The Clarendon Trestle

Author: Hunter Herring  

Original Source: From the Archives, Interns, Texas Electric Railway History  

Original Published Date: May 27, 2021

Down the Line: Clarendon Trestle

As of 2021, the partially demolished remnants of the old interurban bridge over East Clarendon Drive are over a century old. 108 years old, to be exact. The structure is known by various names: The Clarendon Trestle, the Trinity Heights Line Viaduct, and the Oak Cliff Viaduct. In this blog, we’ll discuss the bridge’s construction in 1913, its partial demolition in 2014, as well as its legacy as the first major civics structure in Dallas built entirely by African Americans, and a monument to a bygone era of electrical transportation.

Southern Traction Company Construction

In the early 1900s, employees of the Fred A. Jones Construction Company and the Stone & Webster Engineering Corporation were hard at work, creating new interurban lines across North Central Texas on behalf of the Southern Traction Company [1]. Newspapers excitedly buzzed with information about the new construction, calling the incoming railway a “monument to the men [of] the suburbs” [2]. The presence of this large interurban railroad promised further economic growth for Dallas and surrounding cities, and “[made] previously inaccessible areas part of a larger network of trade and development” [3]. Consequently, citizens were encouraged to take advantage of the prosperity the project would inevitably bring to the area, by buying and building homes along the future line [2].

The largest section of the line stretched an incredible 97.1 miles from Dallas to Waco, forming the longest individual line of interurban track in the southwest. It linked the counties of Dallas, Ellis, Hill, and McLennan together, passing through Lisbon, Lancaster, Red Oak, Sterrett, Waxahachie, Forreston, Italy, Milford, Hillsboro, Abbott, West, Elm Mott, and Waco. While work was being done on the track, separately, four steel and concrete bridges were constructed—though not officially incorporated into the railway line just yet.

Private Right-of-Way on the Trinity Heights Line, flanked on each side by homes (c. 1925) Photograph by William “Frank” Rogers. Johnnie J. Myers Collection.

These bridges are often specifically referred to as viaducts. Viaducts are long, elevated bridges (or a series of bridges) for roads or railways, which are supported by a series of arches, spans, piers, or columns. They are constructed with the purpose of creating an overpass above other roads, valleys, or bodies of water—a necessary feature for Southern Traction routes in Waxahachie, Waco, and Oak Cliff. In fact, two viaducts were built in Dallas’ Oak Cliff neighborhood, crossing over East Clarendon Drive; One about 660 feet long, over Cedar Creek, and one 422 feet long, over nearby Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway (AT&SF) tracks [2].

Contrary to popular belief, the interurban bridge over East Clarendon Drive was not constructed by the Stone & Webster Engineering Corporation. In fact:

Interurban bridges and trestles were built by separate companies that specialized in bridge and trestle construction. Such companies had their own African American crews that did the heaviest and most objectionable parts of the work.

“Gandy Dancers Aplenty: The Role of African Americans in Building North Texas Railways,” Robert L. Haynes, Plano Magazine, February 4, 2018.

As was the case for interurban bridge and trestle construction throughout the South—both African American and white independent labor managers recruited crews of African American men who had prior experience in railroad construction and maintenance of way. These managers, in turn, negotiated hours, pay, and benefits, with the railroad project contractors on behalf of the workers [1].

An African-American Stone & Webster construction work crew lay the track of the Southern Traction Company, just southeast of China siding in Oak Cliff, with the help of a windlass track-laying machine (c. 1912). The curve of the road in the distance is close to present-day South Beckley Avenue.

The Clarendon trestle was constructed for the Southern Traction Company in early 1913 in this way, led by the African American-owned subcontractor, Kerner Brothers, and an African American construction crew from the Southern Engineering and Construction Company [3]. Though the trestle came to be known as the “Strickland Stonehenge,” honoring J. F. Strickland who founded Southern Traction, the structure was also undoubtedly an African American monument, as it is thought to have been the first major civics structure in Dallas built entirely by African Americans. Its location on the Eastern side of the Tenth Street neighborhood, a community that was established as a Freedmen’s Town following the Civil War, further establishes the bridge as a historically significant feature for African Americans in Dallas [4].

The Tenth Street Historic District, indicated by the Dallas Landmark District boundaries in red (1993) and the National Register Historic District boundaries in blue (1994). Map created by Robert Swann. Note the Interurban Railway right-of-way, which crosses Clarendon Avenue and borders the Eastern side of the Tenth Street Historic District.

When all construction for the railroad was complete, the Dallas-Waco line stood as a physical representation of around $6,700,000 of the Southern Traction Company’s invested money. Its presence brought about a domino effect of urban development between Dallas and Waco—enabling social and business engagements, job and investment opportunities, and an easier, quicker, more comfortable form of transportation to connect “some of the richest counties in Texas” [2].

In late 1913, the Southern Traction Company officially began using the Clarendon trestle to cross Cedar Creek on the Dallas-Corsicana line. Just one year later, the Dallas-Waco line incorporated the bridge as a part of the route too. It wasn’t until the historic merger of the Texas Traction Company and the Southern Traction Company on January 31, 1917, that the Texas Electric Railway was established, and all properties, including the Oak Cliff viaduct, fell under its jurisdiction [5].

