When the GH&H first began construction of its line in 1857, the gauge of the track was 5’6,” as was typical for railroads west of the Mississippi. Railroads east of the Mississippi used a 4’8 1/2” gauge. The assumption among engineers was that the Mississippi could never be bridged.
Things would change – by the time the Transcontinental Railroad completed construction in 1869, the 4’8 1/2” track gauge was considered the standard, but not in Texas. Track gauge of 5′ 6” was required by Texas law until 1875.
The late 1880s and early 1890s were period of tremendous economic expansion in Texas. All along the Gulf Coast, in relation to the construction of railroad lines, new town sites were springing up, usually small towns that were tied to agricultural development.
Railroads were the miracle of modern technology in the 19th century. Imagine combining the functions of a freeway and an airport. Railroads were a superior form of transportation that supplanted earlier forms of shipping up navigable streams by boat and overland by wagon.
To supply the many needs of the burgeoning railroad industry, companies like M. M. Buck & Company of St. Louis sold every imaginable bolt, engine, lantern, rail, signal, switch, tool, track or wrench necessary to run and maintain a railroad through their catalogue.