Texas Railroad History - Tower 7 (College Station) and Tower 36 (Bryan)

Two crossings of the International & Great Northern Railroad and the Houston & Texas Central Railway

The town of Bryan was founded in 1859 by landowner W. J. Bryan when he donated land for a town site to the Houston & Texas Central (H&TC) Railroad as they built north through the area. Construction was halted south of Bryan (at Millican) during the Civil War, but eight years later, the railroad finally reached the town. Texas A&M College was opened in 1876 south of Bryan at a location that became known as College Station, named for the railroad station used by college students. In 1901, the Calvert, Waco & Brazos Valley Railroad built south from Valley Jct. to Bryan as part of a plan to connect Waco with Houston. The International & Great Northern (I-GN) Railroad took over the construction effort and completed the line south from Bryan through College Station to Spring in 1902. The I-GN line paralleled the H&TC line through Bryan and College Station, crossing the H&TC line twice -- at the south end of College Station, and near downtown Bryan. Towers were constructed at both locations, Tower 7 in College Station and Tower 36 in Bryan. Years later, the I-GN became a Missouri Pacific (MP) property while the H&TC became part of Southern Pacific (SP).

Tower 36 was removed intact from its trackside location in downtown Bryan in 1958, but the location to which it was moved is unknown. The Tower 36 interlocker was converted at that time to an automatic system. In 1965, MP and SP agreed to share the SP line south of College Station to Navasota. This allowed the ex-I-GN line to be abandoned between Tower 7 and Tower 9 (Navasota). Tower 7 was retired at that time and its fate is unknown. The parallel lines through College Station and Bryan were operated jointly as a long siding. Union Pacific (UP) is now the successor to both railroads. North of Tower 36, the ex-I-GN line curves west heading for Valley Jct. and Waco while the ex-H&TC line continues north to Hearne.

Above: Tower 7 is barely distinguishable in the highlighted box in the lower center area of this undated aerial view of College Station, probably c.1929. The tower was near the baseball grandstand with the original Kyle Field nearby. (John Fike collection)
Below: The 1938 Sanborn Fire Insurance map of Bryan - College Station depicts Tower 7 as a small, unidentified 2-story structure at the railroad crossing adjacent to the Kyle Field baseball grandstand.

Above: In this old postcard of the I-GN depot in downtown Bryan, Tower 36 is visible in the distance adjacent to the tracks  (magnification at right).

Above left: The 1912 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map of Bryan shows the tower location. Above right: A 1990s photo of the Tower 36 cabinet (Jim King photo)

We contacted the Bryan/College Station public library to see if they had any info on Towers 7 and 36. This was their response:

We searched the early day newspapers and found a couple of mentions of the interlocking towers--no pictures. The Bryan Eagle of April 28, 1904 on page 5 reads "Having begun operation of the tower switching system, Messrs. Vick and Batts asked an Eagle reporter to say to the public that all spectators are required to remain outside the operating room. A reasonable number of visitors may go upstairs, but must not pass inside the railing where the levers are worked. If these rules are violated they will be forced to lock all visitors out altogether." The Bryan Morning Eagle of Feb. 22, 1903 on page 3 reads "Charles Smith in charge of the works here went to College Station today to put into operation the interlocking switch plant recently installed there. The state railroad commission is to be present at the test to pass officially on its efficacy. Navasota Examiner."

Above Left: Houston Daily Post, Feb. 22, 1903   Above Right: This Bryan Eagle newspaper clipping dated Jan. 5, 1958 shows Tower 36 being relocated out of downtown Bryan. Unfortunately, the destination for the tower is not specified. (hat tip, Noe Guttierez)

Location Map, Tower 7 and Tower 36

Satellite Images, Tower 7 and Tower 36 Location

Last Revised: 1/20/2019 JGK - Contact the Texas Interlocking Towers Page.