ABOUT THE SOUTHERN PACIFIC RAILROAD HISTORY CENTER
The Southern Pacific Railroad History Center’s website is designed to be expanded until it contains more than one hundred pages of content about the many aspects of Southern Pacific. All facets of the history of the Southern Pacific will be explored from its first predecessor company, the Buffalo Bayou, Brazos & Colorado Railway Company, which started operations on September 7, 1853 between Harrisburg and Stafford, Texas, through the merger of Southern Pacific with Union Pacific on September September 11, 1996.
Visitors to the website will learn about the significance of the Southern Pacific and its impact on the development of the United States between Portland, Oregon and New Orleans, Louisiana; from southern Texas to north central and eastern Texas; and after acquisition of the St. Louis and Southwestern Railway Company (Cotton Belt) in 1932, between St. Louis, Illinois and points in central and northeastern Texas. Subsequently, Southern Pacific purchased and operated the Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railroad’s former line between Santa Rosa, New Mexico and St. Louis, Missouri (it operated between Topeka, Kansas and St. Louis over trackage owned by Missouri Pacific and Union Pacific). In 1989, Southern Pacific acquired a railroad line between East St. Louis and Joliet, Illinois, and from that latter point, it obtained trackage rights over the Illinois Central to Chicago. Finally, from 1898 through 1951, Southern Pacific initially leased and subsequently owned and operated a railroad between Nogales and Guadalajara, Mexico.
Southern Pacific was intimately involved with the expansion of commercial opportunities on the West Coast, Texas, Arizona and in all parts of the Southwest. Its trains transported lumber, canned goods, refined petroleum products, fresh fruits and vegetables, building materials, rock and aggregates, and many other commodities.
Southern Pacific was involved in many activities in addition to operating freight and passenger trains throughout its system. For example, it founded Sunset Magazine to create interest in the West and Southwestern United States; Southern Pacific Pipelines to more economically transport fuel; and Southern Pacific Communications Company to sell excess communications capacity. Southern Pacific was a leader in the development of computerized management of railroad operations, and double stack trains, which are ubiquitous throughout North America today.
This website is dedicated to the proud men and women who worked for Southern Pacific and its affiliated companies and made it a great transportation company operating primarily west of the Mississippi River. The documents, pictures, and videos that are posted reflect the diversity, achievements, and rich history of the Southern Pacific. It also honors those who are no longer with us. Although Southern Pacific has ceased to be a corporate entity, its spirit continues to exist and can be felt when one sees a locomotive with Southern Pacific/Cotton Belt markings, a boxcar stenciled Southern Pacific/Cotton Belt, or a former Southern Pacific/Cotton Belt station building.
Southern Pacific’s Bakersfield, California Yard at sunrise circa 1970. Photo by Tom Bethune.