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.
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 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.