Following the tracks of Austin’s trains

These are what the Texas Railroad Commission formerly regulated.


You can’t understand New Austin without delving into Old Austin. One digital avenue for that quest is Austin Found, a series of historic images of Austin and Texas published at statesman.com/austinfound. We’ll share samples here regularly.

Inspired by Asher Price’s story and smart video on the Texas Railroad Commission, we offered charismatic Texas rail images on the Austin Found blog.

So where did Austin’s historical railroads go?

The first to arrive — on Christmas Day 1871 — was the Houston and Texas Central line from the east, which arrived on East Fifth Street. It was chartered in 1848 but had built only 81 miles of track by the beginning of the Civil War.

In 1873, it linked up at the Red River with the Missouri, Kansas & Texas Railroad (MKT), which meant Austin was quickly connected to the rest of the country. It was later absorbed into the Southern Pacific system. Today, this is the track you see on the north side of U.S. 290 between here and Giddings, now owned by CapMetro.

The International-Great Northern Railroad, which arrived in Austin on Dec. 28, 1876, was formed in 1873 by merging previously chartered companies. It acquired the Georgetown Railroad Company in 1879. Jay Gould snatched in up in 1880 and more lines were added. It also owned the Austin Dam and Suburban Railway Company.

It merged with the Missouri Pacific in 1956, and these days it’s the active north-south line that runs along MoPac (you can see where the freeway got its name).

A spur on the International-Great Northern, the Austin & Oatmanville, chartered by the Capitol Land Syndicate and built in 1884, hauled the limestone for the Capitol’s basement from Oatmanville (Oak Hill), where prisoners quarried the stone on what’s called Convict Hill. It was abandoned three years later. Some traces of the tracks are still visible.



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