Those with an interest in regional history will have two opportunities this week to hear from an expert in railroad history.
On Friday, author, photographer and historian Steve Allen Goen will speak and sign copies of his most recent book, “Passenger Trains of Texas: Cotton Belt,” at the W. Walworth Harrison Public Library in Greenville. On Saturday, he will speak again at the Annual Cotton Belt Regional Railroad Symposium at Texas A&M University-Commerce.
In the early 20th Century, Greenville’s rich blackland soil allowed the growing city to become known as the “cotton capital of the world” as cotton produced in the area was exported to mills as far away as Liverpool and Manchester England. For this reason, the history of regional railways is linked to Hunt County’s storied past as a leading cotton producer.
Goen is regarded by many as an authority on the topic of railroad history, particularly that of Texas and the Southwest region of the U.S. In addition to his most recent book, “Passenger Trains of Texas: Cotton Belt,” his works include “Texas & New Orleans Color Pictorial: Southern Pacific Texas & Louisiana Lines 1944-1961” and “Santa Fe in the Lone Star State.”
Goen’s passionate interest in trains began while growing up in the ‘50s and ‘60s, when he rode the Texas Special from Austin to Dallas and the Texas Zephyr from Dallas to Wichita Falls. Later, in 1967, he chronicled the final days of the Texas Zephyr in both photography and film.
While earning a music degree at Midwestern State University, Goen’s interest in trains continued as he collected newspaper articles, oral histories and photographs of several of North Texas’ now-abandoned short lines.
In 1986, Goen led and effort to help preserve the Ft. Worth & Denver 2-8-0 304, which eventually led him to spearhead the establishment on the Wichita Falls Railroad Museum.
Goen’s book signing at W. Walworth Harrison Public Library will be Friday, 2-5 p.m.
The Cotton Belt Regional Railroad Symposium, in Conference Room 213 in the Sam Rayburn Student Center at A&M-Commerce, will be Saturday, from 8:15 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., with lunch served at noon.
At the symposium, after lunch, Goen will give presentations on two topics: the stories behind his latest book, and Cotton Belt miniature model projects.