Missouri Pacific System

By: George C. Werner

Type: General Entry

Published: 1976

Updated: November 1, 1995

The Missouri Pacific Railroad Company is a major carrier serving the Midwest and Southwest with routes from Chicago, St. Louis, Kansas City, Omaha, and Memphis to the Mexican border and the Gulf of Mexico. It had its origins when the Pacific Railroad (of Missouri) was chartered on March 12, 1849, to build from St. Louis to the western boundary of Missouri. Construction began in 1851 and the initial five miles between St. Louis and Cheltenham opened on December 9, 1852, making it the first railroad to operate west of the Mississippi River. Sedalia, 188 miles west of St. Louis, was reached in early 1861, and the line opened through to Kansas City in 1865. Additional construction followed. In 1876 the company was reorganized as the Missouri Pacific Railway Company, and was bought by Jay Gould in 1879. The St. Louis, Iron Mountain and Southern Railway Company running from St. Louis to Texarkana was acquired in 1881. These two companies formed the nucleus of the Missouri Pacific outside of Texas. About 1880 Gould began the development of a southwestern system built around the Missouri Pacific. It was at that time that the company first reached Texas. The Missouri, Kansas and Texas Railway (Katy) and its line from Kansas to Texas was leased on December 1, 1880. Gould also acquired control of the Texas and Pacific Railway Company and the International and Great Northern Railroad Company, as well as other railroads in the state. The International and Great Northern was sold to and subsequently leased to the Katy. During this period the International and Great Northern was extended from Austin to Laredo, while the Texas and Pacific built from Fort Worth to Sierra Blanca and reached El Paso via trackage rights. The Katy was also extended deeper into Texas with lines to Dallas, Fort Worth, and Taylor. However, the first Missouri Pacific system in Texas did not last long. The companies were owned or controlled by Gould and his associates rather than directly by the railroad. The first to go was the Texas and Pacific, which entered receivership in 1885. At that time its management was separated from that of the Missouri Pacific. The Katy entered receivership in 1888. Also, in that year, Texas Attorney General James S. Hogg filed suit against the Katy, alleging that its lines were unsafe and that their control by an outside company was in violation of the state constitution. As a result, the Katy and the Missouri Pacific separated and were to remain apart for 100 years. Gould, however, was able to regain the International and Great Northern stock, which he had previously sold to the Missouri, Kansas and Texas.

The Missouri Pacific, Texas and Pacific, and the International and Great Northern continued to work together as a system through Gould holdings in each company rather than by direct control exercised by the Missouri Pacific. With the 1917 reorganization of the railroad as the Missouri Pacific Railroad Company, Gould interests no longer controlled the system. The following year the company began to formalize its relationship with the Texas and Pacific by buying stock in the Texas line. By 1930 the Missouri Pacific owned all of the preferred stock and enough common stock to give it nearly 75 percent ownership of the Texas and Pacific. The other component of the old system was reorganized as the International-Great Northern Railroad Company in 1922. While an attempt by the St. Louis-San Francisco Railway Company to gain control of this company was denied by the Interstate Commerce Commission in 1923, the Missouri Pacific realized the need to also acquire the International-Great Northern. To accomplish this objective while at the same time acquiring additional mileage in Texas, the Missouri Pacific used a railroad that was not traditionally a part of its system. On January 1, 1925, it acquired the New Orleans, Texas and Mexico Railway Company, which controlled several railroads running between Brownsville and New Orleans known collectively as the Gulf Coast Lines. In Texas the carriers were the Beaumont, Sour Lake and Western Railway Company, the St. Louis, Brownsville and Mexico Railway Company, the San Benito and Rio Grande Valley Railway Company, and the Orange and Northwestern Railroad Company. In addition, the company also owned the Houston and Brazos Valley Railway Company. As a part of the package, the New Orleans, Texas and Mexico had, on June 20, 1924, purchased the International-Great Northern and its subsidiary, the Austin Dam and Suburban Railway Company. However, the Missouri Pacific was not finished. On December 1, 1925, the New Orleans, Texas and Mexico acquired the San Antonio, Uvalde and Gulf Railroad Company and the Asphalt Belt Railway Company. A month later, on January 2, 1926, it bought the Sugar Land, Asherton and Gulf and Rio Grande City Railway companies. It closed out the year by buying the San Antonio Southern Railway Company on December 31. Finally, on May 1, 1927, the Beaumont, Sour Lake and Western acquired the Houston North Shore Railway Company. With these acquisitions came a 50 percent interest in the Galveston, Houston and Henderson Railroad Company, the Houston Belt and Terminal Railway Company, and the Brownsville and Matamoros Bridge Company, as well as a one-third interest in the Texas City Terminal Railway Company.

In three years the Missouri Pacific had built a 2,500-mile system covering that part of Texas south of a line from Longview through Austin and San Antonio to Laredo, as well as a route from Valley Junction north through Waco to Fort Worth. It served all of the Gulf ports in Texas as well as providing two interchange points with railroads in Mexico. The fourteen companies operated under common management as the Missouri Pacific Lines, but each kept its corporate identity. In 1930 the Missouri Pacific received Interstate Commerce Commission authority to lease the New Orleans, Texas and Mexico and its subsidiaries. However, the conditions imposed by the commission were deemed to be too burdensome, and the lease was not implemented. As the effects of the Great Depression deepened, the Missouri Pacific and many of its subsidiaries entered voluntary bankruptcy proceedings in 1933 and were to remain in receivership until March 1, 1956. On that date the receivership was terminated, and the New Orleans, Texas and Mexico and its subsidiaries were merged into the Missouri Pacific. On the eve of the consolidation in 1955, the lines in Texas owned 188 diesel units, 9,145 freight cars, 114 passenger cars, and 365 company service cars and operated 2,365 miles of track. Over the next several years mileage declined rapidly, as branch lines were abandoned or spun off and routes were abandoned in favor of trackage rights over paralleling railroads. The low point of 1,786 miles in 1974 represented a decline of 32 percent from the peak mileage reached in 1930. On October 15, 1976, the company merged its independently operated subsidiary Texas and Pacific. Former Texas and Pacific subsidiaries Abilene and Southern, Texas-New Mexico, and Fort Worth Belt Railway companies were merged on November 1, 1978, while the Weatherford, Mineral Wells and Northwestern Railway Company was merged on January 1, 1988. The Missouri Pacific itself was acquired by the Union Pacific Corporation on December 22, 1982, and its operations were consolidated with those of the Union Pacific Railroad Company. The unified system operated as the Union Pacific. On December 1, 1989, both the Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad Company and the Galveston, Houston and Henderson were merged into the Missouri Pacific. At the end of 1993 the Missouri Pacific operations covered 3,569 miles of main track in Texas, of which 3,024 was owned mileage.

Maury Klein, The Life and Legend of Jay Gould (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1986).

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

George C. Werner, “Missouri Pacific System,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed December 08, 2021, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/missouri-pacific-system.

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

November 1, 1995