Trains carrying the Texas Eagle name have been running on American railroads and helping people travel across the country for over 70 years.
Today’s Texas Eagle service was born from the Amtrak Inter-American service but still holds connections to the original service operated by the Missouri Pacific Railroad and the Texas and Pacific Railway from 1948 to 1971.
History of the Amtrak Inter-American and Texas Eagle
Amtrak and the Inter-American
Amtrak introduced the Inter-American service in January 1973. Initially, the Inter-American ran three times a week between the Texan cities of Laredo and Fort Worth. While the Inter-American route was somewhat limited, passengers could connect with other services to continue their journeys.
With an overnight layover, passengers in Fort Worth could pick up the Texas Chief service, which Amtrak took over from the Santa Fe Railroad in 1971 and would become the Lone Star from 1974 to 1979. This train ran to Chicago, where passengers could connect with other services.
At Laredo, passengers could cross the border into Nueva Laredo to take trains across Mexico. While the original Inter-American itself only ran at just over 400 miles, history tells us it was indeed an intercontinental service by way of connections.
The Inter-American expands
The Inter-American would gradually lengthen northwards throughout the 1970s.
In 1974, the line started operating the short distance eastwards from Fort Worth to Dallas, from where it headed north-easterly to St. Louis. Two years later, operations would then extend north into Chicago, meaning passengers could travel from Laredo to Chicago without changing trains if they wished. At this time, services between Chicago and St. Louis ran daily, while the St. Louis to Laredo leg continued at the original three times a week schedule.
The Inter-American hits problems
Later, in 1979, Amtrak would combine the Inter-American with the Lone Star service. The Lone Star name was dropped, with the train running as the Inter-American service. To compensate for the removal of the service, the Inter-American became a daily service across its route. At the same time, a branch was added between Temple and Houston.
This version of the Inter-American would be in operation for less than two years, with the Inter-American truncated to San Antonio in October 1981. At the same time, the Temple to Houston branch was removed, and the service was renamed the Texas Eagle.
The “rebirth” of the Texas Eagle name
The modern version of the Texas Eagle came into service on October 2, 1981. While this came due to the restructuring of Inter-American, the service saw something of a revamp, with Superliner coaches replacing the Inter-American’s older Amfleet carriages. Since April 1982, the Texas Eagle has operated with a through car, connecting with Amtrak’s Sunset Limited service and making it possible to make a continuous train journey from Los Angeles to Chicago. Passengers can still take this journey to this day.
Houston service revival
In November 1988, Amtrak once more began running trains to Houston. However, rather than using the previous branch, which split from the mainline at Temple, the new branch split at Dallas and used Southern Pacific railroads. Perhaps surprisingly, this was the first time in 30 years that passenger trains had run directly between Dallas and Houston. Unfortunately, this branch would only be in operation for a matter of years, closing in September 1995.
The Texas Eagle today and in the future
In recent years it has been proposed that the Texas Eagle itself expand to Los Angeles. While this would still involve using a through car, it would deliver a vast range of improvements, such as a reduction in journey time of nine hours between Los Angeles and Chicago and guarantee a daily service between the destinations. The timetable change would also ensure passengers could board and disembark in Maricopa and Tucson at reasonable times.
The Sunset Limited would then run between San Antonio and New Orleans, effectively becoming a connection to the Texas Eagle for passengers who would have previously taken the New Orleans to Los Angeles route.
It’s also worth noting that the Sunset Limited hasn’t been running to Florida since 2005 when Hurricane Katrina washed part of the line away. Should this service be restored, it will give Texas Eagle passengers even greater connections with the southern United States.
During 2020 and 2021, owing to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Texas Eagle has run three times a week, but Amtrak has a full schedule with daily trains planned for 2022 at the time of writing.
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