The Rio Grande Railroad

The Rio Grande Railroad ran from Brownsville, TX to Port Isabel, TX, and was first completed in 1872 as a narrow gauge railway. It functioned primarily as a freight line to transport goods from the coast into northern Mexico.

"Rio Grande Train: oldest Railroad in Texas. Built 1868." NOTE: TSHA gives an 1872 date, and that's the one we're using. It was also far from the oldest railroad in Texas. Image: Texas Postcards


"The Rio Grande was the only railroad in Texas and one of the few in the United States to be built to a track gauge of forty-two inches. Its route was relatively direct from Brownsville to the coast but required fifteen bridges, including a 15,550-foot trestle across the Badilla Grande." (Texas State Historical Association)

The line defaulted in 1910 but was reorganized, and moved its track northward, avoiding the coastal areas that had left the road highly vulnerable to hurricanes and floods. It was converted to standard gauge in 1925, but this bankrupted the company once again. In 1928, it emerged as the Port Isabel and Rio Grande Valley Railway, which lasted until the end of 1940.

Our map shows both alignments. The southerly alignment of the road was the original one, shown below.

The rest of the right of way eventually fell entirely into the hands of the Missouri Pacific, who abandoned most of it in 1969. A very short section of track in the Brownsville area remains in service to this day, serving industrial operations.

Thanks as always for reading!

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