TEXAS RAILROAD HISTORY
When George Werner was assigned to write an article on Thomas Wentworth Pierce, he interviewed Pierce’s grandson. Pierce’s son had died young. It was that grandson’s daughter-in-law who held the Silver Spike. Pierce took possession of it immediately. George doesn’t know what became of it. The great-granddaughter-in-law did not continue correspondence with George; he believes she lived in the New England area. He got much of his information from contemporary articles in the San Antonio Express.
Houston and Brazos Rail Road. “The Houston and Brazos Rail Road Company was one of four railroads chartered by the Republic of Texas. The charter was granted on January 26, 1839, and the company had the right to build railroads and turnpikes from Houston to the Brazos River. Subscription books were opened in Houston, Galveston, and Harrisburg. On December 20, 1839, the stockholders met in Houston and elected Michel B. Menard, Augustus C. Allen, James Love, Moseley Baker, William A. Pettus, and Henry R. Allen as directors. By July 1840 Charles L. Clark had been awarded a contract to build the first nine miles of the railroad. The ceremony marking the beginning of construction was set to coincide with the fourth anniversary observance of the Odd Fellows in Texas. On the morning of July 25, the celebration began at the Presbyterian church, where an address commemorative of the Odd Fellows anniversary was given. From the church a procession of volunteer companies, members of the bar, medical faculty, army and naval officers, citizens, county officers, mayor and aldermen, Odd Fellows, Masons, the president and directors of the railroad company, the committee of arrangements, orator, and officiating clergyman formed and marched to the terminus of the railroad. Mayor Charles Bigelow broke ground with a spade, Holland Lodge No. 1 laid ‘a neat slab with fitting inscriptions,’ and the Milam Guards fired a salute. The procession then proceeded to Corri's Theater for more speeches. An additional contract was awarded to James S. McGahey to get out timber for the ten miles of the railroad closest to the Brazos River. Despite these beginnings the company was unable to construct its railroad and soon lost its charter privileges.”
Buffalo Bayou, Brazos, and Colorado Railway Company. Junior League book, pp. 7-11.
Railroad History. Junior League book, pp. 24, 46, 321, 295, 131, 305, 42, 129, 43, 48.
Houston-Area Model Railroad Clubs. “The metal barn tucked away at the end of the snaking drive is no shed, workman's shop, warehouse or mechanic's station, only a place where boys never have to grow up."We call it the seniors day care club," said Barry Cottrell, a member of the All Points North Model Railroad Club, which boasts an array of age groups among its membership. The 2,500-square-foot building sits on a two-acre, wooded patch at the end of Magnolia Drive in Conroe. Since 2001, it has been the home of the club, where members from all over the area are kept busy tinkering on a mammoth, five-year model railroad project. The project is possible in part because of the building, a permanent home for the club made necessary after members got tired of shuttling from rented place to place since the club's 1981 founding. The Woodlands' Steve Hashagen, the club's president for eight years and an avid model railroad buff, said All Points North is one of only a handful of such clubs nationwide with its own building, and he's justifiably proud." As the economy got better, we got kicked out of a lot of places because they could get more money for rent than we could afford. We just made a decision at that point to try to come up with our own building and land," Hashagen said. The move was made possible when a core membership of 20 people put up the bulk of the money, which allowed the club to operate without creditors."We have no outside financing. It's all done internally. We have some internal debt, which we'll pay off in the next 15 years strictly with dues. We're $20 a month. We also access a certain amount to build a railroad," Hashagen said. That railroad is a large-scale model project that includes interwoven elements of carpentry, electronics, computer technology and good old-fashioned arts-and-crafts type finish work. The labyrinth model train layout indeed comes with needs for a range of skills, complete to detail work such as cutting and glossing just the right pieces of twig to mimic the logs of cut timber carried on actual freight trains."That's the power of a model railroad club. You don't have to have all of those skills," Hashagen said. "We have people who are electricians. We have people who can do the scenery. We have someone who is a carpenter. Any one of us from the beginning couldn't complete the task from beginning to end. It would be virtually impossible."An affection for model railroads, though, is the only true prerequisite for joining."Theoretically, someone could join the club and never really have to buy anything, or build anything, if that's what they wanted to do,"Hashagen said. Train lovers – from places such as Walden, Spring, Conroe, The Woodlands and Huntsville – come to congregate, build and indulge their passion for the hobby. A place to congregate, after all, is the point of the building and almost necessary for such a large-scale project. "I don't know of any wife nice enough that's going to give you 2,500square feet of her house and say, 'Go have fun,' " Hashagen said. Camaraderie alone though isn't enough for some members. The $50,000model train project was started in February 2004 with a large vision. "It's been just over a year, so we've managed to accomplish some things from bare floor," Hashagen said. Hashagen said the length of track and scenery is designed to mirror a thematic route across the Western United States. "What we're trying to do, is this will run somewhere around Arizona