History of the Missouri-Kansas-Texas AKA Katy Railroad

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Tony Maples Photography


Until Christmas Day, 1872, no railroads connected Texas with the rest of the United States. This day, the Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railway crossed the bridge over the Red River and entered service into Texas. Better known as the Katy Railroad, this train line lasted for over 100 years, connecting central and eastern Texas to states to the north.

Origins of the Katy Railroad

Caboose from the Katy Railroad

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

The Katy Railroad began far from Texas in 1870 in Kansas. This new railway combined several smaller lines to create its initial extent throughout Kansas. At the time, it was known as the Union Pacific Railway Southern Branch, with no relation to the better known Union Pacific Railroad. A month after its incorporation, the company extended beyond the Kansas border into Indian Territory, which is today known as Oklahoma. By 1872, this line entered Texas, but it wouldn’t reach San Antonio until 1901.

Timeline of the Katy Railroad in Texas

Extent of the Katy Railroad

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Though the line crossed into Texas in 1872, it did not reach the Hill Country for several more years. It extended its reach through building new lines and acquiring existing railroads. After crossing the Red River, the line did not reach Dallas until 1886. Waco connected to the line in 1888, and Houston with its Galveston branch line joined the Katy in 1893. The railroad extended west to San Antonio by 1901.

The Crush Crash Stunt

The crash at Crush Texas was a publicity stunt for the Katy Railroad

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

In 1896, to drum up business for the Katy Railroad, general passenger agent William Crush, choreographed a head-on collision between two Katy engines. The trains would meet in the temporary town of Crush at 5 p.m. So many spectators attended that, for the day of the event, the previously nonexistent town of Crush was the second-most populous in Texas. Though three people lost their lives in the stunt, the event did not taint the fame of the Katy Railroad, which continued to grow and expand into Texas.

End of the Line

An abandoned Katy Railroad station in Hewitt Texas

Photo: Flickr/SMU Central Library

Though successful, the decline of rail travel and transport would lead to mergers during the later part of the 20th century. In 1988, after losing many of its key lines, the M-K-T Railroad became a part of Union Pacific, ironically, the name it originally held when it first formed, though the companies were different. Many of the lines from this railroad are no longer in use for train traffic, but through the Rails to Trails program, have been converted into hike and bike trails to continue their use into the next century.