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Georgetown Railroad: A Pioneer Of Texas Railroading

Published: July 7, 2024

By: Adam Burns

The Georgetown Railroad (GRR), an historic short line nestled in the heart of Texas, stands as a testament to over a century of service in the Lone Star State's rail industry.

Rooted deeply in the history and economy of Central Texas, the GRR exemplifies the resilience and adaptability of short line railroads in an era dominated by larger rail networks.

This article explores the GRR’s rich history, operational details, and its vital role in freight transportation today.

6890102936152341243517586908.jpgGeorgetown Railroad S12 #1005 in Georgetown, Texas, circa 1980. This unit was built as Katy #1213. Mike Bledsoe photo. American-Rails.com collection.

A Legacy of Service: Early Days and Incorporation

On May 31, 1878, the original Georgetown Railroad Company was chartered, undertaking the ambitious endeavor of constructing a railroad spanning approximately 10 miles between Georgetown and Round Rock.

The railroad was initially established to facilitate the transportation of agricultural products, particularly cotton, which was a major commodity in the region at the time.

The proximity of Georgetown to the fertile Blackland Prairie made it an ideal locale for a short line railroad dedicated to serving local farmers and businesses.

The company's founding board consisted of notable figures from Williamson County, including Emzy Taylor, Moses E. Steele, Thomas B. Hughes, J. H. Rucker, Duncan G. Smith, John J. Dimmitt, and David Love. The headquarters were strategically located in Georgetown.

The initial stock offering proved successful, raising around $50,000, and by the end of 1878, the Georgetown Railroad had triumphantly bridged the distance to Round Rock. However, despite this early achievement, the railroad soon encountered severe financial difficulties, leading to its foreclosure on August 5, 1879.

The International-Great Northern Railroad (I-GN) seized the opportunity to purchase the Georgetown line, subsequently integrating operations with their own by 1882. This branch continued under the I-GN, and later Missouri Pacific, until 1959.

On July 25, 1958 a new Georgetown Railroad Company as formed and acquired an eight-mile segment of the Georgetown branch from the Missouri Pacific Railroad, the successor to the I-GN, breathing new life into a storied stretch of track.

On June 3, 1991, the Georgetown Railroad expanded its operations by acquiring a segment of the Belton Railroad located east of Interstate 35 in Belton. This acquisition marked the beginning of the Belton Subdivision under the Georgetown Railroad's auspices.

Modern Freight Traffic

While the Georgetown Railroad began with a focus on agricultural products, its freight traffic has diversified significantly over the years. Today, the GRR handles a wide array of commodities, reflecting the dynamic economic landscape of Central Texas.

Its lines consist of the following:

1. Granger Branch - Spans 24.3 miles (39.1 km), linking an interchange with Union Pacific at Round Rock, passing through Georgetown, and connecting to another Union Pacific interchange in Granger, Texas.

This line had previously been owned by both the Missouri Pacific and the Missouri-Kansas-Texas.

2. Belton Branch - Covers a 5.9-mile (9.5 km) stretch from Belton to an interchange with Union Pacific in Smith, Texas. Like the Granger Branch, this line had been under the ownership of the Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad but had remained inactive for about a decade before the Georgetown Railroad's acquisition.

Aggregates and Building Materials

One of the primary commodities transported by the GRR today is aggregates, including crushed stone, gravel, and sand for the Texas Crushed Stone Company's expansive quarry west of Georgetown. 

These materials are essential for construction projects throughout the region, from residential developments to major infrastructure initiatives. The GRR's ability to efficiently move large quantities of aggregates has made it a vital component of the local construction supply chain.

Additionally, it facilitates the delivery of building materials to the Builders FirstSource lumber yard in Georgetown, underscoring its vital role in the regional supply chain.

Operational Efficiency and Technological Advancements

The Georgetown Railroad has continuously invested in operational efficiency and technological advancements to remain competitive and responsive to customer needs. These efforts have enabled the GRR to provide high-quality rail services while maintaining a strong focus on safety and reliability.

Locomotive Fleet and Maintenance

A well-maintained and modern locomotive fleet is crucial for the GRR’s operations. The railroad's locomotives are equipped with advanced technologies to enhance performance, fuel efficiency, and emissions compliance.

