Texas Railroad History - Tower 11 (West Orange) and Tower 125 (Mauriceville)

The Story of the Orange & Northwestern Railroad

Above: This photo was taken by John W Barriger III from the rear platform of his business car as his train passed through Mauriceville heading southwest toward Beaumont, probably in the 1930's. Barriger's camera was facing northeast down the perfectly straight Kansas City Southern (KCS) tracks toward DeQuincy, Louisiana. The administrative identification of the photo in the John W Barriger III National Railroad Library indicates that Barriger's car was at the rear of a Missouri Pacific (MP) train traveling the main line of MP's Gulf Coast Lines (GCL) subsidiary which it had acquired in 1925. Barriger's train is exercising MP trackage rights inherited from the GCL on the KCS between DeQuincy and Beaumont. The rights dated back to 1905 and were a critical component of the GCL route between Houston and New Orleans that competed with Southern Pacific's Sunset Route.

In the photo, Barriger has just passed over the Orange & Northwestern (O&NW) Railroad. The O&NW and KCS tracks crossed at a right angle in an X-pattern, with the depot located in the quadrant north of the diamond. The O&NW had become a GCL railroad in 1905, hence it was an MP railroad at the time of Barriger's trip. The "125" placard on the side of the building announces that the Tower 125 interlocking plant is located and controlled inside. (John W Barriger III National Railroad Library)

Below: Since the "125" placard does not appear to be on the side of the building in this undated photo (from the collection of Mark St. Aubin), the photo was probably taken before the Tower 125 interlocking was commissioned at Mauriceville in May, 1929.

The story of the Orange & Northwestern (O&NW) Railroad begins in 1877 when two Pennsylvania men, Henry Lutcher and Bedell Moore, toured the massive yellow pine forests of Louisiana and east Texas. They decided to build a sawmill at Orange, a town so named because it was the county seat of Orange County (its original name, Madison, was dropped due to confusion with another Texas town, Madisonville.) Orange was chosen to be the site of the sawmill because it was a short, navigable distance from the Gulf of Mexico on the Sabine River, Texas' border with Louisiana, and it was centrally located among the areas to be logged. The Sabine offered a means of getting logs to the mill by floating them downriver from the forests north of Orange. When the mill opened in 1877, Lutcher and Moore named it the Star & Crescent Mill; it was the largest sawmill in Texas at the time. The Texas & New Orleans (T&NO) Railroad passed near the mill and may have been used during the mill's construction to bring materials from the major port of Galveston. Proximity to mills in both Texas and Louisiana combined with T&NO rail service and the Sabine River's outlet to the Gulf of Mexico enabled Orange to become the primary shipping gateway for lumber and other wood products along the Gulf Coast.

Prior to the Civil War, the T&NO railroad had been chartered by a lumber company - a recurring theme in this story - for the purpose of connecting southeast Texas with the port of Galveston. Three years later, in 1859, the T&NO name was adopted when a rail line between Houston and New Orleans was envisioned. By 1860, tracks had been laid between Houston and Orange, and as the Civil War commenced, the T&NO briefly became a military supply line. The condition of the tracks deteriorated quickly, and in the post-war years, there was only intermittent service on short track segments for brief periods. Eventually, the line was rehabilitated and reconstituted into a new company under the T&NO name. The first post-war train between Houston and Orange operated in November, 1876. In 1880, the T&NO commenced scheduled service between Houston and New Orleans through Orange, providing a critical outbound transportation service for the wood products produced by the newly established mill. By 1881, the T&NO had become attractive to Southern Pacific (SP) which acquired it to be part of a southern transcontinental route between California and New Orleans ultimately known as the Sunset Route. As SP began to acquire other lines for secondary routes and branches, the T&NO became the primary operating company into which railroads acquired by SP in Texas and Louisiana were merged.

