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Vol. 71, No. 10 May 25, 1979 The Texas Observer Publishing Co., 1979 Ronnie Dugger. Publisher EDITOR MANAGING EDITOR ASSOCIATE EDITOR EDITOR AT LARGE Jim Hightower Linda Rocawich Eric Hartman Ronnie Dugger Closing the depots By Linda Daniel BUSINESS STAFF: Rhett Published by Texas Observer Publishing Co., biweekly except for a three-week interval between issues twice a year, in January and July; 25 issues per year Second-class postage paid at Austin, Texas. Publication #541300. ISSN 0040-4519. 500 prepaid. One year $14; two years. $25, three years, $36. Airmail, foreign, group, and bulk rates on request. Microfilmed by MCA. 21 Harristown Road, Glen Rock, N.J. 07452. POSTMASTER: Send form 3579 to The Texas Observer at address below. A journal of free voices We `:’will serve no group or party but will hew hard to the truth as we find it and the right as we see it. We are dedicated to the whole truth, to human values above all interests, to the rights of humankind as the foundation of democracy; we will take orders from none but our own conscience, and never will we overlook or misrepresent the truth to serve the interests of the powetful or cater to the ignoble in the human The editor has exclusive control over the editorial policies and contents of the Observer. None of the other people who are associated with the enterprise shares this responsibility with him. Writers are responsi Ne for their own work, but not for anything they have not themselves written, and in publishing them >the editor does not necessarily imply that he agrees with them because this is a journal of free voices. PRODUCTION MANAGERS: Susan Reid, Beth Epstein ASSISTANT EDITORS: Vicki Vaughan, Bob Sindermarui Jr. STAFF ASSISTANTS: Margot Beutler, Viki Florence, Jeannette Gan rett, Helen Jardine, Ann Kriss, Donna Ng, Anne Norman, Beverly Palmer, Martha. Owen, Karen White, Harris Worcester CONTRIBUTORS: Thomas D. Bleich, Ave Bonar, Berke Breathed, Warren Burnett, Bob.Clare, Jo Clifton. Bruce Cory, Keith Dannemiller, Jeff Danziger, Chandler Davidson, John Henry Faulk, David Guarino, Roy Harruic, Doug Harlan, Jack Hopper, Dan Hubig, Molly Ivins, Susan Lee, Tim Mahoney, Maury . Maverick Jr., Dave McNeely, Kaye Northcott, Lois Rankin, Ray Reece, Laura Richardson, Ben Sargent, Lisa Spann, John Spragens Jr., Sheila R. Taylor, Stanley Walker, Eje Wray, Ralph Yarborough Incorporating the State Observer and the East Texas Demo crat which in turn incorporated the Austin Forum-Advocate. Editorial and Business Offices 600 West 7th Street, Austin, Texas 78701 Austin Right from the start, Texas has been a train state. As early as 1836, at the founding of the republic, the Lone Star Congress authorized a charter for railroad constructionwith no lesser lights than Stephen F. Austin and Sam Houston sanctioning the idea. Dozens of towns trace their origins and even their names to the laying of rail lines across the statethe town of Katy, for example, bears the nickname of the Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad that established it as a station stop, and the town of Knox City was founded in 1907 andoriginally named “Orient” when the Kansas City, Mexico and Orient Railroad pushed across that stretch of the Rolling Plains. Temple, Denison, Amarillo, and Harlingen are just some of the sizable cities that began with the railroads. But today, the rail companies have decided they have no more use for such places, and they have been abandoning them. Of course, passenger service has long since been dropped, leaving only the quasi-governmental Amtrak where an efficient, re: liable, dispersed means of transportation should be. Now the . companies are quitting their freight stations as well. Town depots are being steadily eliminated along most lines, some freight lines are being cut out altogether, and rail shipping is gradually ‘ being centralized in a few metropolitan areas. This move to big, urban stations may be more convenient to Mo-Pac, Santa Fe, the Katy, Southern Pacific, and the other firms, but it is severing a vital economic lifeline to small-town Texas, and it is more than an inconvenience to area farmers, local businesses, and other dependent shippers. It is no isolated problemjust in the last three years, rail companies have cut their service to 76 Texas towns and in the terminated here. It is happening without fanfare, and with little public scrutiny. The two government agencies that could do something about itthe Texas Railroad Commission, which must okay changes in depot service, and the U.S. Interstate Commerce Commission, which must approve any line abandonmentare merely rubber-stamping the moves. In fact, the RRC is being so careless and slipshod that no one in the agency is able to say how many abandonments have been sought, or how many have been approved by the three commissioners, or what the effect has been on the towns, or even where the commission keeps its files on such matters. Neither the companies nor their nominal regulators refer to the cuts as “abandonments”; instead, they prefer bureaucratic euphemisms like “discontinuance” and depot “retirement.” On 2 MAY 25, 1979