Living near the railroad tracks in Chandler during World War II had its negatives, but also had its rewards. Of course, the noise was a negative especially when the locomotive engineer would blow his whistle as he approached the railroad crossing on FM 315. The reward was witnessing from our front porch world happenings as they passed by, down the tracks, right before my eyes.
During this period, World War II was the utmost thing on everyone’s mind. Anything connected to the war effort intrigued me; however, at times it could be very frightening. It wasn’t unusual to see a troop train pass by with soldiers waving from the windows. Occasionally, Mr. Thompson, the Chandler depot agent, would let the townspeople know when a troop train would pass through so we could gather at the tracks and wave at the troops as the train passed.
I was shocked one day to look up and see a troop train passing by that was loaded with an entire U.S. Army Division. Not only did it have Pullman cars with sleepers for the troops, but also it looked like they had all the equipment they needed for combat. I didn’t see any guns but I’m sure they had plenty packed away. I later found out from a neighbor that it was, in fact, an armored division.
There were numerous flat cars. I counted at least twenty that contained armored tanks with big white stars painted on them, jeeps, trucks, motorcycles, pickups and three ambulances with big red crosses painted on them. One of the Pullman cars also had a red cross on it. I thought it was probably where they took the sick soldiers.
I had toured Camp Fannin, a US Army Infantry Replacement Center located near Tyler, where I saw various military vehicles; however, the vehicles on this train were things I had never seen except at the picture show on movie reels.
I have read that the troop trains like this one were equipped with a galley that prepared food for the troops as the train rolled down the tracks. They ate the food in their seats or in their bunks. I have also learned that troop movements were confidential and the soldiers on the train were not told where the train was headed.
The Chandler Museum and Visitor Center is planning a large display of World War I memorabilia that will be unveiled on April 6 — marking 100 years since the US entered the war in Europe. Our desire is to include pictures, letters and documents of Chandler soldiers. If you would share them, we will scan the originals and return them immediately to you. Thanks for your help. Please call Nancy at 903-521-5962.