Texas Railroad History - Tower 13 - Houston (Eureka Junction)

Crossing of the Missouri-Kansas-Texas, the Houston & Texas Central, and the Galveston, Harrisburg & San Antonio railroads

Historic Photo, Tower 13

Above: A photo of Tower 13 from Southern Pacific Railroad in Eastern Texas  by David M. Bernstein [Arcadia Publishing, 2011].

Tower 13 was authorized for service in the summer of 1903, but it may have already existed for a decade. It was located on the northwest side of Houston at the west end of the Missouri-Kansas-Texas (MKT) Railroad's Eureka Yard which had been a major rail junction since 1893 when the MKT (a.k.a "the Katy") entered Houston from the west. Eureka Yard was built just east of the Katy's crossing of the Houston & Texas Central (H&TC) Railroad's main line from Houston to Dallas, one of the oldest rail lines in the state. Tower 13 was built to control this crossing and was officially opened on July 4, 1903. It was a 16-function electrical plant built by Taylor Signal Co.

In 1914, the H&TC built a 9-mile connecting line south from Tower 13 to West Junction on the Sunset Route, a major route to the west coast owned by Southern Pacific (SP), which also owned the H&TC and other railroads in Texas. This new connector provided an alternate route for trains on the Sunset Route to access downtown Houston. And while it also allowed west coast trains headed to or from the midwest via Dallas or Texarkana to pass along the west side of Houston, avoiding SP's yards, this became a secondary function as the Dalsa Cutoff was built at the same time to completely bypass Houston. Three years later, the Galveston, Harrisburg and San Antonio (GH&SA) railroad, another SP road, built a line paralleling the H&TC line from Chaney Junction (Tower 14) to West Junction via Tower 13. Chaney Junction was approximately 3 miles east of Tower 13 on the H&TC line. This provided double track between Chaney Junction, Tower 13 and West Junction, and permitted the GH&SA to abandon its original line that ran between Stella (near Pierce Junction) and Chaney Junction via Tower 12.

Tower 13 gradually assumed additional control responsibilities as various nearby crossings were modified to become remotely controlled interlockers. In 1941, an unnumbered interlocker controlled by Tower 13 was established at Boulevard Junction, between Tower 13 and Chaney Junction on the H&TC line, for a spur running north into the Houston Heights area. At the same time, an unnumbered interlocker was established at West Junction and control was given to the Tower 13 operator. In the late 1940s, Tower 13 took control of a new interlocker at Bellaire Junction (Tower 104), between Tower 13 and West Junction. In 1966, the functions of Tower 13 were transferred to Tower 26.

All of the railroads involved in Tower 13 eventually became part of Union Pacific (UP). The Katy line is abandoned west of Tower 13 and east of Eureka Yard, so only a small portion of the original right-of-way still has tracks. The H&TC lines are still in use southeast to downtown and northwest to Hempstead, and the dual lines (H&TC/GH&SA) to West Junction are also intact. The precise date that Tower 13 was razed or relocated is unknown.

Tower 13 Site Photos

Above and Below: Two automatic interlocking cabins, one with "13" on the side, are visible next to a call box on a power pole. The upper photo faces northwest on the SP line toward Hempstead; the lower photo faces due west on the Katy. [Stephen Hesse photos c. 1983]

Below: Facing due west on the Katy, this c.1996 photo shows that the cabins have been removed, replaced by a 'Tower 13' sign on the power pole; the call box remains intact. The abandoned Katy right-of-way is visible in the distance as the tracks curve to the south toward West Junction.
[photo by Bob Smith]

Track Chart, Eureka Jct. (courtesy, T&NO Archives)

Above: This T&NO track chart of Eureka Jct. has been rotated so that south is 'up'. The location of the tower is depicted by small square at the MKT crossing of the T&NO.

Satellite Image, Tower 13 Location

Below: Two UP trains negotiate the maze of tracks at Tower 13.

Last Revised: 6/18/2019 JGK - Contact the Texas Interlocking Towers Page.