Early settlers in Texas had transportation challenges due to the geography of this region. The river bottoms in Texas were frequently not deep enough for steamboats during dry months. Roads were often impassable during wet months. It wasn’t until the expansion of railroads arrived in Texas that transportation improved.
The Texas Railroad, Navigation, and Banking Company was chartered in 1836 to build railroads throughout the state. However, the company fell apart by 1838, without ever having laid a single rail.
The Buffalo Bayou, Brazos, and Colorado Railway Company finished the first portion of track, which opened in 1853.
The Galveston and Red River Railway Company was chartered in 1848. In 1856, the first segment of their track was opened to the public. The railroad’s name changed to the Houston and Texas Central Railway Company.
New railroad companies were started, and by 1861 nine companies were active and 470 miles of track existed in Texas.
Texas offered loans and land grants to encourage railroad companies to build tracks. In 1854, a land grant law was passed offering 16 sections of land for every mile of track. Texas maintained this law until 1869, when land grants were outlawed. By this time, years of use during the Civil War without maintenance meant that sections of track had to be closed.
By 1867, new construction was underway. During the 1870s, more progress was made. Land grants were made legal again to encourage construction.
Jay Gould was an active participant in the railway companies during the 1880s. He controlled several different railway companies, with ongoing issues of corruption. James S. Hogg was elected as Texas governor in 1890 on a platform of rail reform. The following year Hogg created the Railroad Commission.
Although building continued, there were large areas of Texas still without tracks. There were 17,078 miles of tracks by 1932. In 1936, the first diesel passenger service was introduced. Improved roadways and the ability to travel by air resulted in a decline of train travel by the 1970s.
Source: Railroads in Texas from Fort Worth and Beyond!
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