and it will kind of move out toward the West Coast," Hashagen said. The project has an estimated completion date of 2009, although, like train schedules, Hashagen said that schedule might run late. "It very well may. This is a big project," he said. The time frame, even if met, is only the first of many deadlines that will be spread out over the years. "It'll never be finished. When it's done, we'll probably knock out a wall and keep going," Cottrell said. The maze of track threaded throughout the building includes 600 feet of mainline track – this doesn't count all the areas where rows of track are laid side by side – sitting atop a waist-level woodworked foundation. The layout comes complete with a depot of sorts, where repairs and tweaks can be made. The small-scale depot sits along a long shelf of track where trains from the main room enter through tunnelsc arved into a dividing wall. The dozens of model trains, purchased online and at hobby shops for anywhere from $1 to about $100, are the easy part of the scheme. The scenery, track accessories and faux townscapes are either built from scratch with materials purchased at hardware stores or trade catalogs. The plan for the railroad itself was from no kit or magazine, but designed by one of the club members and copied onto a blueprinted scroll that is followed as an engineer might follow an architect's rendering. "It's quite a project by the time you put it all together," Hashagen said. The work for particular sections is overseen by "mayors," or "track foremen," as Hashagen calls the team leaders of each patch of track real estate. "Obviously, we had a bare canvas with nothing in here, so we built itfrom a plan. The plan has been about 98 percent executed with no changes at all," Hashagen said. Hashagen said most members take part in track construction in some way, but there's other types of fun for train aficionados at the club. A railroad library, neatly arranged and cataloged on one large wall, features videos, literature, train log books and half-century-old magazines. "We have about 400 or 500 videos, other types of media. Model Railroader, Model Craftsman. It's basically a reference library,"Hashagen said. In the club also are plush chairs for leafing through the magazines and a color TV mounted in the ceiling corner for videos. The building is also outfitted with a full-service kitchen and a bathroom and shower for yardworking clubbers tending the two acres. "It's very nice to be able to get out, get away as well. I think that's one of the things about belonging to a club. If you're at home, you're just sitting there and running a train, staring at it by yourself. Down here, you have all the rest of the people," Hashagen said. The club has about 28 members. Member Cottrell, from Walden, said he likes the boys club perks enjoyed in the lounge of All Points North. The building is available to members24 hours a day, seven days a week. "This is where we'll relax when we're not in the train room," Cottrell said. Most of the hobbyists' interest springs from memories of a bygone era when trains were a major mode of transportation. "A lot of the members here have been model railroaders for 30 or 40years," Hashagen said. Member Duane Darling from Spring said he's been fascinated with model trains since childhood. "I started as a child. My brother had an American Flyer, just an oval, and then about 25 years ago built a layout, then got out of the hobby for a period of time," Darling said. Cool technology sucked him back in. "The latest thing in the hobby is what we call digital command control, which is an electronic minicomputer of which the signal is set over the track. So we can now control the trains with a hand-held (control). Before, it was all DC, or direct current, and you had blocks that you lined up. Basically, there you ran the track, you didn't run the train. Now, you run the train," Darling said. Darling said part of the fun is re-creating real-life procedures in a controlled setting and on a smaller scale. The club has a dispatcher, who operates from a tiny room outfitted with a computerized command station. "The railroad communicates to a computer down here. All the main line turnouts can be actuated from here," he said, pointing to a computer screen studded with a schedule log layout. The camaraderie, creative outlets and other club fun is after all secondary to the love of model trains. Club member Jerry Williams from Conroe said enthusiasm for the hobby originates with a fascination with not only trains but the way they're powered. Digital and other technological advances have also made the pursuit more realistic than ever. "Your engines now have sound. You can run them independently on the same track, which you couldn't do under direct current. You get a lot more realistic operations," Williams said. The vicarious fun can advance beyond toots and whistles. "Personally, I'm an operations guy and moving the railroad around like they do in the real world, shipping product from A to B to C to D, in a cost-efficient manner, is a lot of fun. If you're an artistic person, doing the scenery, building the structures, anything you want to do, you can do it within the hobby. It's a real creative outlet for people. We've got years of work here," Williams said. Cottrell, pointing to a section designed to mimic a train track carved into a mountainside, said the cosmetic touches on scenery is time intensive. "The work that's been put on this is about three months of effort, and it's far from finished. If you get up close, you'll see the detail in the rock. It's something you can work on an hour every day, or eight hours a day, and get as much enjoyment out of it as you want," Cottrell said. Also time intensive is accounting for the club's assets, financial structure and equipment. "We're in the process now of working a database where all of the things