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Special thanks to William Loocke for providing the text and photos

The Wharton depot is significant for the economic and social contributions it made to Wharton County.  The depot, now abandoned, was the nucleus of great activity in the west end, an extension of downtown.  Significant warehouse and distribution operations, Railway Express building, service stations, local retail outlets, a boarding house for railroad employees and a cotton gin were part of a symbiotic operation.  The Wharton depot represents the transition from the earlier second-generation wooden depot that preceded it, to a more substantial fireproof masonry structure.  The Southern Pacific depot is significant for its location on Sunset Street, the original highway to Houston.  Also, it is significant because of its close proximity to other important historic structures on the National Register of Historic Buildings, such as the 1903 Southern Pacific - T& NO Railroad Bridge, West Milam Street Mercantile Historic District, and the Wharton County Courthouse Historic Commercial District, (National Register of Historic Places, 1993).  The Wharton depot is additionally significant because it represents the social and political climate in which it was built.  The segregated station provided for two separate but equal waiting rooms, one for Whites and one for Afro-Americans.  Each waiting room had the same plan configuration, access to restroom facilities and had the same level of interior finishes.
The arrival of railroads to Wharton County restored the farm economy, previously devastated by the effects of the Civil War, by generating new capital investment in the region.  The Buffalo Bayou, Brazos and Colorado Railway, later known as Galveston, Harrisburg and San Antonio Railway, established a station at East Bernard, traversing the northern section of the county by 1865, but did not result in significant local growth.
In contrast, the New York, Texas, and Mexican Railway, which nearly bisected the county from north to south in 1881 and west to east from Wharton to Bay City via Iago and Pledger, had an immediate impact on economic growth and capital investment in the region.  In 1885, this line was acquired by the Southern Pacific Railroad and was later controlled by two of its subsidiaries, the Galveston, Harrisburg and San Antonio Railway and the Texas and New Orleans Railway.   In 1900, the Cane Belt Railway was completed across Wharton County west to east, bisecting the City of Wharton near the location of the existing ca. 1915 Southern Pacific station.  This rail line was later controlled by the Gulf, Colorado and Santa Fe Railway, which became the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe.  The San Antonio and later Aransas Pass Railway line cut across the northwestern tip of Wharton County, but did not influence the economy.
By far, the railway that had the largest economic impact on Wharton County was the 1881 New York, Texas and Mexican, which originally built the rail line that the current Southern Pacific ? T&O depot sits upon.   The New York, Texas and Mexican Railway Company was planned by Count Joseph Telfener, an Italian engineer and financier, and his father-in-law, Daniel E. Hungerford, a promoter from California, to connect New York City with Mexico City.
Texas was chosen as the starting point for this project because of the liberal land grants that the state offered to encourage rail construction.  In a charter signed on October 18, 1880, in Paris, France, and filed in Austin, Texas, on November 17, 1880, Telfener and a group of associates formed a Texas corporation to construct a railroad from Richmond, Texas, south to Brownsville.  The road was to begin on the Galveston, Harrisburg and San Antonio Railway at Richmond in Fort Bend County and extend by the most practical route through Fort Bend, Wharton, Jackson, Victoria, Goliad, Bee, Refugio, San Patricio, Nueces, Hidalgo, and Cameron counties and to terminate at Brownsville.  The company secured the usual Texas land grant of sixteen sections, or 10,240 acres, for each mile of track completed.  Actual construction on the project did not get under way until September 1881, when two crews started work at Rosenberg Junction and Victoria simultaneously, one working west and the other working toward the east. Along the way, the towns of Hungerford, Mackay, Louise, Edna, Inez, and Telfener were established and named for members of Telfener's family.
The Count had brought over about 1,200 laborers from Italy to perform the heavy work and, he hoped, to remain there as citizens and buy land along the tracks.  The road became known as the Macaroni Line. In 1882 the Macaroni Line completed ninety-one miles of track between Rosenberg and Victoria.  The cost of the construction of the railroad was $2,036,150 and the rolling stock cost an additional $156,270.  Telfener operated the company until June 1, 1884.
On July 23, 1884, the directors annulled the construction contract because Telfener had built only ninety-one of a proposed 350 miles.  J.W. Mackay, a wealthy mining engineer from Nevada and brother-in-law of Telfener, acquired control of the road on January 9, 1885.  Later that year, Mackey sold his new holdings to the Southern Pacific Railroad, but the line continued to operate as the New York, Texas and Mexican.  In 1899 and 1900, thirty-one miles of track was constructed between Wharton and Van Vleck.  Between 1901 and 1903, fifty-four miles of track was laid from Van Vleck to Hawkinsville and from Bay City Junction to Palacios.  This gave the company 177 miles of main track.  In 1903, the New York, Texas and Mexican reported passenger earnings of $116,000 and freight earnings of $347,000, and owned six locomotives and 395 cars.