In 1890, the Lutcher & Moore Lumber Co. was incorporated to own the Star & Crescent Mill and better organize their expanding enterprise. One component of the mill's operation was a logging tram built around that time running north-northwest from the mill into the nearby forest. The distance and precise route are unknown, but the main tram line was probably no more than ten miles long. The tram's path north from the mill required a crossing of the T&NO's tracks west of Orange, an area later platted as West Orange. As this was a decade before Texas' 1901 interlocker law that regulated crossings of two or more railroads, the one in West Orange was uncontrolled. Whether this was the first such crossing of a lumber tram and a trunk line railroad in Texas is undetermined, but there were many more to follow as railroads penetrated the forests of east Texas.

Left: This annotated image from the index of the 1909 Sanborn Fire Insurance Co. maps of Orange highlights Lutcher & Moore's Star and Crescent Mill located along a horseshoe bend in the Sabine River on the south side of Orange. The original mill became known as the "Upper Mill" in December, 1901 when Lutcher & Moore acquired a competitor, the L. Miller Lumber & Shingle Co., which they called the Lower Mill.

The Lower Mill had been owned by Leopold Miller, a prominent local businessman who had moved to Orange from Germany in 1881. Miller had opened a successful mercantile business and had become involved in local banking, giving him the resources to invest in a lumber mill. Soon after selling his mill to Lutcher & Moore, Miller became the first President of their Orange & Northwestern (O&NW) Railroad. Both mills were served by tracks of the O&NW. The Upper Mill was also served by the T&NO.

Below: This 1890 view of the Star and Crescent Mill shows a pier with railcars adjacent to the Sabine River. Logs floated down the river were branded upstream so they could be identified to specific mills when they reached Orange. (credit: Texas Transportation Archive)

By 1901, Lutcher and Moore had become unhappy with SP's service via the T&NO. Their mill was generating a substantial quantity of wood products, but SP was failing to supply enough railcars to satisfy demand for outbound shipments. Lutcher, Moore and local businessman Leopold Miller believed the solution was to build a rail line thirty miles northwest from Orange to Buna for a connection with the Gulf, Beaumont & Kansas City (GB&KC) Railway. This was attractive because the GB&KC had recently been acquired by the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railway system. Access to the Santa Fe would facilitate competition with SP for outbound shipments. A secondary objective was accessing logs for the mills from forests farther north. With this strategy, the Orange & Northwestern (O&NW) Railroad was chartered on January 14, 1901 to build from Orange to Buna. Lutcher & Moore's existing tram road to the northwest out of Orange was upgraded to become the first several miles of O&NW tracks. The thirty miles to Buna was completed in 1902. As to who was the president of the O&NW, sources differ; one has Leopold Miller while another cites Bedell Moore. Alexander Gilmer, a long-time lumberman of east Texas, was a Vice President of the O&NW. His shingle mill at Orange had burned just before the O&NW was founded and was not rebuilt, but several mills in the Orange area and along the route to Buna were served by the O&NW.

The construction to Buna required crossing the Texarkana & Fort Smith (T&FS) Railway which had completed their main line to Beaumont and Port Arthur from Texarkana in late 1897. Portions of the T&FS passed through Louisiana, and the final segment to Beaumont was an almost perfectly straight 47-mile track running southwest from DeQuincy, Louisiana. In 1900, the Kansas City Southern (KCS) Railway was chartered in Missouri to acquire various railroad assets out of foreclosure including the T&FS. Since Texas law required railroads owning tracks in the state to be headquartered in the state, the T&FS became the Texas-based subsidiary that owned KCS' tracks in Texas. Where the O&NW crossed the T&FS about ten miles northwest of Orange, the new town of Mauriceville was founded, named by Miller for his son, Maurice Miller. Having reached Mauriceville, why wasn't access to the KCS sufficient to establish competition with SP for shipments from the mills at Orange? The problem was that to the west, KCS went to Beaumont and no farther, but Beaumont was T&NO's next major stop west of Orange, on a substantially shorter route, with continuing service to Houston, San Antonio and beyond. To the north, SP and KCS both served Shreveport, but did not compete farther north (as the St. Louis Southwestern Railway, the "Cotton Belt", was not yet part of SP.) Simply put, KCS alone would have been insufficient competition to motivate changes to SP's railcar allocations or pricing at Orange since it did not serve any of Texas' major cities besides Beaumont.

