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Southern Pacific R.R. and Connections

Rand, McNally & Co.
Chicago, 1883

Rand, McNally & Co. published this map during a triumphal year for the Southern Pacific Railway Company. Collis P. Huntington organized a buyout of several smaller companies in Texas, including the Galveston, Harrisburg & San Antonio Railroad, the Texas & New Orleans Railroad, and several others throughout the Southwest. He planned to establish a second transcontinental route owned and operated solely by the Southern Pacific.[1] By utilizing Huntington’s monopoly west of El Paso, the Southern Pacific provided an increasingly reliable means of transportation across the southwestern United States.

A.N. Towne, T.H. Goodman, Southern Pacific R.R. and Connections, Chicago: Rand McNally & Co., 1883, Map #94270, Map Collection, Archives and Records Program, Texas General Land Office, Austin, TX.
The map’s key identifies the markings for different railroads.

By June 1883, the Southern Pacific completed the famed “Sunset Route” from New Orleans to California, where an extensive rail network spanned the length of the state and branched east into northern Nevada and Utah.[2] The map illustrates this progress with solid red lines denoting completed rail sections belonging to both the Southern Pacific and the Central Pacific. White dots within the lines represent the hundreds of towns through which the railroads passed. Dashed red lines mark routes that had been approved or were already under construction, and solid black lines identify rails belonging to competing companies, including the Texas & Pacific, the Texas & St. Louis, and the International & Great Northern. This network connects Texas’ interior to St. Louis, Missouri, an important Midwest rail hub.

The Sunset Route passed through Texas to link New Orleans to Los Angeles.

The map reflects the considerable service the Southern Pacific provided to southeastern Texas. Rails join Houston to San Antonio and El Paso. Crucially, tracks also join Houston to Harrisburg and the vital port at Galveston. Two other Gulf Coast termini, Indianola and Ft. Sabine, link to San Antonio and Beaumont respectively. Additional railroads — including the Houston & Texas Central Railway, which became part of the Southern Pacific in 1883 but continued operations under its original name — split off to reach the state’s northern and western regions.[3]

[top-left] By 1883, railroads had expanded significantly throughout Texas. [top-right] Houston became a rail hub for southeastern Texas. [bottom-left] A planned extension would join Paris to the Houston & Texas Central Railway. [bottom-right] Another extension would expand the Mexican International Railroad into Mexico’s interior. Click each image to enlarge.

While Houston and its surrounding region were well covered, other parts of Texas remained open for expansion by 1883. Austin is the only major city in Texas without direct access to a Southern Pacific depot, though it was connected to the International & Great Northern Railroad. Planned extensions aimed to link relatively isolated locations by filling gaps, including between Paris and Kaufman in northeastern Texas and Cuero and Gonzales in the state’s southeast; however, the railroad bypassed large portions of the Panhandle, West Texas, and South Texas. From Kinney County, a line extends into Mexico that merges into the Mexican International Railway, with projected routes continuing through the country’s interior.

[left] International and domestic sea routes converge on San Francisco, which also boasts a robust rail network. [right] New Orleans features international departures for Europe, Cuba, and Mexico.

Railroads are not the only critical transportation infrastructure displayed on the map. Dashed red lines in the Gulf of Mexico and off California’s coast represent steamship routes. From Corpus Christi, one line traces south to Brownsville and up the Río Grande to Matamoros, Mexico. An eastbound line reaches Morgan City, Louisiana, leaving travelers and cargo with just a short train ride to the bustling port of New Orleans. There, the map identifies routes to Havana, Cuba; Vera Cruz, Mexico; and Europe. From San Francisco, California, the map charts international courses for China, Japan, and Australia. Additional sea traffic spans the entire West Coast, linking San Pedro in the south to Seattle, Washington, in the north. Together with the expanding transcontinental railroads, steamships facilitated global travel and commerce as the United States’ economic power grew in the late nineteenth century.

  1. Hugh Hemphill, Railroads of San Antonio and South Central Texas (San Antonio, TX: Maverick Pub Co, 2011): 7.
  2. George C. Werner, “Southern Pacific System,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed November 10, 2021, Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
  3. George C. Werner, “Houston and Texas Central Railway,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed November 10, 2021, Published by the Texas State Historical Association.



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