Palestine's Railroad History
The International and Great Northern Railroad (IGN) was formed in 1873 by the merger of two railroads; the International Railroad, which was formed in 1870, and the Houston and Great Northern Railroad, chartered in 1866.
Eventually it would operate a maximum of 1,106 miles of track, and Palestine would become the center for the IGN's main workshops where its locomotives and passenger cars were constructed, overhauled and repaired.
The International Railroad began by laying track northwards from Hearne, reaching Palestine in July 1872, and Longview in January 1873, a distance of 177 miles.
The Houston and Great Northern Railroad, having been chartered in 1866, finally began construction from Houston in early 1871, completing 111 miles to Crockett in 1872, followed by 37 miles to Palestine in 1873. At the merger, the H&GN provided 253 miles of track for the I&GN that included two branch lines, one from Phelps to Huntsville, the other from Troup to Mineola, and the recently merged Houston Tap and Brazoria Railroad with the Huntsville Branch Railway.
Despite the financial panic of 1873 that lasted six years, the IGN managed to expand. Austin was reached in December 1876, followed by San Antonio by 1881, and Laredo in December 1881. Nevertheless, the IGN did suffer financial turbulence.
2. Mergers and Take-overs
Jay Gould, the famous railroad magnate, acquired control of the IGN in December 1881. Six months later, he leased the IGN to the Missouri, Kansas and Texas Railway Company (MKT) also controlled by Gould, for ninety-nine years. The MKT and the Texas & Pacific Railway Companies (TP) were then leased to the Missouri Pacific Railroad Company. In 1888, the lease was canceled and the IGN reverted to operation by its own organization.
Because they were all owned by the same person, Jay Gould, the IGN, the Missouri Pacific, and the TP, were allowed to maintain their identity while operating together as a system, rather than being controlled directly by the Missouri Pacific. In time, the Gould holdings no longer controlled the IGN and TP railroads, and in 1918, the Missouri Pacific began to purchase stock in the TP. In 1922. the St. Louis - San Francisco Railway Company moved to purchase the IGN. The ICC blocked the transaction, but the Missouri Pacific was very concerned that its convenient access to Texas would be lost if the IGN were to be purchased.
In June 1924, the New Orleans, Texas and Mexico Railway Company (NOT&M) bought the IGN, along with several former members of the Gulf Coast Lines.
In January 1925 , the Missouri Pacific Railroad Company purchased the NOT&M, and the IGN reverted to its original independent mode of operation. within Missouri Pacific Lines.
In 1933, Missouri Pacific Lines entered receivership. Twenty-three years later, in 1956, plans for its reorganization were agreed upon. All of the railroad companies operating in Texas within Missouri Pacific lines were merged into the new Missouri Pacific Railroad Company. This included the IGN, but not the TP which merged with the Missouri Pacific Railroad in 1976.
In 1997, the Missouri Pacific became part of the Union Pacific Railroad.
3. Other Operations
The Texas State Railroad (TSR) reached Palestine in 1909. In 1921, the Texas and New Orleans Railroad, owned by the Southern Pacific Railroad, leased the TSR providing Palestine with a choice for shipments by rail until 1962.
When leased by the Texas South-eastern, from 1963 to 1969, some freight may have been transferred from the TSR to the Missouri Pacific.
When operated as a tourist railroad and operated by the Texas Department of Parks and Wildlife, Missouri Pacific operated over the first three miles of the TSR from the Palestine end to service an industry there.
4. Union Pacific Railroad
Even today, Palestine retains its importance with its railroad car maintenance shops, and its function as a center of railroad operations, specifically the Palestine subdivision of the Union Pacific Railroad.
As an acknowledgement of the contribution that Palestine has made to the railroading industry, Palestine was designated a Train Town USA by the Union Pacific Railroad in 2012.