The T&P's predecessor, the Southern Pacific RR Co. (not to be confused with the later, entirely different railroad, the Southern Pacific Co.), was a 35-mile segment (Shreveport, Louisiana to Marshall, Texas) of an ambitious and seriously supported trans-continental railroad proposal. An Act of Congress supported this project and even afforded it land grants. The SPRRCo used strap rails on wooden sleepers, as most railroads did at the time. Service commenced on the Civil War's very eve; almost immediately the railroad suspended operations, its rails taken to armor-plate a Confederate river gunboat, protecting it from the dreaded Union Navy's monitors. The road refused to die, however, and phoenix-like rose from ashes and rebuilt its railroad to Marshall and west to Longview, Texas.
An Act of Congress incorporated the Texas-Pacific RR Co. on March 8, 1871, and on March 2, 1872 the road adopted its new corporate title, The Texas & Pacific Ry. Co., and purchased the Southern Pacific RR Co. The new corporation started with 12 locos and 6 passenger cars of unknown origin, but probably the original pre-war equipment. Freight cars from the SPRRCo were 38 box and 35 flat cars. The trans-continental project was no longer the aim — the Union Pacific-Central Pacific pre-empted that in 1869. However, impressive expansion soon appeared in the press and investment houses' board rooms.
New Orleans' railroad promoters incorporated the New Orleans Pacific Ry. Co. by Louisiana Legislature Act 14 of February 19, 1877. Promoters included G. W. R. Bayley, E. B. Wheelock, and Hugh Kennedy. Investors began buying NOPRyCo stock and sales soon passed the three million dollar mark. More capital was provided by ad valorem tax elections which were authorized by referendums in communities that wanted railroad service.
The NOPRy diagonally crossed the state, uniting northwest and central Louisiana with New Orleans. Its construction required first: the purchase of a 68 mile railroad from Westwego to White Castle, just above Donaldsonville, built by the New Orleans, Mobile & Chatanooga RR (which see). This was a 5' gauge line with six passenger cars and ten locomotives, all of undisclosed origins. This equipment was probably regauged, for the new company used standard gauge. Second: extend the original NOM&C line to a point on the Mississippi River as close to New Orleans as possible. And third: establish a passenger station in New Orleans, build landings on both east and west banks of the river, and construct yards and facilities to maintain and repair locomotives and rolling stock.
The grand scheme was completed in approximately twenty-two months, mainly due to the financial and energetic assistance of the nation's perhaps most active and powerful railroad empire builder, Mr. Jay Gould. The American Ry. Improvement Co. was the contractor doing the most work. Construction from the Shreveport end began in January of 1881. The most difficult part of the work was the bridge across the Atchafalaya River, a deep and wide stream. The bridge was not ready for use until December 25, 1883 (P). However, service all the way from Shreveport to New Orleans began October 15, 1882 (P) — cars could cross the Atchafalaya by car ferry temporarily.
The October 15, 1883 “Official Timetable” of Gould's Missouri Pacific railway empire lists associated railroads, besides the T&P, the following: “Central Branch Union Pacific RR; Missouri, Kansas & Texas Ry.; St. Louis, Iron Mountain & Southern Ry.; [and the] International & Great Northern RR”. The May 20, 1888 “Official Timetable” of the Gould system omitted the T&P, while still owning it. The T&P had a long-lasting semi-independence because the state of Texas by 1888 required railroads operating any trackage in the state to have its general offices there.
The T&P built a car building facility in Marshall, Tex. which Gould expanded into a huge complex. The railroad built its own passenger and freight rolling stock for years. The T&P built two hotel-restaurants, at Bunkie, halfway between New Orleans and Shreveport, and close to Baton Rouge. This eliminated the need for dining cars until traffic density called for them. The New Orleans station stood at the foot of Thalia St., and was relocated at Annunciation and Thalia, a huge terminal building and trainshed built by the Trans-Mississippi Terminal RR Co. The T&P and through MoPac trains terminated there. This impressive structure closed in April of 1954 when the Union Passenger Terminal united all trains at one station. The UPT is today's Amtrak and intercity bus terminal.
Copyright © 2015 Louis C. Hennick. All rights reserved.
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