The Texas Railroad, By Wayne Cline

The Texas Railroad, by Wayne Cline, is the first book which thoroughly covers the history of the International & Great Northern Railroad, an important appendage of the burgeoning Missouri Pacific system.  It ran the eastern spine of the Lone Star State from Longview to Laredo with branches extending to Fort Worth and Galveston.  Its original promoters had high hopes of building from the Gulf Coast to northern plains but much larger interests with deeper pockets curtailed that dream.  The author thoroughly details how corruption and politics helped create the final system map.  The I&GN eventually found itself under Jay Gould's control, one of the most ruthless and shady of all tycoons.  Under his direction the I&GN was used as a traffic feeder for his much larger Missouri Pacific.  He became vehemently disliked by both employees and the general public for his dishonesty and poor quality of service.  At the turn of the 20th century the Gould family lost control of the I&GN following the financial Panic of 1907.  Today, it remains an important component of successor Union Pacific.

At its largest, the International & Great Northern stretched some 1,160 miles although never managed to break the shackles of its home state.  But, had its original promoters been successful in their initial goal it would have reached far beyond Texas.  In the book's opening chapter Mr. Cline details how the city of Galveston and surrounding region formulated a plan to extend a new railroad from Galveston, reach the Red River, pass through Indian Territory (the future state of Oklahoma), stretch through the Midwest, reach Minnesota, and finally terminate at the Canadian border.  It would carry an usual, north-south routing similar only to the Illinois Central (and later, Gulf, Mobile & Ohio) which linked New Orleans with Chicago.  The new company was named the Houston & Great Northern and granted a charter by the state of Texas on October 22, 1866.  The ambitious plan got off to a good start, carrying a strong leader in Dr. Charles Young.

Alas, like many such grand ambitions financing proved difficult and the charter lay idle for years.  The H&GN finally secured funding at decade's end by partnering with New York capitalists.  Unfortunately, doing so eventually led to the entire plan's downfall.  After the first 25 miles were finished, Dr. Young took an inspection trip over the line on August 9, 1871 but was sadly killed when his train derailed. The cause of the accident was later proven to be sabotage.  Without Young's strong presence in keeping the New York investors at bay the Texans soon lost control of their railroad.  The New Yorkers immediately kill the northward extension.  One must remember that during this time there was little federal oversight or control; financiers and capitalists simply did want they want and the public be damned.  Such shenanigans eventually came to an end, however, when the government greatly expanded the Interstate Commerce Commission's powers during the early 20th century.

Mr. Cline details the corruption which took place throughout the I&GN's corporate history, both before and during Gould's reign.  With New Yorkers now in control the H&GN's future took a dramatic turn; it would instead merge with the International Railroad to establish a conglomerate serving East Texas.  The International was intended to reach the Mexican border at Laredo and open as far north as Longview, via Palenstine.  By January of 1873 much of the northern section was in place.  To complete a connection with its new partner the H&GN progressed northward itself, reaching Palestine on December 7, 1872.  A year later it extended to Tyler and Mineola.  The formal consolidation between the two took place on January 1, 1874, creating the International and Great Northern Railroad (whose slogan became "The Texas Railroad").  Interestingly, the I&GN ultimately did reach the Midwest albeit not as a unified network.  Instead, it worked in conjunction with the Texas & Pacific and St. Louis, Iron Mountain & Southern to market a through service from Texas to the gateway city of St. Louis.  The next move involved reaching the state capital at Austin, doing so in 1876.

Before the line could be completed to Laredo, Jay Gould weaseled his way into ownership of the I&GN in 1881, along with the T&P and StLIM&S.  It was all part of much larger plan to use these systems as feeders for his crown jewel, the Missouri Pacific.  Gould was not a great railroader although he knew how to manipulate the stock market and defraud folks for his benefit.  This enabled the man to amass a great wealth and ownership of several railroads in the days before the ICC, strong unions, legislation aimed at safer practices, and antitrust laws abolished such gross plundering.  As the author poignantly articulates, Gould was constantly criticized for his railroad's poorly built infrastructure and inadequate equipment.  In his eyes, profits always trumped good business practice and with little accountability he saw no reason to change.  Gould was also regularly at odds with his own workers who became upset at maintaining very long hours for little pay.  In some cases, they were never even paid overtime.

Perhaps the only good thing to come from his ownership was an extension to Laredo, completed in December of 1881.  For Gould, who at the time controlled most railroads in, and around, Texas, Laredo was merely a connection point for a much larger system envisioned to serve Mexico.  This grand scheme would fail, however, and Gould spent the rest of his days in Texas fighting battles of his own making.  Elsewhere, things were different, as he worked to string together a true, coast-to-coast transcontinental railroad by owning such roads as the Wabash and Denver & Rio Grande.  Before he could do so the tycoon passed on December 2, 1892 leaving this difficult prospect up to his oldest son, George Jay.  To his credit, George worked tirelessly at achieving this goal while never carrying his father's ruthless attributes.  He proved a much more competent businessman with compassion for those who used his railroads.  He oversaw the I&GN's final notable extension when a new corridor was built from the Galveston main line at Spring to Fort Worth, running via Valley Junction. It opened in 1902.  A year later a short branch off of this new segment was completed between Navasota and Madisonville.

Perhaps the younger Gould's only notable failing was over extending his financial resources.  By the early 20th century he controlled railroads along both coasts, from the Western Pacific in California to the Western Maryland serving its home state.  He was pushing hard to link all of these properties under one banner and was nearly successful in doing so.  The only thing needed to create his family's long-sought transcontinental railroad was opening a link to Pittsburgh and Connellsville, Pennsylvania.  Alas, the financial Panic of 1907 struck during this time and he could not cover the many outstanding loans.  As a result, he lost control of all his rail assets and the dream collapsed.  The I&GN would ultimately remain with the Missouri Pacific, which purchased direct control in 1911.  It became an important component of the MoPac system, particularly after much-needed infrastructure improvements were carried out following Gould ownership.  In 1982 MoPac became a division of Union Pacific and today, its former I&GN lines continue to play an important role as part of America's largest railroad.