assumed control of the railway through Wharton in early September of 1885, was originally chartered in California on December 2, 1865, as the Southern Pacific Railroad Company.  Between that date and March 10, 1902, a total of seven Southern Pacific Railroad companies were chartered and operated.  Although originally independent, by September 1868 the Southern Pacific had come under the control of Collis P. Huntington, Mark Hopkins, Leland Stanford, and Charles Crocker.
The "Big Four," as they were known, also controlled the Central Pacific Railroad Company, which built the western end of the original transcontinental railroad.  Two existing Texas railroads, the Galveston, Harrisburg and San Antonio Railway running between Houston and San Antonio and the Texas and New Orleans Railroad from Houston to Orange, fit into Huntington?s plans, although Huntington did not acquire an interest in either company until July of 1881.  Huntington had also acquired control of the Louisiana Western Railroad Company, and in early 1883 the Southern Pacific controlled a southern transcontinental line from California to Vermillion, Louisiana.  By mid 1883 the ?Big Four? and Peirce had bought Morgan?s Louisiana and Texas Railroad and Steamship Company, thus extending the railroad to New Orleans and completing the present Sunset Route of the Southern Pacific.
On August 8, 1905, Southern Pacific merged the New York, Texas and Mexican Railway serving Wharton, Texas, into another of their holdings, the Galveston, Harrisburg and San Antonio Railway. The Galveston, Harrisburg and San Antonio Railway Company was the first Texas railroad acquired by the Southern Pacific Transportation Company to begin operations in Texas.  The GH&SA was originally chartered on February 11, 1850, as the Buffalo Bayou, Brazos and Colorado Railway Company.
Its name was changed on July 27, 1870.  The Buffalo Bayou, Brazos and Colorado was the first railroad to begin operating in Texas, and the second railroad west of the Mississippi River. The BB&BC was also the first railroad to extend through Wharton County, establishing a station at East Bernard. The railroad itself used the nickname Sunset Route, a name that was in general use by 1874 and was later adopted by Southern Pacific for the entire line between New Orleans and Los Angeles.  It was during this period of operations, that the current ca. 1915 Southern Pacific train depot at Wharton was constructed.
On March 1, 1927, the Galveston, Harrisburg and San Antonio Railway which served the Wharton S.P. Depot, was merged into another subsidiary of Southern Pacific, the Texas and New Orleans Railroad.  On June 30, 1934, all of the leased Southern Pacific properties, with the exception of the Houston Southern Pacific Terminal, were merged into the Texas and New Orleans Railroad, creating the largest railroad in Texas with 3,713 miles of track.  The Texas and New Orleans Railroad lasted until November 1, 1961, when the remaining 3,385 miles were merged into the Southern Pacific Company.
In 1948, passenger service was discontinued and only freight was transported.  About the time that passenger service ceased at the S.P. Depot at Wharton, the depot underwent minor alterations.  One of the waiting rooms was filled with wall partitions to form additional offices, and three interior masonry walls were removed to increase the size of the train operations area and the existing baggage room for shipping and receiving freight.  Interior areas remodeled during this period were painted light green, in contrast to the varnished wood and red and white plaster walls of the original construction.  The French tile roof was replaced with asphalt shingles and an exterior loading dock was constructed, partially built from the interior masonry walls removed to open up the interior spaces.  Sometime later, a second remodeling extended the work counter.
The last regularly scheduled freight train ran from Rosenberg to Victoria in 1985, and after that, the line fell into disrepair.  Most of it was abandoned in the mid-1990?s and the track was taken up.  However, Wharton and Jackson counties formed a rural rail district and stopped the scrap operations.   The track remains in place from Rosenberg to Wharton, and the right-of-way has been sold to the Tex Mex and Kansas City Southern railroads.
Current plans are to rebuild the right-of-way to Victoria and re-activate the line, which would save both railroads a several hundred-mile detour from Victoria via San Antonio on the Union Pacific for Houston and Galveston bound traffic.  Reconstruction of the line is expected to take about 2 years, and much of the NAFTA generated traffic will traverse it.

City of Wharton
120 East Caney Street
Wharton, Texas 77488
Phone: (979) 532-2491

Wharton Volunteer Fire Department
319 N. Fulton St.
Wharton, Texas 77488
(979) 532-4811 Ext 400

info@whartonfire.com

Wharton Police Department
1407 N Richmond Rd

Wharton, Texas 77488
(979) 532-3131

City of Wharton Civic Center
1924 N Fulton St.
Wharton, Texas 77488
(979) 532-2491 Ext 600
Wharton Emergency Management
1407 N Richmond Rd.
Wharton, Texas 77488
(979) 532-4811 Ext 570
 
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