While our physical offices are closed until further notice in accordance with Austin's COVID-19 "stay home-work safe" order, the Handbook of Texas will remain available at no-cost for you, your fellow history enthusiasts, and all Texas students currently mandated to study from home. If you have the capacity to help us maintain our online Texas history resources during these uncertain times, please consider making a 100% tax-deductible contribution today. Thank you for your support of TSHA and Texas history. Donate Today »


George C. Werner
Railway Poster
Houston and Texas Central Railway Poster. Image available on the Internet and included in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107.
Railway Map
Houston and Texas Central Railway Map. Courtesy of the Texas State Library and Archives Commission. Image available on the Internet and included in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107.
Cotton Transportation
Cotton Transports on the H&TC Railway. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.  Image available on the Internet and included in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107.
Railway Depot
Houston and Texas Central Railway Depot in Austin. Image available on the Internet and included in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107.
Railway Car
Houston and Texas Central Railway Car. Courtesy of Austin Public Library. Image available on the Internet and included in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107.
Southern Pacific Logo
Southern Pacific Logo. Image available on the Internet and included in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107.

HOUSTON AND TEXAS CENTRAL RAILWAY. The charter for the Galveston and Red River Railway was obtained by Ebenezer Allen of Galveston on March 11, 1848. However, the company did not become active until 1852, when, after a series of meetings at Chappell Hill and Houston, the charter was made available for the proposed railroad from Houston to the Brazos River and the interior of Texas. On January 1, 1853, Paul Bremond and Thomas William House broke ground for the G&RR at Houston. Although early progress was slow, considerable grading had been completed by the end of 1855. Track laying began in early 1856, and the rails reached Cypress City, the twenty-five-mile point, on July 26, 1856. On September 1, 1856, the company was renamed Houston and Texas Central Railway Company. By April 22, 1861, the railroad was open eighty-one miles to Millican, but the Civil War prevented any additional construction until 1867. The H&TC reached Corsicana in 1871, Dallas in 1872, and Denison in 1873. At Denison connection was made with the Missouri, Kansas and Texas Railroad to form the first all-rail route from Texas to St. Louis and the East. In 1867 the H&TC acquired the Washington County Railroad, which had completed a line between Hempstead and Brenham in April 1861. This line was extended to Austin, where the final spike was driven on Christmas Day, 1871. The H&TC also acquired the Waco and Northwestern, formerly the Waco Tap, and completed the line between Bremond and Waco in 1872. Other railroads subsequently merged into the H&TC include the Austin and Northwestern, Central Texas and Northwestern, Fort Worth and New Orleans, Hearne and Brazos Valley, and Houston Railway. Major new construction after 1900 included the Mexia-Nelleva cutoff from a point near Navasota to Mexia, which was completed in 1907, and the extension from Giddings to Stone City in 1913, which completed the Dallas cutoff and shortened the route between San Antonio and Dallas by 140 miles.

The H&TC was sold to Charles Morgan in March 1877 and came under Southern Pacific control when that company acquired the Morgan interests in 1883. However, the H&TC continued to be operated by its own organization until 1927, when it was leased to the Texas and New Orleans. At the time of the lease the H&TC operated 872 miles of track. It merged with the T&NO in 1934. Until 1875 Texas law required a track gauge of 5' 6", and the H&TC from Houston to Corsicana and the Western Branch to Austin were built to state gauge. The H&TC adopted 4' 8½" gauge, now known as standard gauge, for its construction north of Corsicana as well as on the Waco line. The rest of the railroad was narrowed in three stages: Corsicana to Hearne in 1874, Hearne to Houston in 1876, and the Austin line in March 1877. The H&TC inaugurated Pullman service in Texas between Houston and Austin in June 1872. In 1892 the Houston and Texas Central reported passenger earnings of $1 million and freight earnings of $2.5 million and owned 115 locomotives and 2,271 cars. The company also became one of the first in Texas to use oil as a locomotive fuel when it began experimenting with oil-fired locomotives in early 1901. Significant portions of the former H&TC have been abandoned or sold. In 1933 the Mexia-Nelleva cutoff was abandoned. Later abandonments included the line between Bremond and Waco (1967), the track between Hempstead and Brenham (1961–62), and the track between Brenham and Giddings (1979). On August 19, 1986, the line from Giddings through Austin to Llano was sold to the city of Austin. Lines still operated by the Southern Pacific in 1988 included Houston to Denison, Ennis to Fort Worth, and Hearne to Giddings.


James P. Baughman, Charles Morgan and the Development of Southern Transportation (Nashville: Vanderbilt University Press, 1968). Donovan L. Hofsommer, The Southern Pacific, 1901–1985 (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1986).

Image Use Disclaimer

All copyrighted materials included within the Handbook of Texas Online are in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107 related to Copyright and “Fair Use” for Non-Profit educational institutions, which permits the Texas State Historical Association (TSHA), to utilize copyrighted materials to further scholarship, education, and inform the public. The TSHA makes every effort to conform to the principles of fair use and to comply with copyright law.

For more information go to: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml

If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.


The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Handbook of Texas Online, George C. Werner, "HOUSTON AND TEXAS CENTRAL RAILWAY," accessed August 08, 2020, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/eqh09.

Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Modified on March 20, 2017. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
visit the mytsha forums to participate

View these posts and more when you register your free MyTSHA account.

Call for Papers: Texas Center for Working-Class Studies Events, Symposia, and Workshops
Hi all! You may be interested in this call for papers I received from the Texas Center for Working-Class Studies at Collin College...

Katy Jennings' Ride Scholarly Research Request
I'm doing research on Catherine Jennings Lockwood, specifically the incident known as "Katy Jennings' Ride." Her father was Gordon C. Jennings, the oldest man to die at the Alamo...

Texas Constitution of 1836 Co-Author- Elisha Pease? Ask a Historian
The TSHA profile of Elisha Marshall Pease states that he wrote part of the Texas Constitution although he was only a 24 year-old assistant secretary (not elected). I cannot find any other mention of this authorship work by Pease in other credible research about the credited Constution authors...