History Lessons: What Railroads Can Teach Us About Texas’ Electric Grid

If you are like me, you spent a whole week without electricity in February. It was cold, and boring. I couldn’t watch movies, I couldn’t play on my Xbox, and I couldn’t see well enough to read when it got dark.

But mostly it was cold, even with the fireplace. And my inflatable mattress kept deflating and I looked like I was sleeping in a taco. My mom was grouchy. My dad was grouchy. Even the dog was grouchy. 

I learned a lot about the electrical grid, and how Texas has its own grid. It’s not hooked up, with the rest of the country’s grid. It made it tougher during the outage because we couldn’t get help from our neighbors, other than crews to help repair it.

Texas is a big state – bigger than some countries. It used to be its own country, in fact. Sometimes I think we still think we are our own country, and forget we can get help, because we’re part of a large nation.

This year I learned about Texas history. One of the things I learned about, was the railroad, and how it helped the state grow. 

I realized that our state now has a lot in common with Texas in the 1800s. Back then we also tried to do things ourselves, and our railroad was only connected to Texas towns. That wasn’t good for growth.

Kansas asked Union Pacific to build a railroad from Fort Riley, Kansas, all the way to the state’s southern boundary. Then in 1866, Congress passed a resolution to make sure that the railroad continued to Texas, and the railroad’s name was changed to the Missouri, Kansas and Texas Railway Company, or the M-K-T. 

Suddenly, Texas could grow even more because it was connected to the rest of the country – and the rest of the world.

I think we can learn a lesson from this. We’re stronger together than we are on our own. I may be a fourth grader, but making sure we all have electricity all the time should be a really big goal. But we’re a really big state, that does really big things. So we can do this, too.

My mom said that the people that make the laws have a lot of priorities this year. I know that’s grown up for “maybe.” But I really hope that the people who make the laws can see that being really cold and not getting to do any school for a week is also not something we should be “maybe” about. 

I hope that the people that make the laws for Texas will decide that this is too important for maybe, and make things better before this summer because Texas is too hot to be without air conditioning.

John Erickson, the son of deputy editor Bethany Erickson, is a fourth-grader at Chapel Hill Preparatory in Dallas.

For nearly 40 years, People Newspapers has worked tirelessly to tell the stories—good, bad, and sublime—of our neighbors in the Park Cities and Preston Hollow. To support our efforts, please contact advertise@peoplenewspapers.comfor advertising opportunities. Please also consider sharing this story with your friends and social media followers.

John Erickson

John Erickson, the son of deputy editor Bethany Erickson, is a fifth-grader at Chapel Hill Preparatory in Dallas. He recently won a National Newspaper Award for a story he wrote about Roger Farkash, the mastermind behind the Trains at NorthPark display.

One thought on “History Lessons: What Railroads Can Teach Us About Texas’ Electric Grid

  • May 23, 2021 at 9:38 am

    Mr. Erickson,
    This is a great article. We were cold and slept in our tent in front of the fireplace too. I hope we don’t have to do that again, ever. I hope the grownups in charge read your article and make changes to keep us all warm, safe and in school.


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