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-1940. Assuming the "museum photo" (see further below) is of Tower 4, the differences in architecture suggest that the tower in Barriger's photo is a new tower, and that the former tower was not merely relocated. This is unsurprising since by 1939, the original tower structure would have been 37 years old. (John W Barriger III National Railroad Library)

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)

  A photo of a tower (presumably Tower 4) hangs on a wall at a museum in Dalhart. Note that this tower differs significantly from the tower in the Barriger photo at the top of the page. This tower has three windows on the side whereas the Barriger photo appears to show a square tower with four windows, presumably on all sides. Also, the tower in this image does not show the "fish-scale" pattern that is visible in the Barriger photo. Assuming this image is Tower 4, it is most likely the original tower prior to the 1939 grade separation project. (Help! I have lost the details on who took this photo, when and where. If this is your photo, please let me know.)

 

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: 3/30/2019 JGK - Contact the Texas Interlocking Towers Page.