The founding of the O&NW as a means to facilitate trunk line competition for SP was music to the ears of Benjamin Franklin ("B. F.") Yoakum, a pioneering Texas railroader who wanted to compete with SP across Texas and Louisiana. Eighteen years after he started his railroading career at age 20 on an International & Great Northern survey gang, Yoakum became the General Manager of the St. Louis - San Francisco ("Frisco") Railway in 1897. In 1905, Yoakum became Chairman of the Executive Committee of the newly combined Frisco and Rock Island railroads. As head of the Frisco, Yoakum had begun to execute his plan to accumulate and build out a diverse set of railroads, collectively called the Gulf Coast Lines (GCL), that would combine to form a continuous route from Brownsville to New Orleans, centered on Houston. For a segment of the GCL route from New Orleans to Houston, Yoakum negotiated rights to use KCS' tracks between DeQuincy, Louisiana and Beaumont. Since this segment included Mauriceville, Yoakum viewed the O&NW as a potential source of feeder traffic to the GCL. He bought it and built connecting tracks at Mauriceville, creating a direct route from Orange to New Orleans and Houston via the GCL, precisely the kind of competition for SP that the mills in Orange were seeking.

In 1906, Yoakum extended the O&NW 28 miles farther north from Buna to Newton, a small community deep in the forest near the Louisiana border. The extension appears to have served two purposes. The forests between Orange and Buna were beginning to thin out, hence the extension reached additional timber needed by the mills at Orange. And since Santa Fe's tracks at Buna continued north to Kirbyville, Jasper and beyond, there were few remaining towns of any size within a reasonable distance of the GCL at Mauriceville that did not already have rail service. Newton was the exception, having had a Post Office since 1853 and a private college since 1889. It was the county seat at the geographic center of Newton County, which had over 7,000 residents in the census of 1900. Presumably, Yoakum saw Newton and the surrounding county as ripe for population growth and increased commerce that the O&NW would stimulate.

Left: This view of Newton is a post card from the Murry Hammond collection, courtesy of the Texas Transportation Archives. A boxcar lettered "Frisco" can be seen directly adjacent to the O&NW depot in the background. With Yoakum having recently purchased the O&NW, it's not surprising to see the presence of cars belonging to the railroad he ran. The photo was taken in 1907, the year after the O&NW arrived in Newton. (published by Curt Teich & Co., Chicago)

Right: This 1913 map from the Louisiana Railroad Commission (with green and red ink lines hand-marked for an unknown purpose) shows the O&NW route between Orange and Buna with various locations identified. Near the Sabine River, the southern part of the Orange, Call & Pine Belt (OC&PB) private tram is also shown. Despite its appearance on a 1913 map, this narrow gauge tram operated in 1898-99 and not much beyond that, so far as is known.

The tram database of the Texas Forestry Museum includes this personal recollection of the O&NW:

W. E. Merrem, a Houston Oil Company executive, remembered that the road “was in bad shape. I rode it a number of times before we had automobiles and decent roads. It was really something to ride. They had no ballast on the roadbed, and it was so dusty you couldn't see from one end of the car to the other. It mostly handled sawmill products, which they picked up at Newton.”

Left: Historic rail lines in the vicinity of Orange are shown on this map. Since railroad names changed over time, the map does not represent any particular date. The interlockers in this area, identified by tower number, were at Beaumont (Towers 31, 32, 74 and 103), Port Arthur (Tower 120), Mauriceville (Tower 125) and Orange (Tower 11).

Only three track segments shown on the map are currently abandoned: the T&NO northwest of Beaumont, the entire Sabine and Neches Valley (S&NV), and the O&NW north of Buna. The Santa Fe line southwest from Beaumont ends where shown and is abandoned west of there, off the map.

