CD-ROM Audio Recordings

Introduction - Leon Claire Metz
Historical Data - Nancy Hamilton

Track1: Introduction by Leon Claire Metz.
Track 2: Army-Navy "E" Award Ceremony.  Los Alamos, New Mexico (10-16-1945).
Track 3: Bataan Memorial Trainway
Ribbon-Cutting & Dedication Ceremony at Union Station, El Paso, Texas (8-21-1950).
Track 4: El Paso City Charter Speech (3-28-1954).

CD-ROM Audio Recording and Editing by David C. McKee
CD Face Design and Computer Graphics by Louis B. McKee
Published by the Robert E. and Evelyn McKee Foundation
All Rights Reserved
Price - $12.50
Plus the cost of packaging and shipping.

Bataan Memorial Trainway (Track Depression) Narrative History:

       When completed in 1951, the Bataan Memorial Trainway was heralded as engineering marvel and dramatically changed the layout of El Paso.  The Trainway placed El Paso's main railroad tracks below street level and allowed for the free flow of traffic in and out of the downtown area.  Today, thousands of people cross the Trainway daily but few realize the significance this project had on the future growth and development of the city.1

    When the Southern Pacific Railroad arrived in 1881, El Paso was a lightly populated settlement.  The Tracks were laid north and east of the residential and commercial areas, well outside of the city.  Although the railroad was expected to bring more people into El Paso, few anticipated the tremendous growth that would take place over the next few decades.  As the city grew, trains began to present an inconvenience and at times a hazard to local residents.  As early as1889 the El Paso
Times expressed concerns about the train traffic along the edge of the city.  An editorial noted that there was an "almost daily instance of danger to life and property from approaching engines on the Southern Pacific road."2  In 1917, Mayor Tom Lea started negotiations with the railroad but public uproar about the closing of downtown streets during the construction caused him to abandon the project.3

    During the 1930's city leaders tried to make the project part of a federal Works Progress Administration program to bring funding and desperately needed work to the city, but this failed as well.  The Second World War created another burst of growth in El Paso.  By the 1940s, eight different railroads serviced the city, all interfering with automobile and pedestrian traffic.  In 1946, the city drew up formal plans for a trainway and presented a bond issue to voters.  On January 4, 1947 the bond issue passed by more than a ten to one margin.  Beginning in 1948, eight major contractors and twenty-two subcontractors worked on the Trainway under the direction of project engineer Harlan H. Hugg. The R. E. McKee Company did the largest portion of the work re-grading the railroad lines, digging the entire trench, and laying new tracks.  A major work of civil engineering, the Trainway cost 5.5 million dollars and took more than three years to complete.  More than 4,500 gondola cars of dirt were excavated, the trench concreted, and eight bridges were built over the tracks.  A 1,700 foot overpass across Cotton Avenue, several blocks east of the Trainway completed the project.4

    The Trainway was formally opened on August 21, 1950 and named in honor of prisoners-of-war who died in enemy camps.  Specially loaded flatcars with more than 500 people were brought to Union Depot.  The Sunset Limited, a new Southern Pacific passenger train, arrived and proceeded to the Main Street overpass where Southern Pacific President A. T. Mercier and Mayor Dan Duke officiated the ribbon-cutting ceremony.  It continued through the Trainway to the roaring applause of hundreds of spectators.  With the completion of the Bataan Memorial Trainway, trains whisked through the city, the dangers and delays of railroad crossings were eliminated.5

    With the completion of the project in 1951, the city of El Paso grew well beyond its original boundaries.  Today, more than fifty years later, the Trainway is still in use everyday and continues to separate commuter and railroad traffic, allowing for a safer and greatly expanded downtown.

   Courtesy of The El Paso County Historical Commission

    1. El Paso (TX) Herald Post, Aug. 17 & 19, 1950; El Paso (TX) Times, Aug. 19, 1950.
Ibid., Aug. 21, 1955.
    3. El Paso (TX)
Herald Post, Aug. 19, 1950.
    4. El Paso (TX)
Times, Aug. 21, 1955; Leon Metz, Robert E. McKee:
        Master Builder of Structures Beyond the Ordinary
(El Paso, TX 1997), 58.
    5. El Paso
Times Aug. 21, 1950.

El Paso City Charter Speech Research Notes by Nancy Hamilton:

  •  Noon                   - Civic Club luncheon at Hotel Cortez
  • 1 to 2 p.m.            - Army band concert in San Jacinto Plaza
  • 1 to 2:30 p.m.          - Band concert at Union Depot
  • 2:30 to 2:31 p.m. - F. Carter Womack introduces Federal Judge R. E. Thomason, master of ceremonies for program in front of the Depot
  • 2:31 to 2:32 p.m.     - Judge Thomason introduces the Rev. E. G. Watts
  • 2:32 to 2:33 p.m.     - Rev. Watts gives the invocation
  • 2:33 to 2:38 p.m.     - Judge introduces distinguished guests
  • 2:38 to 2:39 p.m.     - Judge introduces R. E. McKee, contractor for the project
  • 2:39 to 2:42 p.m.     - Talk by McKee
  • 2:42‑2:44 p.m.        - Judge introduces A. T. Mercier, president of Southern Pacific
  • 2:44 to 3 p.m.          - Talk by Mercier
  • 3 to 3:01 p.m.          - Judge introduces Mayor Dan Duke
  • 3:01 to 3:03 p.m.     - Talk by Duke
  • 3:03 to 3:04 p.m.     - Judge announces ribbon cutting ceremony to follow this program and introduces the Rev. Roland Vonder Harr
  • 3:04 to 3:05 p.m.     - Rev. Vonder Harr gives benediction
  • 3:05 to 3: 10 p.m.    - Music by American Federation of Musicians Band.
  • "After 69 Years-Trains Run in Big Ditch,” proclaimed the El Paso Herald-Post of August 21, 1950, when the first passenger train, the Sunset Limited, moved from the Union Depot into the Bataan Memorial Trainway at 3:30 p.m.

        A day of celebration had preceded the event, following a very precise schedule:The crowd then moved to the Main Street overpass where a ribbon was cut by Mayor Duke, Mercier, and P. S. Bailey of the State Highway Department.

        As part of the festivities, Mayor Duke, who was a railroad engineer, piloted the engine for a series of flatbed cars on which rode a large group of people who had been involved in implementing the $5.5 million trainway project. Among them were L. H. Cather of the De Leuw‑Cather engineering firm in Chicago, who had been a luncheon speaker, and Reuben Momsen, who had chaired the Trainway Committee.

        The Sunset Limited had arrived at the Depot just after 3 p.m. Members of the Texas Western College Gold Diggers gave them souvenirs decorated with small Mexican hats, bearing the message: "First Passengers Through the Bataan Memorial Trainway, August 21, 1950."

        The El Paso Times account of the festivities the next day said "McKee told the crowd that during their ride through the trainway you will not see everything. The walls hide the hardest part of that project-the driving of the steel pilings. "

        Note: The Herald-Post did not mention McKee's name; a historian looking for an account of the ceremony would have to read the Times to learn that he was there. I suspect that he had somehow crossed Mr. Pooley on some matter and an edict had been issued to omit his name from the newspaper. When I worked at the Times during the 1950s, both editors would do that; Mr. Hooten ordered us to omit Tom Patterson's name from the paper when he was president of the Chamber of Commerce-not easy to do since he was involved in a lot of public activities at the time-because Mr. Patterson had somehow offended Mr. Hooten.

    Nancy Hamilton

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