Texas Central Railroad – Moving transportation forward as we honor the history of trains in Texas
We are humbled and proud of the place we hold in the history of railroads in Texas. In the mid-19th century, railroads connected people and drove commerce. Communities and business leaders clamored to be included in the systems. While we see this similarity with the Texas Central system being built today, we wanted to take a moment to highlight the special relationship the communities the Texas high-speed train is serving have with railroads throughout their history.
Texas Central Railroad proudly carries the name of the pioneers of Texas railroads, the Houston and Texas Central Railway Company (H&TC), which built a system throughout the state and along the Texas Central route between the years of 1856 – 1934. Like the original H&TC, this project is paving a new path for Texas and will help launch a brand new industry in the US, with its roots planted firmly in Texas soil.
Much like the companies in the early history of Texas, Texas Central’s goal is to enrich lives, safely connect communities and save people time. At the end of the day, that is what’s most important.
In 1840, years before any railroads would actually reach Houston, city pioneers designed a city seal with a locomotive emblazed on it to symbolize the vision of progress for the city. This same seal is still used today and can also be found on the Houston city flag.
The first two miles of rail in Houston were built in 1855, spurring decades of exceptional growth in quality of life and business and trade for its residents. Houston would grow quickly to become known as the city “Where 17 Railroads meet the Sea”. This motto hearkens back to a book of the same name written in 1913 by Jerome H. Farbar, which focused on the history of Houston and its explosive growth in the late 1800s.
BRAZOS VALLEY/COLLEGE STATION
This region owes its existence to the railroad. A small railroad community sprung up along the line around 1860 when H&TC started building through the region. Just eleven years later, the spot would be chosen as the location for the new Agricultural and Mechanical College of Texas, later to be renamed Texas A&M University. The stop was so important to the community, they called it “College Station”.
This region has been moving students, families and workers in and out of the area by rail for more than a century and Texas Central Railroad plans to carry that banner into the next century.
One more example of the positive impact over time of connecting communities and businesses is the growth of Navasota which is now the county seat of Grimes County. H&TC extended into Navasota after initially being rejected by the city of Anderson. After the establishment of the railroad Navasota quickly grew into a large epicenter of commercial activity, while Anderson, once being the fourth largest town in Texas, experienced a stunt in population growth and now boast only a couple hundred residents.
North Texas and Dallas would not be the thriving center of commerce it is today without the strategic location of the intersection of the two major rail lines, H&TC (north/south) and the Texas & Pacific Railroad (east/west) which crossed at the corner of Central and Pacific streets in what is now called Deep Ellum. Without the two lines being there, McKinney was favored to have been the metropolis of North Texas.
With the train’s arrival, John Neely Bryan, considered the founder of Dallas, would realize his vision of the city becoming a rail destination. And, by 1890, Dallas would grow to be the largest city in Texas with a population of about 38,000.
While Dallas is recognized more as an aviation center today, it owes its early growth and prosperity to the railroad. Ironically, trains have become the ideal mode to alleviate future congestion in the air and on the roads in Dallas and North Texas. The very form of transportation that put the region on the map will ultimately play a significant role in addressing critical transportation issues.
The emergence of the railroad industry in Texas in the mid-19th century spurred growth throughout the state, especially along the Texas Central alignment between Houston and North Texas. Tracks were laid continuously along this route beginning in 1855 – a herculean effort led by early Texas pioneers and built by Texas rail workers.
Texas Central Railroad’s high-speed train project is just the latest illustration of this state’s willingness to lead the charge for innovation and break through barriers in this country and beyond. It is exciting to be at the center of the present-day railroad revolution happening now in Texas. With a rich history of railroading, it only seems natural for the first high-speed train to run between two economic, cultural, and diverse Texas hubs.
ALONG THE TEXAS CENTRAL ROUTE – A TIMELINE
- December 16, 1836 – The 1st railroad established in Texas by the 1st Congress of the Republic of Texas is the “Texas Railroad, Navigation, and Banking Company.”
- General Sidney Sherman acquires land around Harrisburg, Texas, where the first successful railroad in the region is built, “The Buffalo Bayou, Brazos and Colorado Railway.”
- Also known as Harrisburg railroad, it is only the second railway system to operate west of the Mississippi River.
- The charter for the “Galveston and Red River Railway” is obtained by Ebenezer Allen of Galveston. Within 5 years, the charter will be made available for the proposed railroad from Houston to the Brazos River.
- Rail arrives in the town of Millican – later to be renamed Bryan, Texas, in honor of William Joel Bryan who sold the northern part of Millican to the railroad.
- January 1, 1853 – Paul Bremond and Thomas William House break ground on the Galveston and Red River Railway (G&RR) in Houston (later to be named Houston and Texas Central Railway)
- September 7 – The first twenty-mile long segment of rail opens, extending from Harrisburg and Stafford’s Point.
