Though he looks like an early twentieth century Station Agent, Ken Walden never worked for the railroad.
His well groomed gray beard and wire-rimmed glasses are a reminiscent of a time when the City of Tomball, Texas was a rural community of farmers, prosperous businessmen and employees of the Trinity and Brazos Valley Railroad.
The dark suit with a pin-striped vest, and gold pocket watch are just what one would expect to see at the station as he stepped forward to meet steam locomotives at the platform with loads of freight and passengers.
No, Ken Walden never worked for the railroad, but this life long train enthusiast still knows more about riding the rails than most . . . after all, Ken is the fact-filled historian of the Tomball Depot.
An illustrator by trade, Walden spends every Sunday afternoon in the restored Tomball Depot by the tracks that run from Galveston northward as they have more than 100-years. As a volunteer he regularly shares stories with locals and tourists who wander by for a look or maybe to shoot a photo or two by the old caboose nearby.
He tells the tales of how the Depot was the first building constructed in the tiny railroad town of Peck, Texas, and how on December 2, 1907 Peck was renamed Tomball after Thomas Henry Ball, the man responsible for bringing prosperity to town by way of the railroad in the late 1800s.
From the long wooden benches in one of the two original waiting rooms, to the authentic tin ceiling and paint colors both inside and out, the Tomball Depot is as close as can be to those first days more than a century ago.
Walden’s original railroad illustrations decorate the two tone green walls of the depot among faded and rusted memorabilia from the golden age of rail travel. On exhibit are two gowns worn by Mrs. Thomas Ball to the Presidential inauguration of William McKinley in 1897, along with old handwritten Western Union messages, train orders and other documents found in the depot’s attic during restoration.
The old Tomball Depot is a treasure as is its caretaker. Ken Walden is passionate about the responsibility that he has accepted as he calls out, “All aboard for the magical history tour!”
Tomball, Texas is 25-miles northwest of downtown Houston at FM 2920 and Highway 249. For more information, please visit http://www.ci.tomball.tx.us/, or call 281-351-5484.
For Texas travel information about real Lone Star destinations and more, always visit tourtexas.com
The Texas Travelin’ Man is Michael Baxter