Texas Railroad History - Tower 16 - Sherman

Crossing of the Texas & Pacific Railway, the Houston & Texas Central Railroad, and the St. Louis - San Francisco (Frisco) Railroad

Tower 16 officially began its career on July 18, 1903 when it was authorized for operation by the Railroad Commission of Texas. It was retired from service on October 23, 2001 some 98 years after it began operation in Sherman. Tower 16 protected the crossing of three lines: the Texas and Pacific (T&P) line from Sherman to Texarkana (built 1873-1876); the Houston and Texas Central (H&TC) line from Dallas to Denison (built 1873); and the St. Louis - San Francisco (Frisco) line from Denison to Irving (built 1901-1902). Historically, Tower 16 was operated by the H&TC (later Southern Pacific). SP sold the line from Denison to South Sherman Jct. to Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) in 1993, and operations of Tower 16 became BNSF responsibility. BNSF had bought the Frisco several years earlier. The Texas Northeastern (TNER) short line railroad now controls the remnants of the former T&P line which became part of Missouri Pacific and eventually Union Pacific. At its closure, Tower 16 controlled the BNSF line from the south side of the Red River bridge north of Denison to South Sherman Junction. South Sherman Junction is the location of the split between the ex-SP line (toward Dallas) and the former Frisco (towards Carrollton) lines. BNSF received approval from Federal regulators to retire the entire signal system controlled by Tower 16. But to do so, the diamond at the crossing in Sherman would have to be removed.

Left: Tower 16 late in the day on October 23, 2001 after it had been closed and boarded up.  Photo by Charles Allen

To permit removal of the diamond and closure of the tower, a new connector track was installed in the northwest quadrant of the tower. This complemented the existing connector tracks in the northeast quadrant and southeast quadrants. Operationally, the BNSF line is now under track warrant control from Denison to Irving. Instead of the TNER getting a signal from Tower 16 to cross the diamond, now TNER crews must get a track warrant via radio from the BNSF Madill Sub dispatcher to utilize either leg of the wye to permit their movements "across" the BNSF main. Although this sound cumbersome, it seem to be working well because usually the TNER crews can get a large block of time between BNSF trains.

For about 2 months prior to closure, signal and construction gangs had been working in the Sherman/Denison areas to prepare for the closure. On October 23, 2001, a signal and construction crew started work at 8:00 am. They first removed the diamond adjacent to the tower. Next they placed a new switch into position just north of the tower, activating the new connector track. A little after 9:00am, they knocked down signal Number 4, still showing red when it went down. Signal Number 3 was next. Both signals had to be removed to make room for the switch at the new connector track. The switch machines remotely controlled by Tower 16 were replaced by hand throw switches. About 11:00 am a contractor began the process of boarding up the tower. By 3:00 pm, when the second trick operator arrived for work, the tower was closed.





Tower 16 as it appeared in the final years of operation. Note the distinctive circular pattern of the siding material
between the floors, common to many SP towers (e.g. Tower 17, Tower 41, Tower 81, etc.)  Photo by Jim King.

Above: Looking East toward Paris at the tower in May, 1991.                               Above: South side of the tower.
Below: To the right is the BNSF main north toward Denison. To the left is the
TNER main west toward the T&P depot (all four photos by Myron Malone)          Below: Tower 16, December 1981, with semaphore still in use

Above: undated photo of Tower 16 from the collection of Mark Nerren
Below: The City of Sherman provides this photo of Tower 16 taken in the 1940s, with Sherman Union Depot at right.

Tower 16 Photos From Don Harper
                 view from the tower looking south                                                                south side of the tower                                                                                      a friend of Don's at the crossing

Historic Location Map, Tower 16

Above: This map captures the site of Tower 16 after its removal. The north/south BNSF line is easily seen with connecting tracks
in three of the four quadrants. Cars are visible in the TNER yard west of the former crossing.

Tower 16 Preservation Efforts
Tower 16 was cut in two pieces (between the floors) and relocated to Grapevine, Texas near the Cotton Belt Depot that serves as the Grapevine
visitor's center. The tower has since been reattached and repainted, and now sits in a parking lot adjacent to the tracks at 709 South Main St.

Current Location, Tower 16

Above: Tower 16 is visible in a parking lot of the Grapevine Vintage Railroad on the southwest corner of the Main St. crossing of
the former Cotton Belt tracks. The Cotton Belt depot is visible across Main St., north of the tracks.

Last Revised: 2/12/2018 JGK - Contact the Texas Interlocking Towers Page.