Although 49 miles of former O&NW tracks north from Mauriceville to Newton were abandoned in 1963 by Missouri Pacific (MP), successor to the GCL, the right-of-way (ROW) between Mauriceville and Buna was acquired shortly thereafter by the Sabine River & Northern (SR&N) Railroad. The SR&N had begun a construction project to serve paper mills at Mulford and Mauriceville. The track to Mulford was built by SR&N in 1966, five miles north from the T&NO at Echo. In 1967, track-laying continued north and west from Mulford to Mauriceville, along with new tracks laid to Buna on the purchased ROW. In 1990, the SR&N opened an 8-mile line west to Evadale from a new junction on its existing track eleven miles north of Mauriceville.

The SR&N is owned by Temple-Inland, a packaging and building products company traditionally based in Diboll, Texas that became a wholly-owned subsidiary of International Paper in 2012. The SR&N functions like the classic "tap line" railroads of the early 1900s, i.e. a common carrier railroad founded by a wood products company used for moving raw materials to mills and finished products to trunk line interchanges. For the SR&N, these interchanges are at Evadale, Buna, Mauriceville and Echo.

The S&NV was chartered in 1921 as a tap line for the Peavy-Moore Lumber Co. which had a sawmill at Deweyville. The S&NV had connections to the KCS south of Deweyville and a connection to the O&NW at Gist. The sawmill burned in 1944 and the S&NV was abandoned the following year.

Only KCS and the SR&N still operate under the names presented on the map. The T&NO and the GCL lines, including the O&NW line south of Mauriceville, are now part of Union Pacific (UP). The Santa Fe lines are now part of Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) except the line east and north of Silsbee, which is operated by the Timber Rock Railroad.


The Tap Line Cases
The founding of the O&NW was a classic example of a tap line. A tap line was simply a chartered and incorporated common carrier railroad owned by a lumber company (or its closely related interests, e.g. management investors) that moved logs inbound to the mill and wood products outbound to interchanges with trunk line railroads, while also serving the population along the route. Tap lines evolved west of the Mississippi River. The West was larger and less populated, hence it had longer, but fewer, roads for wagon transportation. With increased distances to move logs to mills, timber companies found it more efficient to establish remote camps for logging teams rather than move personnel to and from the forest each day. This necessitated moving people and supplies by tram to isolated outposts that might otherwise be inaccessible due to the lack of roads. As communities of laborers, their families and enterprising merchants sprang up around the larger outposts, the tram lines serving these outposts became essential for basic transportation.

The western timber companies discovered a major benefit to chartering and incorporating their private logging trams to become tap lines. When common carrier railroads exchanged traffic, the revenue for the entire shipment was split using a negotiated division rate. As outbound wood products moved over a tap line to reach connections with trunk line railroads, the tap line received a share of the total revenue for the shipment, even if the movement was only a short distance from the mill. This produced additional income - allowances - to the tap line's owners. Tap lines with access to more than one trunk line had leverage to negotiate higher divisions and allowances by favoring the higher-paying connection. An allowance paid to a tap line from the shipping revenue on the output of their owner's mills was, in essence, a "kickback" from the trunk line, but it was legal. However, by accepting the benefits of common carrier status, the tap lines also accepted two significant legal obligations. They had to offer transportation services to the public without discrimination, and they had to set public tariffs and charge fees for their services.

It seems obvious that a railroad would charge a fee for its service, but logging trams owned by lumber companies had always hauled logs for free; a tram was just another component of the mill's operations. Private trams were not common carriers, but tap lines were. If a tap line was undercharging (or not charging) their mill to move inbound logs, then other nearby mills wanted the same rail service at the same price, and therein lay the origin of a major dispute heard by the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC). The ICC investigation began in 1909 covering more than one hundred tap line railroads in Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi. The ICC ruling, issued in April and May, 1912, analyzed the details of each of the tap lines and found that thirty of them did not qualify as common carriers. In the ICC's view, the service each of these tap lines was providing was a plant service, an inherent part of processing raw timber into products, rather than a true transportation service. Hence, they were not common carriers and therefore ineligible for allowances. The ICC ruling forbid trunk lines from making such payments to these tap lines.

