Make Tracks to Midland

On June 10, 2014 · 1 Comments

I had to admit it. My odd fascination with Every County’s slow-motion serial recitation of literally every county progressed towards an obsession. I couldn’t stop checking the author’s crawling pace once every few days. He arrived vicariously at Midland County, Michigan about a week ago where he noted that it "got its name because of its proximity to the center of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula. The only other Midland County is in Texas."

Of course the wheels started turning as I wondered about that Texas county of Midland. Was it in the middle of Texas similar to the one in Michigan, and if not then what did its midpoint represent? What about Midlands in other parts of the United States and even internationally?

Midland, Texas, USA


Odesolate
Odesolate by Bo Nash, on Flickr
via Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0) license

I began by examining Midland County, Texas, and discovered almost immediately that it wasn’t positioned at the center of the state. It did alright on latitude. However it skewed way towards the west for longitude (map). That wasn’t the answer.

I turned to Texas State Historical Association’s ever-useful Handbook of Texas for its Midland County page. Success. "The county was named for its location halfway between Fort Worth and El Paso on the Texas and Pacific Railway."

While that provide an acceptable answer it didn’t give the complete story. Midland County wasn’t the original midland in those parts. The county took its name from the town of Midland that existed there first. From the Handbook’s town page.

In late June 1881 the Texas and Pacific Railway, which was building its line between Dallas and El Paso, established Midway Station, a section house, halfway between those two cities… Because other towns in Texas were already named Midway, the site was renamed Midland to get the post office… When Midland County was organized in March 1885, Midland became the county seat.

Not all explanations for other places would be this clear-cut, I soon discovered.

The City of Midland prospered as a transportation hub. It became an integral part of the Midland–Odessa combined statistical area that provided a home to more than a quarter-million residents.

I’d hoped to examine other Midlands in the United States. However, the US Geographic Names Information System listed hundreds of different things Midland, including 84 results just its for it Civil and Populated Places groupings. Then, I noticed a pattern. "Middle" often referred to something related to railroads just as I’d observed in Texas.


Midland, Western Australia, Australia


Old Railway Workshops, Midland, Australia
Old Railway Workshops, Midland, Australia by Norman Jorgensen, on Flickr
via Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0) license

Perth, Western Australia included a burgeoning suburb called Midland, the council seat for the City of Swan on the northeastern side of a large metropolitan region. The growing suburbs may have begun to obscure Midland’s original purpose as a vital railway hub. As the City of Swan explained,

True to its name, Midland Junction was a junction for the roads north and east (now Great Northern and Great Eastern Highways) and the railway system… Between 1902 and 1904 the Western Australian Government Railway Workshops were relocated to Midland and they had a profound and lasting influence on the town… The Midland Railway Company was bought by the Western Australian Government Railways in 1964 and their land became the site of the Rapid Transit Terminal… The ‘Junction’ part of Midland’s name was dropped in 1961.

The Railway Workshops closed in 1994.

Additional context was provided by Wikipedia. The "midland" referred back to the name of the railroad, the Midland Railway Company, of which this site served as a terminus. I never did learn why the railway was named Midland and speculated that it may have had something to do with its line that ran along the middle coastline (map) of Western Australia.


Midland, Ontario, Canada


midland, ontario
midland, ontario by sara hattie, on Flickr
via Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC 2.0) license

Another Midland, another railroad, this one in Ontario (map). The town offered its early history:

In November of 1871, the Midland Railway Corporation of Port Hope, Ontario, selected Midland as its western port and terminus. Adolphe Hugel and George Cox formed the Midland Land Company and purchased most of the acreage in the area from various farming families. In 1872, they had Peter Burnett survey the new village site, complete with large lots, wide roads and big plans for the future. They named the new community “Midland City.”

The company began as the Peterborough & Port Hope Railway, then became the Port Hope Lindsay and Beaverton Railway and changed its name to Midland Railway of Canada in 1869. I found plenty of sources that documented the name change including the actual Statute of the Province of Ontario although, once again, I never found an explanation. I guess it sounded less limiting.


The Midlands, England, UK


158A 2
158A 2 by Tony Hisgett, on Flickr
via Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0) license

Does referencing The Midlands count as cheating? It represented a broad somewhat amorphous geographic belt across central England, and the reason for the designation was obvious. It didn’t derive its name from a railroad, rather, the opposite condition was true. I included it because, well, just because. I was on a roll.

Not unexpectedly, there was once a Midland Railway and now a Midland Railway Society and a Midland Railway Study Centre. Also, let’s not forget about the Midland Railway – Butterley museum (map) "dedicated to the glory of the former Midland Railway." It houses the 158A, the oldest surviving Midland Railway locomotive, one of a type built sometime between 1866 and 1874.

The UK’s Midland Railway operated between 1844 to 1922.

On June 10, 2014 · 1 Comments

One Response to “Make Tracks to Midland”

  1. John Of Sydney says:

    The history of the Midland Railway of Western Australia is covered by the entry in Wikipedia – briefly it is named after the Midland Railway of England who operated it.
    I travelled on the MRWA in the late 60s- after its takeover by the Western Australian Government Railways. The trip I did was from Geraldton to Perth. The rolling stock was still painted in the old colours – cream and Tuscan I think- with the old MRWA logo on the side while the locomotive was in the WAGR green and white.

Leave a Reply

Purpose
12 Mile Circle:
An Appreciation of Unusual Places
Subscribe
Don't miss an article -
Subscribe to the feed!

RSS G+ Twitter
RSS Twelve Mile Circle Google Plus Twitter
Categories
Monthly Archives
Days with Posts
July 2014
S M T W T F S
« Jun    
 12345
6789101112
13141516171819
20212223242526
2728293031