Cuyler Street Underpass Was a Milestone in Pampa’s History

The Cuyler street underpass was a milestone in Pampa’s history A dream came true for thousands of Pampans when the Cuyler street underpass was officially opened for traffic on Friday, July 24, 1942 at 8:30 p.m. Pampans forgot the war (WWII) and everything else to celebrate the event. Santa Fe officials at Amarillo placed a train across the underpass during the ceremony and had additional engines in the yard so that train whistles were blown to open the ceremony and to repeat a performance of whistle-tooting when city officials cut the ribbons.

Photo of Eloise Lane

Eloise Lane

The dedication program was opened with a concert by the high school summer band, directed by Ray Robbins who returned from Canyon to lead the performance. Reno Stinson, general chairman and master of ceremonies, gave a brief history of the underpass. He said, “I have been unable to find an old-timer who can remember the first time plans for an underpass were discussed. First real progress was made in 1934 when Mayor W. A. Bratton and Commissioners Marvin Lewis and W. T. Fraser wisely voted against the plan. At that time the plan called for starting the underpass far back on each side of the railway which would have ruined many business houses. “Later Mayor E. S. Carr and Commissioners Dave Osborne and Lynn Boyd wisely approved the present underpass plans and the project was speeded through by your present city commission, Mayor Fred Thompson and Commissioners George Cree and H. C. Wilson.”

Stinson also praised all parties concerned in the construction of the underpass. Brief remarks were made by C. H. Clevenger, head of the traffic division of the Santa Fe railway; Len Ingram, assistant district highway engineer; C. S. Makeig, president of the Southwestern Public Service company; V. R. Schmidt, resident highway engineer; C. B.”Red” Ashford, superintendent-of Bell and Braden construction com- pany and others. Preceding the cutting of the ribbons, Mayor Thompson remarked that back in 1928, Pampans agreed that three things were needed to make Pampa a bigger and better city: an underpass, a good wheat crop and to defeat the Amarillo football team. Amid loud cheers he concluded, “During the last twelve months, I am glad to say, we have accomplished all three aims.”

Train whistles pierced the air and car horns honked long and loud as the mem- bers of the city commission and City Manager Steve Matthews cut the brilliant ribbons which let a flow of traffic through the underpass. Thousands of cars passed through in an unending stream for more than two hours. When the “Go” signal was given, it looked as though the 5,000 car owners Stinson had promised to be first through the underpass broke away from side streets and headed for the dip. A dozen city and special officers worked for hours trying to prevent traffic jams as the lines of cars moved north and south. A few persons who tried to turn the underpass into a speedway found themselves receiving tickets from police officers.

The next morning they “told it to the judge,” who assessed fines in every instance. Also the next morning city officials announced, “The underpass is not a speed- way. Officers have been notified to arrest every motorist speeding through the subway, Men will be working on the project for another month and we must be care- ful.” “Today city officials will close the Frost street crossing and tomorrow Santa Fe railway workmen will start raising the tracks 14 inches. Frost street will be closed permanently in compliance with a request of railway officials before they would agree to the underpass. The Frost street crossing has always been the most dangerous in the city. There will still be two level crossings, one on Starkweather Street and the other at Hobart street.”

As Pampans of 2001 know, an underpass on Hobart street was constructed in the mid 50s, but the crossing at Starkweather is still level. Since an average of 70 trains a day pass through Pampa, those who travel north and south on Cuyler street between Atchison and Tyng avenues are grateful for the underpass opened on July 24, 1942.

(With appreciation to John Mead at Lovett Memorial Library for providing copies of articles in The Pampa News on July 24 and 26, 1942.)

Over 200 Articles, written by Eloise Lane, were published in the Pampa News. These articles may be accessed by clicking on each section below. A list of articles will be revealed that are linked to a page containing the text of the article.

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