Glimpse of the Past: R&K Café II Occupies Historic Interurban Substation

Hillsboro Reporter, Hillsboro Texas, December 2017

This week will see a gathering in Dallas of the Southwestern Railroad Conference, and topics on the agenda include “Plans for a Bullet Train from Dallas to Houston in 90 minutes” and “What rails will look like in 2050?" It was over 100 years ago that a similar initiative launched what came to be known as the Texas Electric Railroad Company, and the Interurban line from Dallas to Hillsboro was opened in October 1913. 

The electric trolley system provided for both passenger and freight service and connected small towns and communities with the larger cities of Dallas, Waco, and Fort worth. Energy for the interurban line was supplied at 2300 volts, sixty cycles by the Texas Power & Light Company, an organization controlled by the same holding company as Texas Electric Railway. An intermediate substation was located at Hillsboro and was outfitted with one 400-kw motor-generator two piece set, designed to deliver 1200 volts. The substation was fireproof brick and concrete, 40 X 50 ft. with an inside height of 12 ft. Transmission lines serviced the motor-generator and were enclosed in a high-woven wire fence in the rear of the building.

This substation is the building that was reclaimed by Roy and Karen Paxton as a popular downtown restaurant, followed by a lease from Ted and Irene Lowery for Up-in-Smoke BBQ, and since December 2016 is home to R & K Café II operated by Barry Beggs.

The interurban line served Hillsboro from October 1913 until its final run on December 31, 1948. In its heyday, the passenger waiting room was located in the north side of the ground floor of the interurban building, 51 West Franklin (corner of Waco and Franklin Streets). An Express Ticket Office was located on the property, north of the substation, and is currently home to Munchies. After the Interurban building was razed for construction of the Gulf station on the corner, all passengers and freight were handled from the Interurban Express Building.

The electric interurban railway ran cars from Dallas to Waco fourteen times a day, and had a reputation for always “being on time.” Service from Dallas to Waco began each morning at 5:30 a.m. and the last daily run was at 11:05 p.m. Stops were located in the rural areas and had local names: the Bond stop was at HCR 4235, and the first stop south of Hillsboro was Scott, followed by Orr, Graham, Conover, Campbell, Chatt, Duff, and Abbott.

Interurban tracks still lie under Waco street, and the line traveled south on Abbott Avenue to Tarleton and south to the Old Waco Road, once US 77/81 and now HCR 3100. If you travel 3100 the TP&L transmission lines are still standing, and a careful eye can spot the raised rail bed and viaducts that serviced the interurban line for over 30 years.

CAPTION 1: Photo taken on September 30, 1913 when stockholders of Texas Electric Railway made inspection tour of line that would open for regular service in October 1913.

CAPTION 2: Interior of the Interurban Substation... current location of R&K II in downtown Hillsboro, Texas.

R&K Cafe Occupies Historic Interurban Substation in Hillsboro Texas