Reconstruction difficulties prevented any work for several years, but the contract for the first hundred miles was let on December 14, 1870. The early organizers of the railroad were Ebenezar B. Nichols, William Marsh Rice, W. J. Hutchins, H. D. Taylor, and B. A. Shepherd, all of Texas; and Moses Taylor of New York City.
The first officers of the railroad were Charles G. Young, president; E. C. Stockton, secretary; and P. J. Willis, treasurer.
In 1871 the railroad built fifty-five miles of track between Houston and New Waverly, and the next year it finished fifty-six miles between New Waverly and Crockett. In 1873 it acquired the Houston Tap and Brazoria Railway and the Huntsville Branch, a total of fifty-eight miles. That year it also laid eighty-four miles of track between Crockett and Palestine and between Troup and Mineola.
In 1873 the Houston and Great Northern transferred its 253.1 miles of track to the International-Great Northern and became part of that system.