The ICC ruling was appealed to the U. S. Commerce Court, a Federal Court created for the purpose of hearing appeals of opinions and orders issued by the ICC. [The Commerce Court was short-lived, created by the Mann-Elkins Act of June, 1910 and abolished by public law in December, 1913.] The Commerce Court determined that the ICC's ruling against the thirty tap lines needed to be remanded to be reevaluated under a proper reading of the law. The ICC's legal analysis had concluded that tap lines converted from private logging trams and still owned by their lumber companies failed to meet the criteria for common carriers, regardless of any evidence to the contrary. The Court ruled this to be legal error, pointing out that the Commodities Clause of the Hepburn Act of 1906 (above right) had specifically exempted "...timber and the manufactured products thereof..." from the law's general prohibition on railroads transporting products in which they had any direct or indirect financial interest (items needed by the railroad to function, e.g. fuel, water, supplies, employees, etc. were also exempted.) The ruling of the Commerce Court was appealed to the U. S. Supreme Court. The case was heard in April, 1914 and the Supreme Court affirmed the Commerce Court ruling in its entirety in an opinion issued the following month.

Below Right
: Although the ICC ruling did not affect the O&NW (as it had been owned by the GCL since 1905, an undisputed common carrier trunk line), O&NW management appeared as witnesses before the ICC at various hearings. In this hearing excerpt, ICC Examiner Coleman questioned Mr. Farwell, an O&NW executive.

Texas law requiring interlockers or gates for safety purposes at grade crossings of different railroads took effect in 1901. Soon, the Railroad Commission of Texas (RCT) began issuing orders prioritizing the crossings to be interlocked and the procedures for obtaining final approval for each interlocking plant installation. Low on the priority list (or more precisely, "not even on the list") was the issue of how to handle the many crossings throughout east Texas where a lumber tram crossed a trunk line railroad. Such crossings had existed for years and the railroads had accommodated them without issue since they were a necessary part of east Texas lumbering, an industry that provided profitable business to the railroads. Some lumber trams brought logs to a siding for a railroad to haul to the sawmill, but the larger lumber companies had vast networks of tram lines and they sometimes needed to cross a railroad for no other purpose than to simply get to the other side. Were these crossings somehow exempt from the interlocker law since they involved a tram instead of two common carrier railroads? It would take many years for RCT to sort out the answer, yet the safety issue was no different. To the extent there was any attempt by RCT to begin enforcing interlocker requirements for tram crossings, it appears to have begun with Tower 110 at Dayton in 1917 and Tower 111 at Trinity in 1919. In the 1920s, a few additional east Texas locations were interlocked: Hyatt, Devers, Cruse, Fullerton, and two crossings by the Grogan-Cochran Lumber Co. near Magnolia in the 1930s. Like other such crossings, the tram that ran northwest from the Star & Crescent Mill was not interlocked where it crossed the T&NO in West Orange. Yet, when the tram morphed into the O&NW in 1901, it became one of the first crossings to be interlocked as a result of the new law that took effect that same year.

Left: RCT's 1903 Annual Report (covering the 1902 calendar year) included a table of priority crossings to be addressed. It did not list the five interlockers approved in 1902; all subsequent reports listed all active interlockers by tower number plus those "Under construction." The first two entries in this table were for the O&NW crossings at Orange and "Maurice". The first column identifies the railroad seeking the crossing, a detail omitted from all subsequent reports. The difference in the Character of crossing between "Grade crossing" and "Grade interlocked" is unknown. Perhaps there were unapproved interlocking systems already installed at those labeled "Grade interlocked"? If so (see Tower A), such interlockers might have motivated the 1901 Texas Legislature to pass the law authorizing RCT to set and enforce crossing standards. [Note that the law also required RCT approval for grade-separated "Overhead crossings".] The composition of this table is a bit confusing since some interlockers were approved quickly in 1903, e.g. Waco, "College", Navasota and Orange, while others were delayed for many years, e.g. Mertens (c.1935) and "Maurice" (1929). The "Grade crossing" listed for Dallas is unknown, but was likely overtaken by Dallas Union Terminal.

