Dead Confederates, A Civil War Era Blog

For the Ferroequinologists

Posted in Memory by Andy Hall on August 19, 2012

Remains of the bridge of the Washington County/Houston & Texas Central/Southern Pacific crossing the Brazos River, by Patrick Feller. Used under Creative Commons license.

It’s been a busy week, and a busier weekend, with a flying trip to Austin for an Historical Commission meeting and dinner with an old friend and colleague. A couple of rail-related items, though:

The first is the addition of the Confederate Railroads site to the resources section at right. Confederate Railroads is a reference to railway lines operating in the South during the war, and indexes lots of detailed information — some of it seemingly arcane minutiae (like the different track gauges used by different lines), but potentially very important in understanding how these lines operated and interacted (or not) with each other. The site includes rosters of rolling stock, mileages, lists of of other railroad infrastructure, maps and indices of relevant citations in contemporary sources, including the OR. There’s a lot of good, granular data there.

The second thing is that I’ve figured out the long-defunct route of the CW-period Washington County Railroad, a 21-mile between Hempstead and Brenham, Texas, completed in April 1861, which connected to the Houston & Texas Central at the former place. The H&TC took it over after the war, and later extended the line west to Austin; the route roughly parallels Highway 290 between Houston and Austin today. That particular stretch of road between Hempstead and Brenham is of interest to me for reasons I’ll get to at another time. Still later, in the 1880s, the H&TC was absorbed into the Southern Pacific, through the H&TC continued to operate under its own name for many years.


Postwar Houston & Texas Central Locomotive W. R. Baker, c. 1868. Southern Methodist University Libraries.

I’ve traced what I think is the correct route in Google Earth, which can be downloaded here. One of the great things about a tool like Google Earth (or more formal GIS tools like ArcGIS) is that while the original feature may be long since gone, the changes it makes to the terrain are often visible for generations later, particularly in an aerial view. The route is almost perfectly straight from Hempstead to the Brazos River, where the land is flat; it takes a more meandering path west of the Brazos, where there are gently-rolling hills to deal with.

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