Few Texas cities have the railroad pedigree of Ennis, Texas. Born in the midst of the golden era of railroad expansion, sited at a location appropriate to best accommodate the line and named for a railroad magnate, Ennis is a bona fide Texas railroad town.
In 1871, the northern terminus of the railroad arrived in Ellis County at the place that would become the City of Ennis one year later. Ennis was named after Cornelius Ennis, an early official of the Houston and Texas Central Railroad. 1871 was a landmark year of railroad expansion in America. On December 6, 1890, city fathers of Ennis secured one of the most important economic development deals in the history of Ellis County when they entered into agreement with the Houston and Texas Central Railroad Company (H &TC) to move the division headquarters to Ennis, which greatly impacted the economy for years to come.
The railroad was key to the development in Ennis as an agriculture, commercial, and later, an industrial center. The railroad provided reliable transportation, and it contributed to Ellis County, a banner cotton-producing county, to be known as the place "where railroads and cotton fields meet."
In 1934, the Southern Pacific Railroad acquired the H & TC and commenced operations in Texas and Louisiana under the name of its subsidiary company, the Texas and New Orleans Railroad (T&NO).
During World War II, activity in the Ennis rail yard increased dramatically as many trains transited Ennis daily. Proudly and sadly, America sent her sons and daughters to war from railroad stations like the Ennis station. Southern Pacific (Texas and New Orleans) employees who gave their lives in service to their country during World War II are memorialized on a monument in Pierce Park, along the railroad tracks in Ennis.
In 1965, the Ennis division headquarters of the Southern Pacific Railroad was officially closed. The Union Pacific Railroad acquired the Southern Pacific Railroad in 1996, and presently provides railroad freight service in Ellis County along with the Burlington, Northern and Santa Fe Railroad (BN&SF).
On April 10, 1993, the Ennis Railroad and Cultural Heritage Museum opened. The building, owned by the city of Ennis, was acquired from Southern Pacific and opened after extensive restoration and remodeling by the city of Ennis employees. Housed in the Ennis passenger depot (formerly Van Noy railroad restaurant building, c. 1915) the museum contains a complete collection of railroad artifacts and memorabilia that chronicles the history of the railroad in Ennis and Ellis County.
There were many Ennis residents who worked for the railroad. Many current Union Pacific employees are fourth and fifth generation railroaders. Ennis is proud of its rich railroad history and its continued relationship with Union Pacific, that is still a vital part of the Ennis economy.