RIO GRANDE RAILROAD
RIO GRANDE RAILROAD. The Rio Grande Railroad was organized by Simón Celaya of Brownsville in 1870 and opened a 22.5-mile narrow-gauge line connecting Point Isabel and Brownsville on July 4, 1872. The railroad also operated steam and sail lighters from its quarter-mile-long wharf at Point Isabel to the Brazos Santiago harbor, a distance of three miles. Richard King and Mifflin Kenedy had received a charter for a Rio Grande Railway Company on October 1, 1866, but the road was never built. King and Kenedy then opposed the building of Celaya's line into Brownsville and went to the courts for aid but failed to prevent its construction. The Rio Grande Railroad initially carried much of the commerce destined for northern Mexico. However, the completion of railroads to Laredo diverted much of this traffic, and for many years the Rio Grande operated a daily mixed train between the two cities to carry freight, passengers, mail, and express shipments. On January 19, 1891, the train from Brownsville was deliberately wrecked about twelve miles south of town by bandits who escaped with $60,000 in Mexican silver from the express shipment. In 1892 the Rio Grande reported passenger earnings of $3,000 and freight earnings of $73,000; the railroad owned three locomotives and fifty-six cars. The Rio Grande was the only railroad in Texas and one of the few in the United States to be built to a track gauge of forty-two inches. Its route was relatively direct from Brownsville to the coast but required fifteen bridges, including a 15,550-foot trestle across the Badilla Grande. The track through the low coastal marshland made the Rio Grande vulnerable to hurricanes and floods, from which the railroad suffered considerable damage on several occasions.
The company defaulted on its bonds and in 1910 was reorganized as the Rio Grande Railway Company. It came under the control of the St. Louis and San Francisco but was returned to local ownership in 1914. It acquired two gasoline rail motors for freight and passenger service in 1918, and gasoline motors provided all of the service on the railroad from that time until the line was converted to standard gauge. The narrow-gauge steam locomotives of the Rio Grande burned mesquiteqv as fuel, and the railroad also used mesquite for cross ties. In 1921 the railroad moved its track from about eight miles south of Brownsville to Point Isabel. The new line was built on higher ground east of the original route and increased the mileage between the two terminals to 26.3 miles. In 1925 the company converted to standard gauge. However, the railroad was unable to pay the conversion costs, and it was reorganized in 1928 as the Port Isabel and Rio Grande Valley Railway, under the control of the Port Isabel Company.
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, "Rio Grande Railroad," accessed May 05, 2016, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/eqr07.
Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
Get Texas history every day,
with day by day
Each day's email tells a little bit more of the story of Texas and links to our collection of more than 27,000 articles