Broken Dreams on the Moscow, Camden and San Augustine Railroad

One interesting fact about the Moscow, Camden and San Augustine Railroad short line in East Texas is that it never did go to San Augustine. For whatever reason, it never went further than Moscow (pronounced moss-COW), which was only seven miles from Camden. That line was built specifically for carrying timber from the Camden sawmill, but it also carried passengers all the way up to 1973, which was about when I last rode it. By then, it only took passengers on excursion runs from Camden to Moscow and back.

The last time I rode it, I was about 12, and there was a young mother sitting across from me with children who must have been four or five. I remember her saying, “Come on, kids, if we keep a look out, we might see a cow.” That was funny to me at the time, but I now see how smart it was. Those kids were certainly going to see some cows and not much else, unless a horse came into view, because there was nothing else out there but trees and cow pastures.

This clever mother guaranteed that her children would not be disappointed all while keeping expectations fairly low, and I can report that we did see plenty of cows that day. Hereford and Angus, I think they were. I think we also had the bonus pleasure of seeing a farmer on a tractor, so those kids had a great day out.

Other than cows, I think we only saw abandoned houses. Camden was a company town, but the W.T. Carter & Bro. lumber company moved all the workers to Corrigan a few years earlier. In its heyday, the population of Camden was only a few hundred people. We made definite plans to return to those old houses to see what treasures or secrets the previous owners had left behind, expensive jewels, perhaps, or (more interesting to a child) diaries and letters confessing to crimes and misdemeanours. For whatever reason, we never thought much of ghosts in a metaphysical sense, but the idea of past lives lingering in these empty buildings was palpable.

All we ever found in any of those houses was broken bottles and forgotten dreams.