The Texas Central Railway Company was chartered on May 30, 1879, to serve as a feeder line to the Houston and Texas Central Railway Company. Although originally chartered to run from Ross Station, near Waco, in McLennan County to the center of Eastland County, the Texas Central charter was subsequently amended to authorize the company to extend to the state line in Sherman County with the ultimate destination as the state of Colorado, and also to build a line from near Ennis to Paris. The original capital stock was $130,000 and the principal office was at Ross Station. Members of the first board of directors were Charles A. Whitney and A. C. Hutchinson, both of New Orleans; Richard I. Morgan, of New York City; Charles Fowler, of Galveston; and Gabriel Jordan, Alfred S. Richardson, and Eber W. Cave, all of Houston. The Texas Central directors were also officials of the Houston and Texas Central or Morgan's Louisiana Railroad and Steamship Company. Between 1879 and 1882 the Texas Central completed 177 miles between Ross and Albany. The northeastern branch, a disconnected line fifty-two miles in length between Garret and Roberts, was built between 1882 and 1884. On April 4, 1885, the Texas Central entered receivership and was sold at foreclosure on April 22, 1891, to a committee representing the bondholders of the railroad. A new company, the Texas Central Railroad Company, was chartered on December 16, 1892, and acquired the property on January 23, 1893. The northeastern branch was not a part of the reorganization as the bondholders' committee sold the property to Hetty R. Green under an agreement dated October 27, 1892, and the line was conveyed to the Texas Midland Railroad on January 27, 1893.
In the early 1890s the now independent Texas Central projected extensions westward to Las Vegas, New Mexico Territory, and eastward from Waco to New Orleans. However, the only construction undertaken by the company was a thirty-eight-mile line between Albany and Stamford, completed in 1900, with an additional forty-two-mile extension from Stamford to Rotan built during 1906–07. The company also completed its own line from Ross to Waco in 1905 and built a forty-mile branch from De Leon to Cross Plains in 1910 and 1911, giving the Texas Central a total of 309 miles of main track. The Texas Central was acquired by the Missouri, Kansas and Texas Railway Company (Katy) in 1910, but continued to be operated by its own organization until April 30, 1914. Effective May 1, 1914, the Texas Central was leased to the Missouri, Kansas and Texas Railway Company of Texas. For the next fifty-three years the Texas Central was operated under lease. In 1944 the branch between De Leon and Cross Plains was abandoned. By 1967 much of the remaining traffic originated at the far end of the line, and the Katy received authority to abandon the Texas Central east of Stamford. The last Katy train arrived in Waco on November 29, 1967. On November 30, 1967, a new Texas Central Railroad Company, organized under the 1892 charter, began to operate the twenty-five miles between Dublin and Gorman. The track between Stamford and Rotan was sold to the Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad Company, and the balance of the line was dismantled. In 1970 the Texas Central reacquired the forty-two miles between Stamford and Rotan, but sold this section to the Fort Worth and Denver Railway Company in 1973. This line has subsequently been abandoned. Since 1994 operations of the Texas Central have been conducted by Cen-Tex Rail Link. During its early years the Texas Central was commonly called the "Tin Can," although the company in its pre-Katy days formally adopted nicknames and slogans such as the "Lone Star Line" or the "Great Daylight Route." In recent years the railroad has been known as the "Peanut Line."