The Texas and Pacific Railroad
In the 1850's, the United States government, anxious to flood the western half of the continent with it's citizens, looked for the fastest and most dependable way in which to move large numbers of people, livestock, and materials to the Pacific coast. The railroad was a relatively new method of transportation, with the first train tracks not arriving in Texas until 1852. Capitalists and politicians knew that the lands west of the Mississippi were ripe for rail development. Rail lines sprouted up all across the eastern part of the nation, all aiming for their final destination of California. With the onset of the Civil War, the expansion of the rail lines halted. After the war was over in 1865, various ventures began once again exploring ways to make their route the fastest, safest, and most dependable way west. Texas was lagging behind in rail development, and only approximately 500 miles of track existed in the state in 1870.
After investors studied the United States government accounts of possible rail routes, the newly formed Texas and Pacific Railroad Company was formed. Marcy's route to the plentiful waters of the "big spring" and his remarks and careful documentation of the favorable terrain of the area convinced the Texas and Pacific to chart their main rail line further south than originally planned.
On January 16th, 1880, the Texas and Pacific began it's western journey from Ft. Worth, largely following Marcy's documented route. By June 4, the rail was in Weatherford; Baird was reached December 14th of the same year. By January 1881, the rail had reached farther west and had formed the rail town of Abilene, and designated it as a potential cattle shipping post. By March 14, the railroad made a new stop with tents, and dubbed it "Sweetwater". Colorado City, so named for the adjacent Colorado River, was formed by the rail on April 16, and on May 28, 1881 the rail stopped at one of the largest frontier settlements on the West Texas Plains - a town of forty-seven people. Of the forty-seven hardy residents, twenty-five of them were Texas Rangers who were stationed on the edge of the wild frontier. The railroad named the town "Big Spring" after the abundant water source necessary for the rail's existence. The small train resupply stops of Stanton, Midland, and Odessa were reached soon after.
Expansion of the rail lines westwards in America was happening at a rate which could not be managed by the American steel industry. Rails were being laid all across the nation at a furious rate, with 6 to 8 miles of rail installed in a single work day. The fast pace meant that steel was needed in great quantities, and sufficient qualities could not be produced along with the needed quantities. Some of the rail lines had such light grade steel that trains could only travel on them for a year or less before they had to be replaced with heavier, higher grade tracks. As the rail lines aided western expansion during the later part of the 19th century, the town of Big Spring grew up on the flats immediately surrounding the spring and it's tributary. Most of the early residents lived in canvas tents or dugouts and used the spring for all of their water needs, including bathing and drinking. Gradually, the population shifted about a mile further north to where the railroad engines would stop to replenish their steam engines with the piped-in water of the spring. As more and more people began to come to the town and settle, they began drilling water wells into the shallow aquifer that fed the spring. With the ever-expanding needs from the railroad as well as the exploding population, the spring soon ran dry. Efforts to dam up the spring site to provide more water largely failed. Area ranchers tried to revive the spring with dynamite, and instead halted all water flow. Today, with limited draw from the aquifer, the spring has once again began to flow, albeit not at the rates noted when Marcy first came upon it.