Brazos, Santiago and Rio Grande Railroad

By: George C. Werner

Type: General Entry

Published: November 1, 1994

Updated: June 17, 2020

Low water over the bar at the mouth of the Rio Grande frequently delayed boats taking supplies to the large federal force that occupied the Texas side of the river in 1865. In order to reduce transportation delays, Bvt. Maj. Gen. Edward R. S. Canby and, later, Maj. Gen. Philip H. Sheridan authorized the use of military labor and materials to construct a nine-mile railroad that was completed in December 1865. The line, commonly called the Brazos Santiago and Rio Grande, ran from Brazos Santiago along the beach on Brazos Island to White's Ranch on the river.

As conditions in Texas and Mexico stabilized after the Civil War, the military presence along the Rio Grande was reduced. The BS&RG was offered for sale in April 1866. On July 7 of that year it was sold to Gen. J. R. West and Richard Chenery, who operated it as the Brazos Santiago and Brownsville. However, the railroad, which was built as a military expediency, was poorly located to serve civilian needs. West and Chenery failed to make the payment due in November 1866, and the BS&RG reverted to military operation. Considerable track damage resulted from the devastating hurricane that hit the lower Texas coast in October 1867 (see HURRICANES), and the line was not returned to service. The remains were sold to the Indianola Railroad and moved to Indianola in late 1868. The BS&RG was the only railroad in Texas built to a track gauge of five feet.

Brownsville Ranchero, October 16, 1868. J. Lee and Lillian J. Stambaugh, The Lower Rio Grande Valley of Texas (San Antonio: Naylor, 1954).

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

George C. Werner, “Brazos, Santiago and Rio Grande Railroad,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed May 20, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

November 1, 1994
June 17, 2020