Over the years the railroad has operated a number of classic models, from Baldwin DS-4-4-1000s to SW9s.  It also maintains rebuilt EMD designs, such as ex-Milwaukee Road GP9s, and has even purchased new switchers (MP15AC/MP15DC).    However, not all of these remain on the roster today.

Customer Service and Digital Integration

Customer service is a cornerstone of the Georgetown Railroad’s business model. The GRR has embraced digital technologies to streamline customer interactions, improve service delivery, and provide real-time tracking and reporting capabilities.

These advancements empower customers with greater visibility and control over their supply chains, fostering stronger partnerships and ensuring satisfaction.

Community Engagement and Economic Impact

The Georgetown Railroad’s role extends beyond freight transportation; it is a key contributor to the local community and economy. By providing reliable rail services, the GRR supports local businesses, creates jobs, and stimulates economic growth in Williamson County and beyond.

Local Business Support

The GRR’s operations enable local businesses to access national and international markets efficiently. By facilitating the movement of goods, the GRR helps local companies expand their reach, compete effectively, and thrive in a globalized economy. This support is especially valuable for small and medium-sized enterprises that rely on the railroad for their logistical needs.

Diesel Roster

Road Number Model Type Date Built Builder Serial Number Notes
16-17 SW9 3/1952 EMD 11737-11338 Ex-Katy #16-17; built as Katy #1230-1231.
42 VO-1000 10/1943 Baldwin 69673 Ex-Louisiana & North West #43; built as St. Louis Southwestern #1005.
44 SW9 10/1962 EMD 27801 Built as Katy #44.
1000 VO-660 6/1941 Baldwin 62498 Formerly #100. Built as Missouri Pacific #9206.
1002-1003 VO1000 7/1942, 11/1942 Baldwin 64414, 64435 Built as U.S. War Department #7455 and St. Louis Southwestern #1002.
1004 VO1000 3/1945 Baldwin 71741 Built as St. Louis Southwestern #1009.
1005-1006 S12 6/1952, 12/1952 Baldwin 75191, 75512 Built as Katy #1213 and #1209.
1007 S12 6/1952 Baldwin 75193 Built as Katy #1215.
1008 S12 12/1952 Baldwin 75511 Built as Katy #1208.
1009 DS-4-4-1000 8/1946 Baldwin 72798 Built as Katy #1003.
1010 SW1500 8/1971 EMD 7381-1 Acquired new. Later numbered 9010. Built as demonstrator #114.
1011 MP15DC 12/1978 EMD 786144-1 Later numbered 9011.
1012 MP15DC 12/1978 EMD 786144-1 Later numbered 9012.
1013 MP15AC 10/1975 EMD 757129-1 Acquired new. Built as demonstrator #115.
4160-4163 GP38-2 6/1977 EMD 766065-1 thru 766065-4 Built as Illinois Temrinal #2001-2004.
9015 GP9 6/1954 EMD 19627 Built as CB&Q #288.
9050-9052 GP9m 1/1958 EMD 23531-23533 Upgraded to GP20 specs. Originally built as Milwaukee Road GP9s #2373-2375.
9054-9055 GP9m 1/1958 EMD 23531-23533 Upgraded to GP20 specs. Originally built as Milwaukee Road GP9s 2377-2378.
9056-9060 GP9m 1/1954-11/1954 EMD 20040, 20033, 20034, 19585, 18767 Upgraded to GP20 specs. Built as Milwaukee GP9s #2399, #2392, #2393, #2422, and #2403.
9401 GP40 9/1971 EMD 385013 Built as B&O #4021
9402-9403 GP40 5/1966, 12/1969 EMD 38501 Built as Seaboard Coast Line #1532 and #1571.
No Number VO-1000 12/1945 Baldwin 71557 Parts Source. Built as St. Louis Southwestern #1020.

Conclusion

The Georgetown Railroad is more than just a short line; it is a vital lifeline that has supported Central Texas's economic and social fabric since its inception. From its humble beginnings in 1878 to its modern operations today, the GRR has demonstrated resilience, innovation, and a steadfast commitment to excellence.

With a diverse freight portfolio, efficient operations, and a strong focus on community engagement and environmental stewardship, the Georgetown Railroad continues to play a crucial role in the region’s transportation network.

As it preserves its rich heritage and looks to the future, the GRR stands as a shining example of how a historic short line railroad can adapt and thrive in a rapidly changing world.

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