Driving by the 900 block of Springdale Road, one could easily miss them: Two old train stations, set far back behind a large parking lot.
One is now called Springdale Station, the other Pine Street Station. They sit on an industrial spur next to a beehive of activity in the transformed Frostex Foods plant, which now includes two breweries, a rock climbing facility and an art gallery.
Moya McIntyre, who handles many of the community and cultural functions for the site’s developer, asked me to look at them.
The first, in pristine condition, looks like it could have served as the station in a midsized Texas town. Divided into several rooms with a few reminders of old rail days, such as a ticket window, it now serves as an events center and sometime theater.
The second is under reconstruction, so only its bare wooden bones are showing.
We knew exactly where to go to find answers about the origin of the first station: Political cartoonist and train aficionado Ben Sargent.
RELATED: Back when rails ruled Austin and Texas.
“Yes, I am very familiar with the larger depot structure, which used to be called ‘Frostex Station,’” Sargent writes us.” “It was built by Arthur Boone, the founder both of Frostex Foods and of the Austin Steam Train Association. It was so authentic-looking, and at one time filled with so many authentic railroad artifacts, that I was surprised to find out it was not an actual Missouri-Kansas-Texas depot, but was built by Boone as a faithful replica.”
Turns out, Boone used the depot and the Frostex spur as a place to store his private car, the ‘Boonesborough,’ for many years.
“A former Southern Railway business car built in 1929, it is now in the association’s railyard in Cedar Park, where the Boone family is having it overhauled,” Sargent writes. “Boone and his family frequently traveled around the country in the car, putting on more than 60,000 miles.”
As for the Pine Street Station, it is the oldest section of the structure that stood for years at Waller and East Fifth streets. We’ll share more on that spot at a later date.
You can’t understand New Austin without delving into Old Austin. One digital avenue for that quest is Austin Found, a series of historical images of Austin and Texas published at statesman.com/austinfound. We’ll share samples here regularly.