- The Galveston and Red River Railway builds its first two miles of track in Houston.
- September 1 – G&RR officially renames itself the Houston and Texas Central Railway Company.
- H&TC tries to build through Anderson, but residents were unwilling to give the right of way. Anderson, once being the fourth largest town in Texas, experiences a stunt in population growth and now boasts only a couple hundred residents.
- June 29 – H&TC extended its railways into Hempstead, now the county seat of Waller County. The small town’s proximity to Houston made it a prime location to ship agricultural exports from Hempstead to Houston. Hempstead became a distribution center for the shipment of products from the interior of Texas to the coast.
- The first railroad reaches Grimes County.
- H&TC expands into Bryan in 1866.
- H&TC establishes its first railroad in Limestone county in Kosse, Texas. The town became the end of the H&TC rail line and was named after the chief engineer of the railroad: Theodore Kosse.
- H&TC extended its lines from Kosse to Groesbeck. Just like it’s neighboring town, the town was named to pay homage to the director of the railroad company: Abram Groesbeck. The town became the trade center area of farmers and ranchers.
- The arrival of the railroad almost triples the population of Ellis county.
- H&TC arrives in Waxahachie. The railroad ran east of Waxahachie where the town of Ennis would be established.
- The first train arrives on December 26, 1871 in Austin. The steam locomotive of H&TC Railway Company makes a brief stop on the Waller Creek bridge before proceeding along tracks that were completed the previous day (on Christmas).
- H&TC reaches Ennis. The City was named after the railroad official, Col. Cornelius Ennis, who served as Mayor of Houston from 1856-1857 and was the director of both the Great Northern Railroad and Houston and Texas Central.
- H&TC becomes the first railroad to lay its tracks in Freestone County. The town that resulted from H&TC tracks was named Wortham in honor of Col. Rice Wortham, a merchant instrumental in H&TC coming through the town.
- H&TC reaches Corsicana.
- H&TC reached Dallas.
- H&TCs arrival spurs the growth of communities such as Hutchins, Oasis, Wilmer, and Richardson.
- The arrival of the International Great Northern Railroad in 1872, changed the face of Leon county and spurred the growth of Buffalo. Before rail, Buffalo residents had to ship cotton and other goods by way of river, and livestock had to be driven to market. Rail offered a new mode of the transportation of goods.
- Residents of Cotton Gin begin moving towards Mexia due to the H&TC bypassing their town. Without rail and the decline in cotton production, Cotton Gin’s population quickly decreased.
- The H&TC continued to build northward to Sherman from Dallas, connecting with the Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad. This connection would link Dallas with industries in the Northeast and Midwest, providing a direct route for much-needed materials and machinery for the bustling young town.
- Following the arrival of the Texas and Pacific Railroad, communities such as Grand Prairie and Mesquite spring up.
- Ferris is established due to the construction and arrival of the H&TC Railway. Many settlers started moving to Ferris due to their fertile soils and the opportunities the railroad offered.
- Waxahachie starts its own railroad: Waxahachie Tap Railroad Company. This railroad had a significant impact on the region. The population of Waxahachie rose, and textile mills began to capitalize their operation in the area.
- The H&TC was sold to Charles Morganqv in March 1877.
- In 1881, another railroad comes to Ellis County. Ennis, located southeast Ellis County is famously known as the place “Where Railroads and Cotton Fields Meet.”
- In 1888, the Dallas and Waco Railroad was built through Lancaster. A couple years later, the D&W Railroad became a part of the Missouri, Kansas and Texas Railroad- connecting Dallas to the Texas Gulf Coast.
- In 1890 a small line, the Lancaster Tap, connected with H&TC at Hutchins. Fifteen years later, the H&TC Railway bought the Lancaster Tap (which was later abandoned in 1934).
- In 1900, the International-Great Northern Railroad extended directly into College Station.
- The International-Great Northern Railroad becomes the first railroad in Madison County after the completion of railways between Navasota and Madisonville.
- The town of Normangee was established as station along the route of the Houston and Texas Central Railway.
- The second railroad in Madison County came in 1906 when H&TC constructed it’s Navasota-Mexia rail line which ran west of the small town of Zulch. When the Trinity and Brazos Valley Railway built its railway parallel to the that of H&TC tracks, most of the residents and businesses had already begun moving north. Shortly thereafter the town of North Zulch was born.
- Major new construction after 1900 included the Mexia-Nelleva cutoff from a point near Navasota to Mexia.
- By 1910, Dallas County was served by 295.36 miles of railroads.
- The Houston and Texas Central Railway merges with the Texas & New Orleans Railroad.