The Boogie Woogie Railroad Before It Was Known as the "Texas and Pacific"

by John Tennison, MD, August 8, 2012            Copyright 2012

    Of those railroads that were absorbed into the Texas and Pacific shortly after the formation of the Texas and Pacific in 1871, only the Southern Pacific of Texas was operating locomotives prior to the formation of the Texas and Pacific.  Prior to being known as the "Southern Pacific," this operating railroad had originally been chartered as the "Texas Western," which oral histories have indicated is the basis for the names "Fast Western," the earliest name by which Boogie Woogie was known.  Another term, "Fast Texas," is also believed to have derived from the originally-chartered name of "Texas Western."  However, in September of 1868, the British magazine, Chatterbox (edited by John Erskine Clarke), contained a vivid account of travel on the Southern Pacific of Texas between Marshall and Shreveport, which suggests that, as of 1868, the Southern Pacific of Texas did not yet deserve the reputation of being "fast."  However, by 1871, the Texas Almanac on page 183 noted the capacity for fast speed on the Southern Pacific of Texas:

    "The road-bed is represented as in excellent condition, allowing a speed of 60 miles an hour with safety, if necessary."

    Thus, by no later than the early 1870s (the same time that oral histories indicate that Boogie Woogie was first played), the Southern Pacific had become worthy of the names "Fast Western" and "Fast Texas."

    Eventually, I will transcribe the whole article and provide a more detailed analysis of this account of travel between Marshall and Shreveport on the Southern Pacific (from the September 21, 1868 issue of Chatterbox), but for now, I would like to present the highlighted transcription below and scans of the entire article, as it reveals features of the post-Civil-War cultural context that set the stage for the creation of Boogie Woogie.  The travel described in this article would have taken place prior to September 21, 1868, but no earlier than sometime in 1865, as the roster of the Southern Pacific of Texas as published by Andrew Muir in 1949 has indicated that the "Jay Bird" locomotive to which the article refers was "Obtained in 1865."  The trip described in the Chatterbox article probably took place some time in 1868, but most certainly earlier than September 21, 1868.

The Southern Pacific of Texas in 1868

"An African who had taken a place behind me, and was sending forth sonorous bass sounds, stretched his legs over the back of the seat close under my nose; another who snored before me on the ground, laid his woolly head conveniently in my lap; drunken Irishmen sang songs, the stove was now red-hot, now icy cold, and smoked like a chimney, the circulation stopped in my cramped veins, and I found that I must give up all hope of sleep."