Vista K. McCroskey

TYLER TAP RAILROAD. The Tyler Tap Railroad Company was chartered on December 1, 1871, by a special act of the Twelfth Texas Legislature. Twenty-three prominent citizens of Tyler applied for the charter under the direction of future governor Richard B. Hubbard and Maj. James P. Douglas. Tyler was the center of agriculture and trade, but its prosperity was threatened by the construction of the Texas and Pacific Railway to the north and the International and Houston and Great Northern railways to the south. Tyler citizens feared that the nearby railtowns would attract business away from their growing city unless they had a railroad. The charter authorized the construction of a railroad from Tyler in Smith County to a point no more than forty miles away on either the Southern Pacific Railroad Company (Texas and Pacific), International, or Houston and Great Northern. The legislature granted a right-of-way 200 feet wide, as well as the use of any natural resources on state land within five miles of the track. Capital was set at $1 million. In 1873 the charter was amended to increase capitalization to $3 million and to provide for a route northward through Gilmer, Pittsburg, Mount Pleasant, and Clarksville, which increased the projected mileage to 127. In return for right-of-way, each of the towns was promised a depot located within one mile of their respective county courthouses.

In order to economize as much as possible, the Tyler Tap selected a gauge of three feet, which had a fleeting popularity at that time. This change was approved by the legislature on February 25, 1875, although the promised land grant was reduced to twelve sections of land per mile from the sixteen sections granted to standard gauge railroads. Construction finally began in the summer of 1875, but it took the company two years to build twenty-one miles of track to a connection with the Texas and Pacific at Big Sandy. On October 1, 1877, the Tyler Tap's only locomotive, named the Governor Hubbard, steamed into Tyler with the line's first train. Company offices were located northwest of the crossing of East Valentine and North Fannin streets. Douglas served as the first president, Ed. W. Willis as conductor, and J. M. Hopping as ticket agent. Although it was Tyler's own railroad, the Tyler Tap was not the first railroad into town. In 1873 the Houston and Great Northern had built through Tyler on its route from Troup to Mineola.

Although the Tyler Tap was built as economically as possible, it was not a financial success. Douglas succeeded in interesting James W. Paramore, president of the St. Louis Cotton Compress Company, and his associates in the line. The St. Louis capitalists felt that an additional connection for the Tyler Tap might result in lower rates on cotton. By charter amendment, the Tyler Tap was renamed the Texas and St. Louis Railway Company on May 14, 1879. On July 12, 1880, the company completed 107 miles of narrow-gauge railroad between Texarkana and Big Sandy and by the end of the year an additional thirty-seven miles from Tyler to Athens. The thirty-eight miles from Athens to Corsicana opened on April 2, 1881. Another charter amendment dated August 16, 1881, changed the name to the Texas and St. Louis Railway Company in Texas. An additional 102 miles between Corsicana and Gatesville was completed on October 21, 1882. The company was sold at foreclosure on February 10, 1886, and the property was acquired by the St. Louis, Arkansas and Texas Railway Company in Texas. By that time the little twenty-one-mile railroad promoted by the citizens of Tyler had become part of a system extending from Bird's Point, Missouri, to Gatesville, and the company is considered to be the beginning of the St. Louis Southwestern Railway Company (Cotton Belt).

Morris Burton, "Tyler as an Early Railroad Center," Chronicles of Smith County, Spring 1963. Joseph A. Strapac, Cotton Belt Locomotives (Huntington Beach, California: Shade Tree, 1977).

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

Handbook of Texas Online, Vista K. McCroskey, "TYLER TAP RAILROAD," accessed April 19, 2019, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/eqt34.

Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

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