The city saw first growth when early railroad companies came to town
Every city has to start somewhere, and although the Katy Gas Plant and Katy Rice Mill have rightly been credited as catalysts for the City of Katy's growth, each share an essential common denominator: the railroad.
In 1873, the Western Narrow Gauge Railroad laid tracks from Houston to Sealy. In 1875, it was renamed the Texas Western Narrow Gauge Railroad and was the first railroad to operate in the area. It was later surpassed by the Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad which ran east-west through town. The MKT, dubbed the "Katy Railroad" by locals and officials, was completed in 1895, and a water well, tank and tower were erected in Cane Island.
In 1898 a railroad station depot was built, and the train began bringing families to Katy from northern states. With the surge of incoming residents, the MKT hired real estate agents to entice individuals to stay and live in the area, and Katy began to grow.
"It was how Katy got its start. Before the railroad came there was nothing else," said Mark Bing, a local railroad enthusiast.
Three principle products became the staple cargo on the MKT, Bing said. Petroleum, rice and livestock were transported from Katy to surrounding areas and occasionally the one passenger car toted residents as well.
Families coming to Katy could fill a boxcar with their possessions, and one person could ride along to monitor their belongings. The train was an important part of life for Katy's earliest residents as it brought news and mail, and people would come to the depot to visit and socialize as well as to send or receive telegrams.
The railroad played a key role in the success of the gas plant when demand for its products skyrocketed before pipelines were installed in the years prior to and during WWII.
The MKT Railroad prospered into the 1950s and offered passenger service up until 1957. Bing said when the train still operated during his childhood, he remembers watching chickens and other animals transported to town on railroad cars.
In early December 1989, the MKT was formally merged into the Union Pacific Railroad system. The Texas Department of Transportation bought the old MKT right-of-way from Union Pacific in 1998 and the line was closed from Katy to Houston in 2000. Although there is still rail service in Katy serving local industry, the tracks end at the east side of town at Katy Fort Bend County Road.
In 2005, the MKT Depot and caboose were moved once again to build Railroad Park downtown. Today the lines still carry goods for various companies, and the depot has been revitalized as a place for residents to gather once again to remember their city's origins.