Following the merger, the mileage of the Texas Electric Railway expanded to an incredible 251 miles, forming the longest interurban line in the world at the time [6]. Then, for thirty-one years, Texas Electric Railway interurbans transported thousands upon thousands of passengers across the bridge, speedily delivering each person to their desired destination.

Though the Texas Electric Railway ended all interurban services in December of 1948, the trestle remained in use for another year. In December 1949, all railway transportation across the viaduct was officially brought to an end [5]. In March 1950, following the end of the Texas Electric Railway, the company passed the property on to Dallas Power & Light, another major J. F. Strickland holding, and a predecessor of Oncor [7]. Then, the concrete bridge was left to deteriorate in situ.

Deterioration, Proposals, and Action

After more than 50 years of aging without maintenance, the steel-reinforced structure posed a safety concern to the people of Dallas. After a close inspection, The Texas Department of Transportation reported in 2001 that the “City should either remove portions of the bridge over the roadway or have the entire bridge dismantled” [8]. It may not have looked too shabby from afar, thanks to strong decks and beams that had remained mostly intact, but closer investigation revealed concrete spalling, exposed rebar, and failing expansion joints [8][9].

Sometime in early 2006, the Texas Department of Transportation began seriously discussing tearing the bridge down. It was clear that some sort of action had to be taken soon—whether it was complete restoration, demolition, or something in between. Also of importance, the bridge, situated within the historic district of Tenth Street, was eligible for the National Register for Historic Places [7]. Due to its location, the City of Dallas’ Landmark Commission would have to give their final approval before any action was taken [8].

After a review of land records, Oncor determined they owned the bridge, and hired DART for consultation [7]. DART carefully laid out several options for addressing the structure that ranged from repair to demolition, as seen in the table below.

Information from the DART Planning Committee; Shelton (2012).

Public safety, historic preservation, and the overall aesthetics of the final structure were at stake, so each option was presented in detail for careful consideration. In the end, DART officials foresaw no future use of the structure for their own company, but acknowledged that alternative ownership and re-use of the bridge was not out of the question for another entity. As far as repairs, DART wanted to focus on a few lower cost fixes that would stabilize the bridge over the road and address safety issues. Additionally, DART proposed that Oncor and the city of Dallas should determine the level of community and city interest, if any, in the project before making a final decision [9].

On December 18, 2013, DART mailed all final project documentation to the Texas Historical Commission, setting a partial-demolition date, if approved, for January 11th or 12th the following year.

City of Dallas Landmark Commission documentation regarding the Interurban Bridge on East Clarendon Drive (c. 2014). Uploaded to Scribd by Robert Wilonsky.

Then, on January 6, 2014, the DART Planning Committee and the City of Dallas staff gathered before the Landmark Commission to officially “recommend razing the section of bridge running over Clarendon to ‘alleviate the threat to public health and safety.'” The decision wasn’t much of a struggle—there was a clear consensus from all involved parties that the bridge had been crumbling on its own for years, and needed to come down [8].

From the historic side, Texas Electric Railway historian Johnnie J. Myers followed the project carefully, emphasizing the need for an identifying marker to highlight the historical significance of the bridge. “People go by and don’t know what the hell it is,” Myers lamented [7].

By January 2014, a final decision had been made. The Dallas Landmark Commission approved a partial demolition, “but stipulated that the bridge’s support piers be preserved at a height of 3 feet and an interpretive sign be placed nearby” [5]. Two concrete piers from old rail spurs—one located near Cedar Creek, one near Moore Street—were to remain untouched [9].

Still (Partially) Standing

The Trinity Viaduct over Clarendon was partially demolished in May of 2014. Support piers were kept at a height of 3 feet. Photograph by Ron Baselice of the Dallas Morning News.

At 7 A.M., on Saturday, May 3, 2014, a demolition crew began tearing down portions of the bridge [5]. Today, this change is most easily seen heading across East Clarendon Drive, where the girders have been entirely removed, along with most of the support system underneath. There are a few other historical features still standing. In the area around Clarendon, curious onlookers are able to see the original metal electrical towers that carried power to the interurbans almost a century ago [7].

Photograph of the Trinity Heights Viaduct by Debbie Calvin (c. November 1, 2020).

Photograph of the historical marker for the interurban bridge over Clarendon Drive by Hunter Herring (c. December 20, 2020).

Further information about the abandoned bridge over East Clarendon Drive, Cedar Creek, and the former Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway (AT&SF) on the old Texas Electric Railway route out of Dallas can be found on To view the structure and its historical marker in person, head east down East Clarendon Drive in Dallas’ Oak Cliff neighborhood. Just after the South Moore Street intersection, you’ll be able to see the remains of the bridge stretching over the road. The historical marker is located at the feet of the trestle on the right side (It’s a bit far from the street, so you’ll have to hop out of your car to read it). If you decide to go exploring, make sure you send us a photo!