International-Great Northern Railroad

By: George C. Werner

Type: General Entry

Published: 1976

Updated: April 4, 2017

The International-Great Northern Railroad Company was a major component of the Missouri Pacific lines in Texas. The railroad was formed on September 30, 1873, by the consolidation of the International Railroad Company and the Houston and Great Northern Railroad. The Houston and Great Northern was chartered on October 22, 1866, by the first legislature to meet after the Civil War, and was backed by eastern and local capital. At the time of the merger, the Houston and Great Northern owned 252 miles of track between Houston and Palestine, between Houston and East Columbia with branches from Phelps to Huntsville, and between Troup and Mineola. The mileage of the Houston and Great Northern included the former Houston Tap and Brazoria Railroad and the Huntsville Branch Railway, which had been merged on May 8, 1873. The International was chartered on August 5, 1870, and at the time of the consolidation operated 177 miles from Hearne to Longview. Despite the financial panic of 1873, the consolidated company continued to slowly expand, reaching Rockdale in 1874 and Austin on December 28, 1876. Building resumed in 1880, and the following year the railroad reached San Antonio and Laredo on December 1, 1881. On August 5, 1879, the International and Great Northern acquired the Georgetown Railroad Company at foreclosure and merged the latter company on June 2, 1882. The Henderson and Overton Branch Railroad Company was acquired on September 27, 1880. Although operated as a part of the International and Great Northern, the Henderson and Overton Branch was not consolidated until August 31, 1911. The various predecessor companies of the International and Great Northern earned 6,432,000 acres of state land. This land was sold for a net of $4,668,850 or about seventy-two cents an acre. The charter of the International called for the State of Texas to grant $10,000 in bonds to the company for each mile completed. However, when the company applied for the bonds Comptroller Albert A. Bledsoe refused to sign and register the bonds. A compromise was worked out whereby the railroad was granted twenty sections of land per mile constructed rather than the normal sixteen sections. In addition, the railroad was exempted from state taxation for twenty-five years. The International and Great Northern entered receivership on April 1, 1878, was sold at foreclosure, and conveyed to a new company organized under the original charter on November 1, 1879. The second receivership lasted from February 21, 1889, to July 11, 1892, but the company was reorganized financially without sale or change of name. At the time of the reorganization, the railroad owned eighty-eight locomotives, sixty-one passenger cars, 1,919 freight cars, and eighty company service cars. Earnings that year included $1,076,695 in passenger revenue and $2,530,451 in freight revenue.

Jay Gould acquired control of the International and Great Northern in December 1880. The company was leased to the Missouri, Kansas and Texas Railway Company, another Gould company, for ninety-nine years on June 1, 1881, but the lease was canceled on March 2, 1888, and the railroad was again operated by its own organization. The company owned 756 miles of track at the end of 1882 and did not increase mileage until after 1900. On May 1, 1901, the International and Great Northern merged the Calvert, Waco and Brazos Valley Railroad Company. The latter company had built sixty-six miles of a line between Spring, just north of Houston, and Fort Worth. The Fort Worth line was completed in 1902 by the International and Great Northern. The following year a forty-five-mile branch was built between Navasota and Madisonville. In that year the railroad also acquired the Houston, Oaklawn and Magnolia Park Railway Company. The company again entered receivership on February 27, 1908. A new company, the International and Great Northern Railway Company, was chartered on August 10, 1911, and bought the old company at foreclosure on August 31, 1911. At this time the Henderson and Overton Branch was also consolidated, giving the International and Great Northern its peak of 1,106 miles. In addition, the International and Great Northern owned the Austin Dam and Suburban Railway Company and a 50 percent interest in the Galveston, Houston and Henderson Railroad Company. Less than three years later the reorganized company was forced into receivership, which lasted until the railroad was sold at foreclosure on July 28, 1922. A new company, the International-Great Northern Railroad Company, was chartered on August 17, 1922.

The Missouri Pacific Railroad Company, the Texas and Pacific Railway Company, and the International and Great Northern had worked together as a system through Gould holdings in each company rather than by any direct control by the Missouri Pacific. By the early 1920s, however, the Gould interests no longer controlled the railroads, and in 1922 the St. Louis-San Francisco Railway Company attempted to acquire the International-Great Northern. Although the Interstate Commerce Commission refused to authorize the purchase, the threat of losing a major Texas connection led to the Missouri Pacific's acquisition of the International-Great Northern. It did this through the New Orleans, Texas and Mexico Railway Company, which bought the International-Great Northern on June 20, 1924. When the New Orleans, Texas and Mexico was itself acquired by the Missouri Pacific on January 1, 1925, the International-Great Northern became part of the Missouri Pacific Lines, although the company continued to be operated separately. Major components of the Missouri Pacific Lines, including the International-Great Northern, entered receivership on March 31, 1933. This receivership was to last for twenty-three years, primarily due to the inability of the various financial interests involved to agree on a reorganization plan. A plan was finally adopted, and on March 1, 1956, the International-Great Northern was merged into the reorganized Missouri Pacific Railroad Company. During the receivership the International-Great Northern abandoned two branch lines including the five miles between Calvert and Calvert Junction in 1934 and the forty-five miles between Navasota and Madisonville in 1944. At the time of its merger into the Missouri Pacific, the International-Great Northern owned eighty-eight diesel units, 4,959 freight cars, sixty-nine passenger cars, and 149 company service cars. The company had 1,053 miles of main track at the end of 1955 and during that year had freight revenues of $29,745,000, passenger revenue of $1,681,300, and total revenue of $34,359,900. In 1965 the Missouri Pacific abandoned twenty-seven miles between Bryan and Navasota in favor of trackage rights between these two points over the Southern Pacific Company. Two years later the line from a point near Fort Worth through Waco and Mart to Marlin was abandoned. Trackage rights were obtained over the Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad Company between Fort Worth and Waco, and a former Southern Pacific branch between Waco and Marlin was purchased and upgraded. The only other significant change has been the abandonment of thirty-one miles of the East Columbia branch, which now terminates at Arcola.

Time Periods:

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

George C. Werner, “International-Great Northern Railroad,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed August 19, 2022,

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April 4, 2017