Kansas City, Mexico and Orient Railway

By: George C. Werner

Type: General Entry

Published: 1976

Updated: October 1, 1995

The Kansas City, Mexico and Orient Railway Company of Texas (Orient of Texas) was one of three connecting railroads promoted by Arthur E. Stilwell to run from Kansas City, Missouri, to Topolobampo, Mexico, a distance of 1,600 miles. Topolobampo was, according to Stilwell, 400 miles closer to Kansas City than any other Pacific port. The Orient of Texas was a subsidiary of the Kansas City, Mexico and Orient Railway Company, which was chartered on May 1, 1900, to build across Kansas and Oklahoma. Stilwell also received a concession and subsidy in April 1900 from President Porfirio Díaz of Mexico for the Ferrocarril Kansas City, Mexico y Oriente. The Orient in Texas was originally chartered as the Colorado Valley Railway Company on May 14, 1897. This company planned a line from Colorado City to San Angelo, but soon changed its route to run from Sweetwater to San Angelo. The Colorado Valley built a few miles before being acquired by the Panhandle and Gulf Railway Company, which was chartered on July 15, 1899. Stilwell acquired the Panhandle and Gulf and was named president of the company by May 1900. In a series of charter amendments filed during 1900, the Colorado Valley was authorized to build from San Angelo to the Rio Grande in Presidio or Brewster counties and from Sweetwater to the Red River on the north line of Hardeman County, a distance of 550 miles. Branch lines to Laredo and Brownsville were also projected. On September 16, 1905, the name of the company was changed to the Kansas City, Mexico and Orient Railway Company of Texas. Members of the first board of directors of the Orient of Texas were Stilwell, W. W. Sylvester, J. R. Daugherty, W. T. Trammell, Thomas Trammell, H. C. Hoard, R. A. Ragland, J. W. Gibson, and R. L. McCaulley.

Construction began at Sweetwater in 1904 and in 1909 reached the Red River, where the line connected with the parent company and its line to Wichita, Kansas. The line between Sweetwater and San Angelo was completed in September 1909 and extended to Girvin in February 1912. This gave the company 370 miles of track in Texas and the system a total of 630 miles in the United States in addition to several unconnected segments in Mexico. However, the incomplete railroad could not generate enough local traffic, and the Orient of Texas entered receivership on March 9, 1912. The receivers completed an additional ninety-five miles from Girvin to Alpine and a connection with the Galveston, Harrisburg and San Antonio Railway in 1913. Although the receivership was terminated on July 8, 1914, and the property returned to its owners, the Orient of Texas continued to be an unprofitable railroad. By 1919, during the period the railroads were operated by the federal government, the operating ratio of the Texas line stood at 176 percent. This meant that operating expenses were $1.76 for every $1.00 in operating revenues. The parent Kansas City, Mexico and Orient entered receivership for the second time on April 16, 1917. Following the end of World War I, the receivers were able to obtain governmental loans to keep the system operating, but by 1922 were threatening to abandon the entire railroad. On May 28, 1923, Santa Rita No. 1 blew in at Big Lake. Subsequent oil discoveries in Regan, Crane, and Upton counties brought a flood of traffic to the Orient of Texas. In 1923 the line experienced its first significant income of $117,500, as compared to a deficit of $143,000 the prior year. With the increase in earnings, the property was improved, making it attractive to another railroad. On October 19, 1928, the company was bought by the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway Company (Santa Fe).

The Santa Fe quickly sold the Mexican segments, while the Orient of Texas was leased to the Panhandle and Santa Fe Railway Company for operation. In 1930 the Santa Fe completed the Orient of Texas to the Mexican border at Presidio through trackage rights over the Texas and New Orleans Railroad from Alpine to Paisano and the construction of seventy-two miles from that point to Presidio. In the same year sixty-five miles were completed between San Angelo and Sonora. The 603 miles of the Orient of Texas was merged into the Santa Fe on August 1, 1965. The Santa Fe has subsequently disposed of all of the former Orient trackage in Texas, beginning with the abandonment of the Sonora line in 1976. On June 1, 1991, the trackage between Maryneal and the Red River was sold to the Texas and Oklahoma Railroad Company, while the South Orient Railroad Company, Ltd., acquired the mileage between San Angelo and Presidio on January 2, 1992.

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

George C. Werner, “Kansas City, Mexico and Orient Railway,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed August 13, 2022, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/kansas-city-mexico-and-orient-railway.

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

October 1, 1995