Rail Served Buildings


Houston rail served buildings have an interesting history. There was a time here where most of the distribution warehouse buildings HAD to have a rail siding up to overhead doors, generally positioned in the rear of the warehouse, to be leasable to Tenants. The dominant rail carrier years ago, was the Southern Pacific Railroad (SoPac). Today the major rail carrier in the Houston area is the Union Pacific Railroad (UP) … and the Burlington Railroad (BNSF) also serves a portion of the market here. When the Houston industrial facilities expansion was beginning back in the late 1950s and 1960s the location of the rail was the deciding factor of where to locate distribution warehouses. The northwest corridor where the Southern Pacific rail existed, paralleling the Hempstead Highway, was where the major developers at the time:Trammell Crow, Vantage Company, Hines Industrial, among others, developed their industrial parks and built their rail served buildings. This area was also the location of attractive residential development, so it was a natural for companies wanting to have their distribution facilities headquarters near where they live . On the east side of Houston, the other market which featured rail served buildings, there were several railroad companies serving properties including the Houston Belt & Terminal and other private “switching” rail lines. The pioneer in aggressive development of the relationship between the railroad and private developers in Houston was Bob Wadsworth who ran the operation for Southern Pacific. Bob sought out the development community to build rail served buildings adjacent to the SoPac railroad, wherever they had service in the city, in order to increase revenue to the railroad from shipping material to and from these buildings. Bob was a pioneer in this effort and the other railroads serving the Houston area have not duplicated his effort since. Rail served buildings are not in as much demand today with the transition of transportation modes back to over-the-road trucks.