The Lone Star Locomotive

The 2019 Capitol ornament features the engine that brought the building into being

By Adam Faderewski

2019 Texas Ornament

Last year, the Texas State Preservation Board honored the 130th anniversary of the Texas Capitol building with its annual holiday ornament. The 2019 ornament will recognize the engine that launched the building’s construction full steam ahead.

The 2019 ornament features the Lone Star locomotive and one of its 40 specially constructed rail cars loaded to the brink with Texas Sunset Red granite. Attention was paid to historic details including a tall smokestack, steam whistle, bell, boilers, and a cattle guard, which were all typical of steam trains in the late-19th century. In honor of the holiday season, the engine has been decked out with Texas Lone Stars, Texas flags, and a holiday wreath prominently featuring the Capitol dome.

Original plans for the Texas Capitol had called for limestone from the Austin area, but when discoloration affected the limestone, a change in direction led to the donation of red granite from the owners of Granite Mountain, near Marble Falls in Burnet County.

To facilitate transfer of the granite, the Austin and Northwestern Railroad laid 60 miles of track between Austin and Burnet. Contractor Abner Taylor worked with the International-Great Northern Railroad to lay the final mile of track from the Austin rail yard to the Capitol grounds. The engine that would travel the rails was commissioned from Baldwin Locomotive Works in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and would include the specially constructed rail cars. Taylor dubbed the new locomotive “Lone Star,” and over its time in service for the Capitol, it would transport almost 16,000 loads of granite and other supplies.

The ornament is finished in 24-karat gold and is the second in the ornament series to feature a three-dimensional design. The cost is $22 and proceeds benefit Texas State Capitol preservation and educational programs. This is the 24th ornament in the Capitol series.

The ornament program was started 23 years ago by the late Nelda Laney, wife of then-Speaker of the House Pete Laney. To date, the program has raised over $9 million. All proceeds from ornament sales go toward the preservation and maintenance of the Texas Capitol, Capitol Extension, the 1857 General Land Office Building, other designated buildings, and their contents and grounds. Funds also go toward preserving the Texas Governor’s Mansion and to operating costs for the Bullock Texas State History Museum and the Texas State Cemetery.

The State Preservation Board provides educational programs on Texas culture, government, and history.

For more information, to view a video of the making of the 2019 ornament, or to purchase an ornament, go to TBJ

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