Very Early Railroad Map of Texas—“The Old Reliable Line”

“This is probably the first railroad map of Texas” (Rumsey)

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296. [MAP]. [Recto] GALVESTON, HOUSTON, & HENDERSON RAIL ROAD. Texas of the United States of America, Shewing The Galveston, Houston, & Henderson Rail Road. [below neat line at lower left] King, Lith. 63 Queen St. New Cannon St. London, [1857]. Lithograph map with original pastel blue wash on most of Texas, borderlines with Louisiana, Arkansas, and Mexico in pastel pink wash. Neat line to neat line: 39 x 51 cm; overall sheet size: 40 x 53.5 cm. Shows railroads open and under construction (finished tracks are full lines, planned tracks are indicated by dotted lines); [verso] United States of America. Railroads already open_______. Lithograph map of U.S., original pink coloring of Texas, showing connections of Texas railroads to the U.S. lines, just south of Utah and to the East Coast, including parts of Mexico (including Durango). Neat line to neat line: 27 x 37 cm. Overall sheet size as above. Professionally washed, stabilized, and backed with archival tissue (the latter obscuring the U.S. map on verso; facsimile of U.S. map supplied). Old cellophane tape removed, leaving significant stains. Small losses at folds (some touching Texas map image), larger losses at right center and lower right (affecting neat line but not map). Lower margin lightly chipped (costing a few letters of imprint). Rare in any condition. Accompanying the map is research material including two facsimiles of the map, folder of various notes, and a facsimile of Colton’s 1856 map of Texas. Exceedingly rare and important.

     First edition. Rumsey 5179:

This is probably the first railroad map of Texas. The first railroad map of Texas listed in Modelski is his entry 551, Map of Texas showing the Sabine and Galveston Bay Railroad, 1859. The earliest in Day is the 1861 Map of the Buffalo Bayou (Day 135). Although undated, this map is clearly derived from the 1857 Colton atlas map of Texas; and the Galveston, Houston, & Henderson Railroad was raising money in London (where this map was published, probably to accompany a bond prospectus) and Paris in 1857 to finance expansion. Further, the county formation shown on the map is consistent with an 1857 date, and the map of the United States on the verso is taken from The Modern Atlas by E.G. Collins, London, 1855. The railroad development shown on the Texas map would indicate 1857: the Galveston, Houston & Henderson is completed from Galveston to Houston, with a proposed extension to Fredonia, in Rusk County; the Buffalo Bayou, Brazos, Colorado and Richmond line is completed from Harrisburg to the Brazos River; the Houston and Texas Central is complete from Houston north to Washington; and the Houston Tap railroad is shown (with no name) from Houston over to the Buffalo Bayou line. No copies of this map were located in Texas institutions (or any other holdings in the U.S.). The Rosenberg Library has a map titled Texas Etas Units D’Amérique Tracé du Chemin de Fer de Galveston à Houston et Henderson, lithographed in Paris, which probably accompanied the French bond prospectus—and is clearly derived from this London edition. The Galveston, Houston & Henderson was one of the first railroads incorporated in Texas.

     The railroad operated under its charter longer than any other, for 136 years. See also William Rapp’s article on the Galveston, Houston, & Henderson line in The Railroad History Monograph (Vol. IV, Nos. 2, 3 & 4, without mentioning this map).

     George C. Werner, “Galveston, Houston and Henderson Railroad,” Handbook of Texas Online (

The Galveston, Houston and Henderson Railroad Company was chartered on February 7, 1853, to build from Galveston through Houston to Henderson.      The early incorporators included W.C. Lacy, T.P. Anderson, R.A. Harris, and William M. Tuck. The company was an important carrier as it was, for a number of years, Galveston’s only rail connection with the Texas railroad system centering at Houston. Although supported in Galveston and Houston, much of the early financing was provided by investors in Holland and France. Construction of the “Old Reliable Short Line,” as the road was later called, began at Virginia Point on the mainland opposite Galveston Island in 1854. However, the first rail was not laid until 1857 and in 1859 the company finally reached Houston, where it terminated at the corner of Main and McKinney. Only two curves, one on either side of Harrisburg, were required between Virginia Point and Houston. A trestle across Galveston Bay, built from the proceeds of a Galveston County bond issue, was finished in 1860, thus completing the rail line between the two cities. The original company was sold out in 1860, and a new Galveston, Houston and Henderson was organized under the original charter. During the Civil War the railroad remained active, handling the traffic to and from the blockade runners reaching Galveston. The tracks and the Galveston Bay bridge were used by Gen. John B. Magruder in his recapture of Galveston on January 1, 1863. In 1867 the bondholders of the original company forced the railroad into receivership. Over the ensuing four years an acrimonious court battle was fought between the stockholders and bondholders before the Galveston, Houston and Henderson was ordered sold under foreclosure on December 15, 1871. A third company was organized under the original charter which acquired and merged the Galveston and Houston Junction Railroad Company later that month.

The railroad was again sold on August 1, 1882, to Jay Gould and Russell Sage. They organized a new company, also under the original charter, which was sold to the Missouri, Kansas and Texas Railway Company (Katy). The Katy was also under Gould’s control. Since the Katy railhead was 165 miles from Houston at the time, the Galveston, Houston and Henderson was leased to a third Gould road, the International-Great Northern Railroad Company, in 1883. Gould lost control of the Katy in 1888. In 1893 the Missouri, Kansas and Texas Railway Company of Texas built into Houston, and the Katy demanded the return of its property. The International-Great Northern refused, claiming a valid lease of the Galveston, Houston and Henderson. Although the Katy was initially successful in state court and began operating into Galveston, a change of venue to federal court overturned the state court ruling. The case remained in the courts for the next two years while the International-Great Northern had exclusive use of the property. Finally, on November 19, 1895, the two contesting railroads signed an agreement settling the dispute. The Katy sold a 50 percent interest in the Galveston, Houston and Henderson to the International-Great Northern, the lease was dissolved, and both railroads received trackage rights between Houston and Galveston. The Galveston, Houston and Henderson was the shortest of the three railroads that eventually connected Houston and Galveston and reported its mileage at an even fifty miles. In 1877 the line began operating the first daily newspaper train in Texas for the transportation of the Galveston News into Houston. This service lasted until World War I. In 1892 the company reported passenger earnings of $95,000 and freight earnings of $398,000. That year the railroad owned twelve locomotives and fourteen cars.

The September 1900 hurricane destroyed the company’s two-mile bridge across Galveston Bay, and it was not rebuilt. The railroad used the bridge owned by the Gulf, Colorado and Santa Fe Railway Company, the only bridge to survive the storm, until the Causeway was opened in 1912. Effective March 1, 1920, the two owning railroads began operating the Galveston, Houston and Henderson for alternating one year periods. The Galveston, Houston and Henderson discontinued all train service and was reduced to the role of a terminal operation at Galveston. By end of 1960 ownership of the Galveston, Houston and Henderson was vested in the Missouri Pacific Railroad Company and the Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad Company as successors to the original owners. On December 1, 1989, the Missouri-Kansas-Texas and the Galveston, Houston and Henderson were both merged into the Missouri Pacific. The “Old Reliable Short Line” operated under its original charter and name for over 136 years, longer than any other railroad in the state.


Sold. Hammer: $2,000.00; Price Realized: $2,450.00.

Auction 23 Abstracts

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