Underwood train car moves to Bayer Museum

Underwood train car moves to Bayer Museum

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Arch Underwood was a pioneer West Texas businessman and one of the cotton kings of Lubbock, with an empire of 28 cotton compresses. He also wielded a lot of political power, a yellow-dog democrat when that party ruled Texas. He bought a luxury Pullman passenger car in 1950 for family travel and political glad-handing. It racked up a lot of miles and a rich history in it's decade of use. After years of disuse, ideas and planning, that train car is finally destined for a museum.

"They purchased this car to help them do business," Lubbock Heritage Society board member Mary Crites explained. "Many political meetings, they were very big in policies that would affect cotton. Information and legislation were dealt with in that car."

"Johnson and Truman and Sam Rayburn and Jim Wright and a ton of big Democrats," Underwood's grandson Laurin Prather said. "There's so much history in there, there's so much history with my grandfather and the cotton industry."

"Well, it's a family memory. We had such great times on it," Underwood's daughter-in-law Louise Underwood said, while wiping away tears. "Out in West Texas without the trains, I don't know what we would've done."

The 80-foot car has been on a siding at the Underwood's cotton warehouse for decades. Moving the train car from 26th Street and Avenue A to the Bayer Museum of Agriculture was no simple task. It took years of planning and fundraising for the $100,000 project.

"It last moved in '60 or '61 so that's 50-something years," Prather said.

"The heritage society got on board about four years ago and we've been working diligently with them to raise the funds," Crites said.

Now that the train car is at Bayer, the Underwood family hopes the younger generations will learn about how travel used to be.

"Those trains, it's a shame that the trains are out, we don't have trains anymore. It's ridiculous not to have trains. They were so wonderful," Louise Underwood said.

"There's a lot of young people who have never been in one. They can learn a lot from it," Prather added.

The car may have been used in political dealings and business ventures, but to the Underwood family it is personal.

"It's just a treasure to me and my family," Louise Underwood said.

"See that back glass there? We'd stand back there and he was afraid we were going to fall off so he glassed it in and put some stools. We'd spend hours and hours and hours back there on that landing," Prather said, reminiscing on memories. "It's got a lot of stories."

The next phase of the train car project is renovations. The completion date relies solely on donations.

"Obviously, it needs a little tender love and care," Crites explained. "And then there's also the changes in the inside we want to refurbish, but we still want it to look historic."

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