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Special Collections & University Archives: RGV Railroads

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Lower RGV Railroads Research Guide

RGV Railroads Research Guide, by William D. Bennett

Railroads: Summary

This research guide aims to assist students in any research topics involving the railroads of the lower Rio Grande Valley. Provided in this guide are useful primary and secondary sources from our collections as well as information about external resources in a variety of formats.

Railroads: Background

The railroad lines that run throughout the lower Rio Grande Valley and Texas as a whole have a rich history to them. While today most if not all of them are now part of the Missouri Pacific line system they were once separate, with ties to well-known figures in Rio Grande Valley History such as Frank Yturria or Col. Samuel Arthur Robertson.

Originally known as the San Benito and Rio Grande Valley Interurban Railway Company, the San Benito and Rio Grande Valley Railway Company was formed June 28, 1912 and would have its tracks completed July 1, 1912 (aka, Spiderweb Railroad). The completion of the rails was largely due to the funds provided by the St. Louis and San Francisco Railroad as well as the deed to railroads and lines provided by Col. Samuel Arthur Robertson. Over time the company would grow in size and change ownership until it became part of Missouri Pacific. There is a state historical marker at the site of the original Spiderweb Railroad in Progresso.

The St. Louis, Brownsville and Mexico Railway was connected to the San Benito and Rio Grande Valley Railway but was much larger in comparison. The company was founded June 6, 1903 with an initial board of directors consisting of famous names in Rio Grande Valley history. Similarly, to the San Benito and Rio Grande Valley Railway Company, the St. Louis, Brownsville and Mexico Railway Company would expand over time and merge into Missouri Pacific.

Railroads: Primary Sources from Our Archival Collections

Missouri Pacific Brownsville Depot Collection

This collection consists of: plans, measurement files, public domain pictures, maps, research items on architect Robert Bertram Kelly, text documents on the depot written by Mr. David N. Currey, photos, photographs of the first depot, photographs of the "sister depot" in SL-SF passenger station in Pensacola, Florida, and postcard views of neighboring El Jardin Hotel.

Barry Horn Postcard Collection

This collection consists of eighteen letterpress halftone postcards pertaining to Cameron County and Matamoros, Tamaulipas. The photographs were taken by Robert Runyon and the postcard booklet was made by Curt Teich & Co. of Chicago, Illinois in 1925.

John R. Peavey Scrapbook Collection

Scrapbook of John R. Peavey reflecting his days as a U. S. Border Patrolman in the Rio Grande Valley. Warning: graphic content. For more materials of the John Randall Peavey Collection, view the Finding Aid on ArchivesSpace

Texas Department of Transportation Maps

Files include maps, blueprints, aerial photographs presumably showing proposed changes to roads.

Railroads: Historical Maps & Photos of Interest

San Benito & Rio Grande Valley Rail Road

Travelers posing with the train San Benito and Rio Grande Valley car 101

Scanned image of original photo from the John H. Shary Digital Collection.

Railroad map from A brief history of the lower R

Railroad map from "A Brief History of the Lower Rio Grande Valley," by Frank Cushman Pierce

Pierce, F. C. (Frank Cushman). (1917). A brief history of the lower Rio Grande valley. Menasha, Wis.: George Banta publishing company.

Hand-drawn sketch. Sketch of the South Texas Region including ranches, cities, old Spanish trails, and railroads

"Sketch of the South Texas Region including ranches, cities, old Spanish trails, and railroads "South West Texas as it was in 1912". John R. Peavey Scrapbook, p. 5. UTRGV Digital Library, The University of Texas – Rio Grande Valley.

Photo of Brownsville Train station

Photo of Brownsville Train station

Photo of Brownsville Train station; train with people on it surrounded it by a crowd; R.B. Creager, Chairman of the Republican Party of the State of Texas; and president-elect Warren G. Harding; right to left: unknown woman, Lindberg family member, Harding, Creager, others; taken in 1921; in Railroad Depot Park, Brownsville, Texas. 5.5" x 3.5"

Photo from Toni Wise. Brownsville History Harvest 2014, UTRGV Digital Library, The University of Texas – Rio Grande Valley.

Railroads: Secondary Sources from Our Collections

UTRGV & TSC Regional History Series

Explore the rich historical heritage of the Rio Grande Valley. The series includes articles written by scholars from a variety of institutions across the United States and Northern Mexico.

Gulf Coast Magazine

"Building of a Modern Railroad," by William Doherty and Jeff N. Miller (1906, v.2 no.3)

Discusses the construction of the Gulf Coast Line. Includes portrait of Jeff N. Miller, images of the railroad tracks, railroad construction, and depots and stations in Brownsville, Kingsville, and Vanderbilt. Some photos by Wheelus.

"And Nothing But the Truth: Achievements of Farmers and Truck Growers," by William Doherty (1906, v.2 no.2)

Article describing the agricultural productivity of the Texas Gulf Coast region. Includes several photographs depicting farm fields, farmers/ farm workers, various crops, an apiary, and transportation of crops. Most are images are of locations near Brownsville, including a photo of cabbage being loaded into train cars. Some photos by Wheelus.

See also items listed under Books from our Catalog

Railroads: External Resources

Railroad Commission of Texas. Transportation Division Collection

The Railroad Commission of Texas (RRC) had jurisdiction over the rates and operations of railroads, terminals, wharves and express companies. These records are files of the Transportation Division (formerly the Main and Transportation Division, later the Rail Division) and consist of the special authority orders issued by the Railroad Commission, correspondence between the Commission and railroad companies concerning requested changes, and internal memos discussing the requested changes, dating 1894-1935. Most railway lines operating in Texas during this time period (1894-1935) are represented.

Missouri Pacific Historical Society: Gulf Coast Lines

Our mission is to preserve and promote the heritage of the Missouri Pacific Railroad and it's affiliates. This includes the Texas & Pacific, Chicago & Eastern Illinois, Kansas Oklahoma & Gulf, Alton & Southern and many other roads that were part of the MP family. The website includes historical information and access to digital images.

Research Compiled by William D. Bennett

William Bennett is a former student assistant at Special Collections & Archives. He is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Arts degree in mass communication at UTRGV with minors in history and anthropology. William hopes to pursue a career in either broadcast or print journalism in the future, but he still has an interest in history. During his time with Special Collections & Archives, William collaborated and assisted with the creation of several exhibits and events and compiled resources for research guides.


The research guides compiled by UTRGV staff and students are intended to assist patrons who are embarking upon new research endeavors. Our goal is to expand their knowledge of the types of resources available on a given topic, including books, archival materials, and websites. In so doing, our compilers have taken care to include collections, digital items, and resources that may be accessed not only through UTRGV but also via other institutions, repositories, and websites.

We wholeheartedly respect the research interests of others. Therefore, please contact us if you wish to submit a resource for consideration, or if you have a question about or an issue with a specific cited resource.

Books from Our Catalog

Reference Sources

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