RCT commissioned Tower 11 for operation at the T&NO / O&NW crossing at West Orange on June 27, 1903. It housed a 12-function mechanical interlocker, the minimum for a basic crossing consisting of a distant signal, a home signal and a derail in each of the four directions. RCT documentation states that the Tower 11 interlocker was installed by the T&NO but does not identify which manufacturer built the plant. A table published by RCT in 1907 lists an average of 21 movements per day past Tower 11 for the twelve months ending June 30, 1906. Although no photos of Tower 11 have surfaced, it is known to have been a manned tower (as opposed to a cabin interlocker) because "Train Order Office Hours" of 7:00 AM to 11:00 PM were published for Tower 11 in a 1920 SP timetable. Tower 11 was almost certainly a 2-story tower similar to other SP towers in Texas, e.g. Tower 32 located twenty miles to the west in Beaumont.

Through the end of 1929, Tower 11 continued to be listed in RCT documentation as a 12-function mechanical interlocker, but the final interlocker list published in RCT's 1931 Annual Report listed Tower 11 as an 8-function automatic interlocker. A letter in the RCT archives at DeGolyer Library, Southern Methodist University, issued by SP on June 29, 1931 notified RCT that the conversion of Tower 11 to an automatic interlocker had finally been completed. That this fact somehow was reported in a table dated December 31, 1930 is a bit problematic. There are two additional 1931 dates in this table (for Lubbock and Plainview) which may indicate that the 1931 report was published later in the year, and that the updates to the interlocker table did not include changing its date. The report itself is not dated, merely specifying "For the Year Ending December 31, 1930." The conversion of Tower 11 to an automatic plant was spurred by the end of operations at the Star & Crescent Mill, which closed in 1930. O&NW movements pasts the tower would be reduced since it was no longer carrying inbound logs nor outbound wood products for the Star & Crescent Mill, but the line remained operational by MP and continued to serve other mills. The reduction to eight functions undoubtedly reflects elimination of the derails. In an order issued May 1, 1930 for Tower 142 in Plainview, RCT stated that "...derails have caused as many or more accidents as they have prevented and the elimination of same from interlocking plants of all kinds has been recommended for the past several years by the American Railway Association...". Any interlocker installed or modified after May, 1930 would not have had derails.

Despite its appearance (as "Maurice") in RCT's list of priority interlockers in the 1903 Annual Report, Mauriceville did not obtain an RCT-approved interlocker until Tower 125 was commissioned in May, 1929. It was listed as a 10-function mechanical cabin interlocker. In general, cabin interlockers were so named because the plant and its controls were housed in a small, trackside hut ("cabin") with a locked door. The controls were operated by crewmembers from trains on the less busy line, with the signals otherwise set for unrestricted movements on the busier track at all times. Photographic evidence (see top of page) indicates that the Tower 125 interlocker and its controls were installed inside the Mauriceville depot rather than in a trackside cabin. Only ten rather than the traditional twelve functions of a minimum interlocker were required for a cabin interlocker because the two distant signals on the less busy line, in this case the O&NW, were omitted (derails were still required since this was a year prior to RCT's Plainview order.) There was no need for a distant signal to warn O&NW trains to stop at the crossing because all O&NW trains stopped at the crossing every time; a fixed sign at the appropriate distance in each direction provided sufficient notice of the approaching crossing to locomotive crews. O&NW trains needed to stop so that the signals could be manually set to allow them to cross the KCS tracks. Since the controls were inside the depot, it's likely that a station employee lined the signals once the O&NW stopped at the home signal (perhaps whistling to alert depot personnel.) Issuing a proceed signal for the O&NW would automatically issue a stop indication on the home and distant signals on the KCS tracks and invoke the derails. The signals and derails would be reversed once the O&NW train had completely crossed the diamond.

