(Top L-R:) City Commissioners Garrett Boersma and Gloria Moon. Bottom L-R: Clint Schelbitzki, UP director-Public Affairs; Marshall Mayor Ed Smith; City Commissioners Charlie Oliver and Zephaniah Timmins
The first railroad to serve Marshall, the Southern Pacific, in 1858, was built from Marshall 25 miles west to Caddo Lake, connecting the community to steamboats arriving at a port on the lake. Later, Marshall became known as the "Gateway to Texas" because it was at the beginning of a rail line that stretched west all the way across Texas, then on to California.
The Texas & Pacific Railway Company had been established by federal charter in 1871 to build a line from Marshall to San Diego, Calif. The T&P was one of only a handful of railroads in the country with a federal charter, and the only one in Texas. In 1872, 150 visionary citizens submitted a petition to the County Commissioner’s Court requesting a vote on a $300,000 bond issue to help the T&P build the line. In exchange, T&P officials agreed to move their Texas offices and shops to Marshall. Petitioners represented a true cross section of the county’s citizens: black and white, politicians and ministers, bankers and farmers. Officials sweetened the proposal by offering 66 acres of land for the offices and shops. The bond issue passed by a huge margin.
Hundreds of workers poured into the area to work at the T&P shops. At its peak, the T&P employed more than 1,100 workers and had a payroll of nearly $2 million. Between 1873 and 1878, it is estimated that the railroad brought more than 700 new citizens. This influx of people changed the face of the county, diversifying its population and creating a melting pot of peoples and cultures.
Many African Americans were employed by the T&P Railroad. These were the best paying jobs available at the time. Moat Rand was hired as an inspector and supplier of crossties for the T&P. His son, Dr. E. W. Rand said: "They would put money in the bank for daddy to draw on, and he would go around and inspect and buy the crossties." The income from the work sent young Rand to college and finally to the presidency of two colleges including Wiley College in Marshall.
Marshall also became a major cotton-marketing center shipping cotton by rail until the production of cotton declined in the 1930s.
The T&P offices moved from Marshall before the end of World War I and the shops were closed by 1980. Marshall continued to be served by the railroad after the Texas and Pacific merged into the Missouri Pacific in 1976. Then in 1982, the Union Pacific assumed rail service to Marshall.
In 1985 Marshall continued to show its love of railroads by working cooperatively with Union Pacific to preserve the 1912 historic Texas and Pacific Depot in Marshall. The now restored Depot includes an Amtrak station and railway museum. The Depot remains an important symbol of Marshall's relationship to the railroad.
The Southern Pacific merged with Union Pacific in 1996, and in 1997, the Missouri Pacific merged with Union Pacific.