The Houston Tap and Brazoria Railway Company was chartered on September 1, 1856, to run from Houston to Columbia in Brazoria County, with the right to also construct a line from Columbia into Wharton County. The road was authorized to acquire and took part of its name from the Houston Tap Railroad, which was begun earlier in 1856 by the City of Houston to connect the municipality with the Buffalo Bayou, Brazos and Colorado Railway Company.
Construction of the city's railroad began on April 7, 1856, and the 6½-mile line opened on October 21, 1856. In June 1858 the Houston Tap and Brazoria bought the city owned road for $130,000 in stock and a loan of $42,000 to be made once the railroad received its loan from the Special School Fund. The City of Houston was responsible for the interest and repayment of the principal on the $42,000. In 1859 the Houston Tap and Brazoria was extended to Sandy Point and in 1860 opened to East Columbia for a total of fifty miles of line. The railroad was built for a cash outlay of less than $13,000 per mile, as plantation owners were allowed to work out their stock subscriptions by having their field hands build much of the grade.
The railroad also completed a grade and several bridges in Wharton County and requested bids for a draw bridge to be built across the Brazos, but the outbreak of the Civil War ended all hopes of expansion.
Called the "Sugar Road," the line served the prosperous plantation region of Brazoria County. However, the economic disruptions resulting from the Civil War and its aftermath impacted the railroad. By the late 1860s the track had deteriorated to such a point that only infrequent service was attempted. On February 6, 1869, it was bought at a sheriff's sale by William J. Hutchins of Houston for $500. Its debt, including principal and interest, to the Special School Fund amounted to $402,000, which was secured by a first mortgage lien. On August 15, 1870, the legislature authorized the governor to sell the road. It was bought on July 21, 1871, by Masterson and Wagley of Houston for $130,000. Texas lost $272,000, the only loss sustained by the state from the Special School Fund on loans made to railroads. Masterson and Wagley resold the railroad to Moses Taylor, who represented the Houston and Great Northern Railroad Company. On September 11, 1871, Governor Edmund J. Davis executed a deed to the road to Taylor, the only instance on record in Texas of a railroad tracing its title to the state. The Houston Tap and Brazoria was merged into the Houston and Great Northern on May 8, 1873. The railroad was colloquially referred to as the Columbia Tap. Although line was never extended, it subsequently served as the original Houston entry for both the Galveston, Harrisburg and San Antonio and the Gulf, Colorado and Santa Fe Railway companies until these railroads build their own lines into the city. It later was also used by the Sugar Land and the Houston and Brazos Valley Railway Companies to reach Houston.