The commissioning date for Tower 125 suggests there was a delay in the process. Tower numbers were assigned by RCT when the initial application was made so that there would be a numbered file for all correspondence. Tower 125 would be expected to have been commissioned within a similar timeframe as the towers immediately before and after it. Tower 124 and Tower 126, both in south Ft. Worth, were commissioned in the fall and summer, respectively, of 1926, but it was two and half years later that Tower 125 was commissioned on May 2, 1929. By then, tower numbers in the 140 and higher range were being commissioned (e.g. Tower 150 at Eastland eleven days later on May 13, 1929.) The reasons for this delay have not been determined. Tower 125 was listed as "Under construction" in the 1927, 1928 and 1929 RCT Annual Reports.

Left: The Tower 11 interlocker made front page news in the Orange Daily Tribune of Friday afternoon, October 16, 1903 by derailing a locomotive, thereby fulfilling its safety mission. The mention of a "special train" along with a headline suggesting the interlocker was being "Tested by a Party of Southern Pacific Officials" conveys the idea that perhaps this train was, in fact, intentionally testing the derail. It makes sense that such tests might occur in the early days of Texas interlockers. That the test would be front and center Page One news might also have made sense in those days!

: A Google Earth view from 2019 shows the O&NW ROW still in use north of the Tower 11 crossing. To the south, 0.75 miles of track was abandoned in 2000 eliminating the diamond. Historic aerial imagery and topographic maps indicate that the apparent ROW southwest of the crossing was originally a levee but later (post-1959) had rails that remained visible as late as 1983. The ownership and purpose of those rails are undetermined.

Above: This annotated image shows the location of the Tower 11 crossing in West Orange. From there, the former O&NW line proceeded northwest toward Mauriceville. The former T&NO line runs mostly horizontal across the image from west (toward Beaumont) to east (toward New Orleans). The Lutcher & Moore mill site was farther east at the bend in the Sabine. RCT drawings on file at DeGolyer Library at SMU indicate that Tower 11 was located on the southwest side of the crossing.

: This annotated image shows the Tower 125 crossing at Mauriceville. MP integrated the GCL in 1925 and began operating its rights on KCS' tracks. North of Mauriceville, MP abandoned the tracks to Buna and beyond in 1963. The SR&N bought the abandoned ROW and laid new tracks to Buna in 1967, the year after construction of its line from Echo had begun. The Tower 125 interlocker was located in and controlled from the depot on the north side of the crossing. A 1956 KCS employee timetable listed the Mauriceville crossing as "Interlocked" but did not include "(Automatic)" as it did for some of the other crossings listed. It's likely that the crossing had been converted to an automatic interlocker by the mid-1960s. Though not apparent from this image, there remains an active connecting track in the eastern quadrant of the diamond. A crossing in the southern quadrant also existed from at least 1956 through the 1990s. Historic aerial imagery shows that it was removed between 1996 and 2004.


Above: Mark St. Aubin supplies this undated photo of the Mauriceville depot viewed along the KCS tracks toward Beaumont. Note the road in the distance behind the depot (now FM 1130). Below: 1960 image of the depot at Mauriceville (Mark Nerren collection) Above: Looking south-southeast, the Mauriceville depot fronted the north side of the KCS tracks, between the diamond and the trailer. Below: FM 1130 crosses the SR&N and runs behind the former depot site. (Google Street View images, June 2015)

Above: This bird's eye view of the Tower 11 crossing from c.2005 shows substantially disturbed earth, perhaps in preparation for the additional track that UP added through this junction. Compare this view with the satellite view from 2019 farther above. The tower was located approximately where the utility pole sits southwest of the crossing. The location remains to be field-checked for evidence of the tower's foundation, but the chances are slim since it was removed ~ 90 years ago.

: Looking southeast from Tulane Rd. along the former O&NW ROW, UP's tracks now curve to the east instead of crossing over at Tower 11 as they reach the main track, which is occupied by a UP train.

Last Revised: 11/29/2021 JGK - Contact the Texas Interlocking Towers Website.