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Count Telefener and the "Macaroni Line" of 1881


The Macaroni Line Poster


Macaroni Line Train


Count Telefener & his family


In 1880 Count Giuseppe Telfener and several European, New York and Texas financiers developed a grand plan to link New York and Mexico by rail. The New York, Texas and Mexican Railroad Company was chartered in Paris in October 1880, and construction began about a year later. Count Telfener was no amateur in the field; he had just completed a 350-mile rail line in Argentina. Texas was chosen for the starting point because the state offered 16 sections of land for each mile of track completed. Construction on the run between Richmond and Brownsville began with two crews working toward each other from Rosenberg Junction and Victoria. Telfener paid passage for 1,200 Italian laborers, mostly from the northern province of Lombardy-who, he hoped, would eventually bring their families to Texas and settle on land along the right-of-way. Because macaroni was a staple of the laborers' diet, the enterprise soon became known as the "Macaroni Line!'


Within six months difficult working conditions and sickness caused half of the Italian work force to quit. A plan to increase the number of Italian railroad workers at Victoria to 5,000 was never realized because construction was halted in July 1882 after the state had repealed all land grants to railroad builders. Inadvertently Texas had issued certificates for 8,000,000 acres more than was available for distribution. Ninety-one miles of the New York, Texas and Mexican Railway had been completed between Victoria and Rosenberg at a cost of $2,000,000. Telfener operated the railroad until 1884, when he sold out to a brother-in-law, John Mackay, the Nevada "Bonanza King." The railroad was sold to Southern Pacific interests in 1885.


Count Giuseppe Telfener's most important contribution to Texas is represented in the Italian families living in Victoria, Houston, Galveston and elsewhere who are descended from the Italian workmen who built the "Macaroni Line."



  • The Italian Texans (San Antonio: University of Texas lnstitute of Texan Cultures, 1973).

  • John C. Rayburn, "Count Joseph Telfener and the New York, Texas, and Mexican Railway       Company," Southwestern Historical Quarterly, 68 (July 1964).

  • The Victoria Sesquicentennial "Scrapbook" (Victoria, Texas: Victoria Advocate, 1974).

  • Henry Hauschild, "TELFENER, JOSEPH," Handbook of Texas Online (   Published   by   the   Texas   State   Historical Association.

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