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 »


John C. Rayburn

NEW YORK, TEXAS AND MEXICAN RAILWAY. The New York, Texas and Mexican Railway Company was planned by Count Joseph Telfener, an Italian engineer and financier, and his father-in-law, Daniel E. Hungerford, a promoter from California, to connect New York City with Mexico City. Texas was chosen as the starting point for this project because of the liberal land grants that the state offered to encourage rail construction. In a charter signed on October 18, 1880, in Paris, France, and filed in Austin, Texas, on November 17, 1880, Telfener and a group of associates formed a Texas corporation to construct a railroad from Richmond, Texas, south to Brownsville. The road was to begin on the Galveston, Harrisburg and San Antonio Railway at Richmond in Fort Bend County and extend by the most practical route through Fort Bend, Wharton, Jackson, Victoria, Goliad, Bee, Refugio, San Patricio, Nueces, Hidalgo, and Cameron counties and to terminate at Brownsville. Branches were planned from the main line in Jackson County to the headwaters of Lavaca Bay, from the main line in Nueces County to Corpus Christi, and from Brownsville to Brazos de Santiago. The principal business office was in Victoria. The board of directors comprised J. J. Tobin, C. R. Beaty, J. H. Dinkins, and Phineas DeCordova, all of Austin; Telfener and John Della Spina of Rome, Italy; and Alfred G. Demée of Paris, France. The corporation was capitalized at $2 million and planned to issue 20,000 shares of stock valued at $100 each. The company secured the usual Texas land grant of sixteen sections, or 10,240 acres, for each mile of track completed. For the ninety-one miles of track from Rosenberg Junction to Victoria the New York, Texas and Mexican Railway was entitled to about 940,000 acres of land. Actual construction on the project did not get under way until September 1881, when two crews started work at Rosenberg Junction and Victoria simultaneously, one working west and the other working toward the east.

The count brought over from Italy about 1,200 laborers to perform the heavy work and, he hoped, to remain here as citizens and buy land along the tracks. The daily wages for the imported workers ranged from $1.50 for common labor up to four dollars for some skilled tasks. As an added incentive, Telfener paid the Italians' passage to Texas, supplied them with food, blankets, and shelter, and generally looked after their needs until they could begin work. The road became known as the "Macaroni Line." The tools used in the construction were crude, and some of the methods were primitive. Because the contractor did not have a pile driver during the early stages of work, for instance, piles for bridges were driven by means of a threaded pulley manned by twelve laborers who raised a huge live oak block high in the air then let it fall to give the necessary penetration. After the first state inspection, the company's application for the land certificates was refused on the grounds that the railroad violated its charter by beginning at Rosenberg Junction rather than Richmond. By 1882 the state had issued certificates for eight million acres of land, more than it had for distribution, and before the charter of Telfener's company could be amended to change its point of origin to Rosenberg Junction the state passed a law on April 22, 1882, which repealed "all laws granting lands or land certificates to any person, firm, corporation, or company for the construction of railroads, canals, and ditches." In 1882 the Macaroni Line completed ninety-one miles of track between Rosenberg and Victoria. The cost of the construction of the railroad was $2,036,150, and the rolling stock cost an additional $156,270. Telfener operated the company until June 1, 1884. On July 23, 1884, the directors annulled the construction contract because Telfener had built only ninety-one of a proposed 350 miles. Control of the road was acquired by J. W. Mackay, a wealthy mining engineer from Nevada and a brother-in-law of Telfener, on January 9, 1885. Mackay sold his new holding to the Southern Pacific Railroad in early September 1885, but the line continued to operate as the New York, Texas and Mexican. In 1899 and 1900 thirty-one miles of track was constructed between Wharton and Van Vleck. Between 1901 and 1903 fifty-four miles of track were laid from Van Vleck to Hawkinsville and from Bay City Junction to Palacios. This gave the company 177 miles of main track. In 1903 the New York, Texas and Mexican reported passenger earnings of $116,000 and freight earnings of $347,000 and owned six locomotives and 395 cars. On August 8, 1905, the line was merged into the Galveston, Harrisburg and San Antonio Railway Company.

Galveston News, April 1, June 20, 1882. Railroad Charters and Amendments, Office of the Secretary of State, Austin. Victoria Advocate, September 28, 1934.

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, John C. Rayburn, "NEW YORK, TEXAS AND MEXICAN RAILWAY," accessed May 25, 2020, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/eqn02.

Uploaded on June 15, 2010. 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...