HOUSTON'S PASSENGER TRAINS

OF THE PAST

Intercity passenger trains serving Houston in 1942, 1956, and 1971 immediately prior to the creation of Amtrak.


MAPPING THE STATIONS AND RAILROADS

Links to locations of past and present stations and railroads, using Google Maps. Satellite views are also available.

Grand Central Station

The most significant railroad serving Houston was Southern Pacific, which used Grand Central Station. With a main line east to New Orleans, and a main line west to San Antonio, El Paso and Los Angeles. The main railroads serving Houston which evolved to SP were the Texas & New Orleans Railroad, the Houston & Texas Central Railway which extended northwest to Dallas, and the Galveston Harrisburg & San Antonio Railroad. That railroad was built with expectations, that Galveston and Harrisburg would emerge as more important cities than Houston. And its main line thus bypassed Houston to the south. These railroads eventually all became part of T&NO, and later SP. A connecting line was eventually built directly south from Eureka, on the H&TC line, to West Jct., on the GH&SA line. This would be used by trains from Houston to San Antonio. While the line east of West Jct., known as the Harrisburg Line, would primarily be a freight bypass. Although a portion of the Harrisburg Line would be used by Santa Fe trains serving Houston, as described below. The Clinton Branch extended east from the main line to Tower 214, where it connected with the Galveston Subdivision. Besides the main line, trains operated to Galveston via the Galveston Subdivision, to Shreveport via the Lufkin Subdivision, to Dallas and Austin via the Hearne Subdivision, to Corpus Christi and San Antonio via the Victoria Subdivision, and to Kenedy via the Bellaire Subdivision. In 1960, Grand Central Station was replaced with a modest new station a short distance west, this is now the Amtrak station. Amtrak continues to use the main line between New Orleans and Los Angeles. And after Union Station closed in 1974, Amtrak service to Chicago used an all SP routing in Houston and the present station until 1981. In addition, between 1988 and 1995, Amtrak operated to Dallas via the Hearne Subdivision.

Significant Locations and Distances from Station

Tower 26 (1 mile E) - junction of SP main line and Lufkin Subdivision.
Tower 108 (E of Station) - junction of SP main line and Clinton Branch.
Tower 13/Eureka (5 miles W) - junction of SP main line and Hearne Subdivision.
Tower 104/Bellaire Jct. (9 miles SW) - junction of SP main line and Bellaire Subdivision.
West Jct. (14 miles SW) - junction of SP main line and Harrisburg Line.
Tower 17/Rosenberg (37 miles W) - junction of SP main line and Victoria Subdivision.

Union Station

Four railroads used Houston Union Station. Houston Belt & Terminal operated Union Station, with trackage extending north to Tower 80 and south to Tower 81. Tower 80 was the beginning of the Burlington Rock Island line north to Dallas, jointly owned by those two railroads. Tower 80 was also the beginning of the Missouri Pacific Trinity Subdivision, north to Longview, Texarkana and St. Louis, and the Missouri Pacific Houston Subdivision, east to New Orleans. Tower 81 was the beginning of Santa Fe's Houston District, which at Alvin connected with the original Santa Fe main line to Galveston which had bypassed Houston. When originally built, the expectation was that Galveston would emerge as a more important city. Tower 81 also was the crossing with Southern Pacific's Harrisburg Line, connecting at West Jct. with the SP main line west to San Antonio and El Paso, described above. Santa Fe had trackage rights via SP west to Tower 17, where that line crossed and connected with the Santa Fe main line from Galveston. Thus Santa Fe trains operating between Galveston and Fort Worth, and beyond to Chicago, would not use original main line between Alvin and Tower 17. Those trains would retrace their steps between Houston and Tower 81. Until 1974 when Union Station was closed, this route was used by an Amtrak train between Houston and Chicago. In 1974, this train began using an all SP routing within Houston. Missouri Pacific also had trackage rights over the HB&T and Santa Fe route from Houston to Alvin and beyond to Algoa, beginning of the MP line to Brownsville. Finally, MP trains to Galveston operated via the Galveston Houston & Henderson Railroad, which was jointly owned with Missouri Kansas Texas.

Significant Locations and Distances from Station

Tower 80/Belt Jct. (5 miles N) - north end HB&T trackage, connect with MP, BRI.
Tower 116 (1/2 mile E) - east end Union Station.
Tower 84/Walker Ave. (1 mile SE) - junction of HB&T, GH&H.
Tower 81/T&NO Jct. (5 miles S) - south end HB&T trackage, connect with AT&SF, SP.
Alvin (24 miles S) - junction of AT&SF Houston District with main line to Galveston.
Algoa (28 miles S) - junction of AT&SF, MP with trackage rights.
West Jct. (13 miles SW) - junction of SP main line and Harrisburg Line.
Tower 17/Rosenberg (36 miles W) - junction of SP, AT&SF with trackage rights.

Main Street Station

Missouri Kansas Texas was the only railroad using Houston's Main Street Station. MKT operated between St. Louis and Galveston. Immediately southeast of the station was Tower 108. And from there to Galveston, MKT trains operated via the Galveston Houston & Henderson Railroad, which was jointly owned with Missouri Pacific.

Throughout Texas, interlocking towers were assigned numbers, in the order in which they were registered with the Railroad Commission of Texas. Further information is at the Texas Railroad Interlocking Tower Web Site.