The first operating railroad in Texas powered forward in 1853. The newly rechartered Buffalo Bayou, Brazos and Colorado Railway connected a 20-mile stretch between Harrisburg and Stafford’s Point. Although Texas had issued railroad charters as early as 1836, it took nearly two decades for railroad construction to begin.
The Buffalo Bayou railway started with five passenger cars and 28 freight cars. The earliest passenger service cost about five cents per passenger per mile and about 10 cents per ton per mile for freight service, about half the cost of moving people by coach or moving freight by ox or mule wagon. Passengers could travel at twice the speed by railroad than by coach for short distances. Within a short time, stage coach service ended for towns served by a railroad.
The inexorable march to transportation modernization quickly brought the potential for vast economic and personal benefit. Along with this new world of possibilities and dreams came conflict: individual rights versus corporate rights; corporate rights versus the public good; and the cloud of corruption and crime.
The compelling narrative of the railroad’s development tells us the history of the state, nation and its people.
From the tales of people staking out new opportunities and connecting with others to the exploits of railroad magnates and the crimes of train robbers, stories and sites connected with Texas railways allow us to explore our history and landscape with a renewed appreciation for the breadth of Texas and the challenge and power of making all parts of the state connected and easily traversable.