 and railroad shops, a roundhouse and "a fine Y.M.C.A. building." At that time it had a bank (established in 1907), and the Smithville Times had already been publishing for fifteen years.

 

The population level through the early 1900s hovered between 3,000 and 4,000. It peaked in the mid-1940s at an estimated 4,200. Though railroad jobs were beginning to disappear, in 1949 the railroad still employed several hundred workers in Smithville. The town at this time had a dentist, two lawyers, three doctors, and six ministers and priests. By 1962 the population had dropped below 3,000, but it soon rose again. In the mid-1970s the town had a new library, a city hall, and a storm drainage system and received a statewide award for the best United States Bicentennial program. By 1984 the Smithville Times was still being published, and the town was a manufacturing and trading center with more than 70 rated businesses and an estimated population of 3,470. Local products included cedar cabins, fencing, furniture, and ship doors and components. Smithville also remained a center for farming and livestock raising. It was the site of an annual three-day festival, the Smithville Jamboree. In 1990 its population was 3,196. By 2000 the population had reached 3,901.

 

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

William Henry Korges, Bastrop County, Texas: Historical and Educational Development (M.A. thesis, University of Texas, 1933). Bill Moore, Bastrop County, 1691–1900 (Wichita Falls: Nortex, 1977). Vertical Files, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin.

Click here to read The Railroad in Smithville by Texas Escapes.com.

Click here for a self-guided walking tour of historic downtown Smithville.

© 2017 by the Bastrop County Historical Commission

Call us: 512.629-7400

Bastrop County Historical Commission

@ Judge Paul Pape

804 Pecan Street, Bastrop, Texas 78602

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