owned by the club – trains, rolling stock, everything – we're going to start inventorying, keeping track of. That's our next phase," Hashagen said. Cottrell said many people participate in the hobby for nostalgia. "I think that's why many people are in the hobby. They remember their childhood and the glory of the steam days and the glory of trains. If you went any distance, you went by train. We've lost a lot of that now as far as passenger trains," Cottrell said. Hashagen said he sometimes wonders if the hobby will go the way of the actual trains, a trend All Points North is trying to do its own little part to reverse. "Kids don't play with model trains any more. They play with video games. So there aren't new people coming up. Model railroading as a hobby is beginning to shrink, but at least our club is growing." To contact or join the All Points North Model Railroad Club, 611 S. Magnolia Drive, Conroe, access the club's Web site at www.allpointsnorthmrrc.org. MODEL RAILROAD TERMS: Duckunder: An area on a layout where you must bend down and go under the bench-work to gain access to another part of the layout. Hardshell: A scenery base made by dipping paper towels in plaster or using plaster-impregnated gauze. Kitbashing: Taking one or more model railroad kits and combining parts to make a unique model. Scratch-building: Making a model from raw materials and parts, not using kits. Source: Model Railroader Magazine”
Timeline of Early Houston Railroad History
1848 - Galveston and Red River chartered
1850- Buffalo Bayou, Brazos and Colorado Railway chartered
1851 - BBB&C starts construction in Harrisburg
1853- Galveston, Houston, and Henderson chartered
1853 - Galveston and Red River starts construction
1853 - BBB&C opens to Stafford
1854- GH&H starts construction near Galveston
1856 - Sabine and Galveston Bay Railroad and Lumber Company chartered
1856 - BBB&C opens to Richmond
1856 - Galveston and Red River starts laying tracks, open to Cypress City in July, renamed Houston and Texas Central.
1856 - Houston Tap chartered to connect Houston to BBB&C; construction starts in April, complete in October
1857- GH&H lays first section of track
1857- S&GB breaks ground
1858- City of Houston sells Houston Tap (the Houston Tap was later extended to Columbia and became known as the Columbia Tap)
On October 30, 1858, the New York Times published a list of railroad schedules.
1859- GH&H reached Houston.
1861- S&GB (by now called Texas and New Orleans) complete from Houston to Beaumont
Those were the four railroads connected to Houston by the Civil War. A lot happened in not a lot of time. The Galveston and Red River was the first railroad chartered in Texas that would go on to lay track (a few had been chartered earlier but went out of business before doing anything), but the Buffalo Bayou, Brazos, and Colorado was the first to lay track and the first to open. The Galveston and Red River was the first track to connect to what were then the city limits of Houston (though I'm not sure what the exact city limits were -- it may have been across the bayou from the city proper), though it preceded the Houston Tap only by a few months) but the BBB&C was the first inside the current city limits.
The construction of the Buffalo Bayou, Brazos and Colorado Railway marked the beginning of the railroad age in Texas. It was the first railroad to begin operating in the state, the first component of the present Southern Pacific to open for service, and the second railroad west of the Mississippi River. On February 11, 1850, a group that included Gen. Sidney Sherman received a charter for the BBB&C. Construction began from Buffalo Bayou at Harrisburg in 1851; the first locomotive, which was named for Sherman, arrived in late 1852; and the first twenty miles of track, from Harrisburg to Stafford's Point, opened in August 1853. By January 1, 1856, the BBB&C or Harrisburg Railroad, as it was commonly called, had been extended an additional 12 miles to East Richmond on the bank of the Brazos River across from Richmond.
Houston Tap Railroad, which was begun earlier in 1856 by the City of Houston to connect the municipality with the Buffalo Bayou, Brazos and Colorado Railway Company. Construction of the city's railroad began on April 7, 1856, and the 6½-mile line opened on October 21, 1856. In June 1858 the Houston Tap and Brazoria bought the city-owned road for $130,000 in stock and a loan of $42,000 to be made once the railroad received its loan from the Special School Fund. The City of Houston was responsible for the interest and repayment of the principal on the $42,000.
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.
The Galveston, Houston and Henderson Railroad Company was chartered on February 7, 1853, to build from Galveston through Houston to Henderson. Construction of the "Old Reliable Short Line," as the road was later called, began at Virginia Point on the mainland opposite Galveston Island in 1854. However, the first rail was not laid until 1857 and in 1859 the company finally reached Houston, where it terminated at the corner of Main and McKinney.
In September 1870, the Galveston, Harrisburg & San Antonio Railroad was formed out of the BBB&C and the Columbia (Houston) Tap. In August 1905, it added the GWT&P, the NYT&M, and the San Antonio & Galveston railroads. A month later, in September 1905, it acquired the GH&N and the GB. By June 1934, it had become the Texas & New Orleans Railroad.
A French Web site carries a chart of this history. It became part of the Texas Central in ??? and was known as the Sunset Route. The Texas Central became part of the Southern Pacific System. The Central Pacific Railroad Photographic History Museum includes an article by Erle Heath entitled, “Seventy-Five Years of Progress: An Historical Sketch of the Southern Pacific.” In 19??, the Southern Pacific System became the Union Pacific System.