Burlington-Rock Island Railroad

By: George C. Werner

Type: General Entry

Published: 1976

Updated: September 22, 2016

What became the Burlington-Rock Island was chartered on October 9, 1902, as the Trinity and Brazos Valley Railway Company. By January 1904 the company had completed a line from Cleburne to Mexia, but the original backers were unable to secure financing to complete their project. The railroad was acquired by the Colorado and Southern Railway Company on August 1, 1905, with one-half interest subsequently sold to the Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railway Company. With the backing of two major railroads, the Trinity and Brazos Valley was completed from Mexia to Houston and from Teague to Waxahachie in 1907. Trackage rights were secured from the Missouri, Kansas and Texas Railway Company of Texas between Waxahachie and Dallas, and from the Gulf, Colorado and Santa Fe between Cleburne and Fort Worth as well as between Houston and Galveston. Chronically unprofitable, the Trinity and Brazos Valley entered receivership in 1914, with John W. Robins named receiver. Robins was replaced by L. H. Atwell, Jr., who was succeeded by Gen. John A. Hulen in 1919. Hulen continued as receiver until the company was reorganized as the Burlington-Rock Island on July 7, 1930. Hulen also became the first president of the Burlington-Rock Island, which took its name from the two owning systems. During the receivership General Hulen had begun upgrading the property, and the program was continued by the new company. In addition, trackage rights between Waxahachie and Dallas and between Houston and Galveston, which had been canceled in 1914, were reestablished. Trackage rights into Fort Worth, however, were no longer deemed necessary. At that time the company operated 303 miles of track. In 1931 the Burlington-Rock Island owned twenty-six locomotives, 346 freight cars, and nineteen passenger cars, and earned $64,678 in passenger revenue, $1,381,667 in freight revenue, and $43,024 in other revenue.

On June 1, 1931, the track between Teague and Waxahachie was leased jointly to the Fort Worth and Denver City and the Chicago, Rock Island and Gulf for operation as the Joint Texas Division. Management of the entire Burlington-Rock Island was turned over to the parent companies for alternating five-year periods, with the Rock Island managing until December 31, 1935. The original line between Mexia and Cleburne was abandoned in three stages. In 1932 the thirty miles of track from Cleburne to Hillsboro was abandoned; in 1935 the thirty-five miles of track from Hillsboro to Hubbard was abandoned; and in 1942 the twenty-three miles of track from Hubbard to Mexia was abandoned. On October 1, 1936, the Burlington-Rock Island inaugurated the first streamlined passenger train in Texas, the Sam Houston Zephyr, between Houston and Dallas-Fort Worth. In 1937 the line added a second streamliner, the Texas Rocket. The Rocket was replaced in January 1945 by the Twin Star Rocket, which extended streamliner service from Houston to Minneapolis-St. Paul.

A major change occurred on June 1, 1950, when the Fort Worth and Denver and the Rock Island leased the rest of the railroad from Teague to Houston to be operated as the Joint Texas Division. In April 1964 the railroad was purchased at foreclosure by the parent companies, with each company obtaining an undivided half interest in the property. The physical property was merged into the Fort Worth and Denver and the Rock Island in 1965, and the Burlington-Rock Island dissolved. The Rock Island ceased operations on March 31, 1980, leaving the Fort Worth and Denver as the sole operator of the former Burlington-Rock Island. The Fort Worth and Denver was merged into the Burlington Northern Railroad on December 31, 1982. See also BURLINGTON SYSTEM.

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

George C. Werner, “Burlington-Rock Island Railroad,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed May 21, 2022, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/burlington-rock-island-railroad.

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September 22, 2016