Last week in this space, we discussed Austin’s first two main rail lines, the Houston & Texas Central, which arrived from the east in 1871, and the International & Great Northern, whose tracks entered town from the north in 1876 and proceeded south.
“Besides the H&TC (later Southern Pacific) and the I&GN (later Missouri Pacific), Austin had a third railroad, the Missouri-Kansas-Texas, whose main north-south line passed east of Austin at Elgin,” says historical rail expert and former American-Statesman political cartoonist Ben Sargent. “Accordingly, the MKT built a branch from Granger through Georgetown and Pflugerville into Austin, so some of its passenger trains could run through Austin, then continue through San Marcos to San Antonio by trackage rights over the I&GN. This ‘Katy’ branch was built in 1904 and abandoned in 1974.”
A smaller rail line, the Austin & Northwestern Railroad, chartered in 1881, headed to Burnet on narrow-gauge track during the 1880s. It was extended to Granite Mountain near Marble Falls to haul granite blocks to Austin for the new Capitol. Acquired by H&TC and converted to standard gauge, it is now used by the Austin Steam Train Association for excursions based in Cedar Park and by CapMetro’s MetroRail for the commuter line to Leander.
Yet another line, the San Antonio and Aransas Pass, chartered in 1884, approached the Austin area from the southeast, but reached no closer than Lockhart.
And from the late 1800s to the 1940s, the Austin Street Railway Company operated several trolley lines, including one to the Austin Dam, another to Hyde Park, and one along East First (Cesar Chavez) Street.
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.