Texas Railroad History - Tower 4 - Dalhart

A Crossing of the Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railroad and the Ft. Worth and Denver Railway


Above: This photo of Tower 4 was taken by John W Barriger III from the rear of his business car as his train proceeded southwest on the Rock Island Golden State Route. The Rock Island station is visible in the distance. Also note the Rock Island herald on the building at far right. The Fort Worth & Denver crosses behind the tower, left toward Denver and right toward Ft. Worth. The location of the tower indicates that the photo was taken no earlier than 1939, probably later. The camera is facing northeast and the tower is due west of the diamond. The relocation of the tower from its original site north of the diamond was motivated by a 1939 Texas Highway Department grade separation project that moved Denrock Ave. and US-87 (Pine St.) into two tunnels beneath the crossing. Even if the tower was moved or rebuilt west of the diamond earlier than 1939, the photo shows no direct evidence of any of these grade crossings, hence the photo is more likely post-1939. (credit John W Barriger III National Railroad Library)

Below: This uncredited photo of Tower 4 appears in the book
Dalhart by Robin Scott [(c) Arcadia Publishing 2011, hat tip Jimmy Barlow] with a caption that gives the date of the photo as 1901. The tower appears essentially identical to the one in the above photo although there is a key difference besides the obvious paint color change. The tower above is clearly elevated compared to the tower below. The framing directly beneath the two windows on the lower story looks identical, but the Barriger photo shows the framing resting on an additional layer of carpentry. Assuming Barriger took his photo after 1939, the idea that the tower relocation project also raised the tower's elevation is certainly plausible although the reason is unknown. Note also that the two windows on the lower story are on the "long side" of the tower in both photos, and there are six upper story windows on that side in both photos (confirmed for the Barriger photo by counting the vertical frames under image magnification.) The upper story short side windows can't be compared directly because the visible sides are opposite. The Barriger photo has four windows but not the staircase and door that are visible in the lower photo. The door clearly affects the design of the wall and the number of windows. In particular, the photo below shows gaps between and beside the frames of the two windows and the door whereas the window frames on the long side do not show any gaps in either photo. Assuming the door was wider than a standard window, three windows and a door would not fit hence spacing was used to spread out two windows for a more symmetrical appearance (which would also reduce potential blind spots.) As for the 1901 date, the clothing could lend some credence. If the tower was built as soon as the crossing was established in 1901, then the tower existed for at least a year before the interlocker was commissioned. That might be a plausible reason for why this particular interlocker was one of the earliest ones to be commissioned, i.e. a tower already existed so the only need was an approved interlocker installation.
                                                 

In 1901, the Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific (CRI&P) Railroad built southwest across the Texas panhandle from Liberal, Kansas toward Tucumcari, New Mexico, crossing the Ft. Worth & Denver (FW&D) Railway, which had built through the area in 1888 forming part of the route between its two namesake cities. The crossing location was named "Denrock", a hybrid of the two railroads' names. When the Post Office later rejected this name, the new settlement was named Dalhart for the two counties, Dallam and Hartley, whose county line the town straddles. Served by two major railroads, the town quickly outgrew other settlements in the region and became the county seat of Dallam County.

Tower 4 at Dalhart was one of the first railroad towers in the state, authorized for operation by the Railroad Commission of Texas (RCT) with a 28-function mechanical interlocking plant on November 28, 1902. The railroads crossed in an "X" pattern just north of what became the Dalhart central business district. RCT documentation at SMU's DeGolyer Library shows Tower 4 was originally located on the north side of the X, less than a mile from both depots. Over time, the proximity of the crossing diamond to downtown Dalhart created a major traffic congestion and safety problem. The main street through downtown, Denrock Ave., crossed both lines very close to the diamond; waiting trains blocked this and other grade crossings. In 1939, the Texas Highway Department and the City of Dalhart began a major grade separation construction project that would tunnel Denrock Ave. beneath the diamond and also create a tunnel for US Highway 87 along the alignment for Pine Street to the east. The widening of Denrock Ave. through the tunnel required Tower 4 to be relocated to the west side of the crossing. A series of temporary modifications to the interlocker was approved by the Railroad Commission of Texas to facilitate continuous operations during the various phases of construction. Today, the FW&D line is a main route of BNSF while Union Pacific operates the former Rock Island "Golden State Route".


Historic Photos of Tower 4

 
Above Left: One of the earliest photos shows downtown Dalhart still in the horse and buggy days. At the edge of the tree line on the right side of the photo, at the far end of the street, Tower 4 is barely visible. Above Right and Below: Early model cars and dirt streets are apparent with Tower 4 clearly visible in the distance. Since Dalhart's business district was south of the tower, all of these views are to the north along Denrock Ave., and the tower appears in the direct center of the street (i.e. on the north side of the crossing diamond), whereas in the color photo below, it sits to the left (west) of the crossing due to the 1939 relocation.

 

Below: A color photo of Tower 4 from the Traces of Texas Facebook page. Since this photo is clearly post-1939, the "new" tower, relocated to the west side of the diamond, appears slightly to the left of where it appears in the older photos above.

Tower 4 Site, 1998

Above: Facing northeast, the concrete and iron railings adjacent to the crossing diamond serve to prevent railroad workers from falling onto the approaches to the tunnels beneath the site of Tower 4. (Jim King photo c.1998)

Tower 4 Location Map

Above: Tower 4 was originally on the north side of the crossing of the Rock Island (now UP) and FW&D (now BNSF) lines in Dalhart. Note also that Rock Island had a branch line from Dalhart to Etter and beyond, ultimately reaching their Amarillo - Liberal line at Morse Junction. The entire 60-mile branch to Morse was built in 1930. Abandonment commenced in 1960 with elimination of the 12-mile Dalhart - Wilco segment. Below: Utility poles curve to the southeast away from US-54 on the northeast side of Dalhart showing the location where the former Rock Island right-of-way to Etter and beyond departed the main line and crossed the highway.

Tower 4 Vicinity, Satellite Image   

Above: This 2019 satellite image shows significant road construction in the vicinity of the Tower 4 crossing.

 
Last Revised: 4/9/2020 JGK - Contact the Texas Interlocking Towers Page.