Texas City Terminal

The Texas City Terminal Railroad is an industrial switching railroad located in coastal Texas.

Texas City was located for convenient access by ships coming from the Gulf of Mexico.  Texas City Terminal Railroad’s purpose was to connect the port of Texas City with several nearby railroads.  In earlier years, before the automobile became ascendant, this railroad offered both passenger and freight service. It remains a freight terminal railroad to this day, owned jointly by Burlington Northern Santa Fe and by Union Pacific.

This historical description of the railroad from the Texas City Library:

Minnesota investors and brothers Jacob R. and Henry H. Myers and Augustus B. Wolvin formed the Texas City improvement company in 1893 and developed a port facility and townsite here. By 1897 the company had built a rail spur line linking its port facilities with national railroad systems 4.5 miles inland. Wolvin acquired the company in 1898 and created the separate Texas City Company for the townsite and the Texas City Terminal company (TCT) for the railway and docks. He persuaded the U. S. Congress to fund dredging of the channel for ocean-going vessels by 1904 and to designate Texas City as a U. S. port of customs in 1905. TCT official Hugh B. Moore persuaded the Pierce-Fordyce oil refinery company to move to the port industrial area in 1908. He continued to attract oil companies, and by the 1920s oil and petroleum refined products made up over 80 percent of the tonnage handled at the port. The Texas City Terminal railway company provided Texas City its early water, electric, and sewage utility systems and established the community's first telephone, newspaper, and banking operations. Despite a catastrophic 1947 dock explosion, national recession, and hurricane damage in 1983, TCT continued to expand and upgrade its port and rail facilities.

The three nearby railroads that connected to the Texas City Terminal Railroad were the Southern Pacific (now Union Pacific), the Galveston, Houston & Henderson (now Union Pacific) and the Santa Fe (now Burlington Northern Santa Fe). These railroad lines connected the City of Houston to the port City of Galveston.  The three railroads funneled together at Virginia Point and crossed a causeway into Galveston. The TCT connected the docks and refineries of Texas City to the larger railroads. 

In addition to these freight and passenger hauling railroads, the area was also served by the Galveston - Houston Electric, an interurban railroad. Designed and operated by the engineering firm of Stone & Webster, the GHE provided high speed electric powered cars between Houston and Galveston from 1911 - 1936.

As roads got better, the automobile would grow as the primary source of transportation in America, and the Galveston Houston Electric would go away in 1936.

Over the years, Texas City has endured a number of setbacks. Because the town is largely at sea level, hurricanes have been a periodic problem. Please see my blog on this subject, here.  Likewise, there have been a series of industrial accidents, most notably the Texas City Disaster on April 16, 1947.  Yet, in spite of these adversities, Texas City and the Terminal Railroad remain active to this day.

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