Texas Railroad History - Tower 22 - Dallas

Crossing of the Texas & Pacific Railway and the Gulf, Colorado & Santa Fe Railway

Left: In October, 1930, Sherman Mills Fairchild took 93 aerial photographs of the Dallas area commissioned by the city. This snippet from one image shows the crossing at Tower 22. The poor resolution hides the details of the structure, but the shadow (below, outlined in green) cast by the tower to the northeast reveals its location directly beside the diamond. To whatever extent this might be considered an image of Tower 22, it's the only one found so far.

The Texas & Pacific (T&P) Railway was chartered by Congress in 1871 with instructions to build a transcontinental railroad from Marshall, Texas to San Diego, California. The complex history behind the T&P involves two predecessor companies essentially destroyed by the Civil War, state charters, land grants, land grants revoked and a host of other issues. Author and noted railroad historian S. G. Reed in A History of the Texas Railroads (St. Clair Publishing, 1941) spends seven pages just getting to the basic construction of two parallel lines and one connector that comprised the early T&P. The parallel lines were from Texarkana to Sherman and from Marshall to Dallas; the connector was between Texarkana and Marshall. In August, 1873, Dallas celebrated the arrival of the first T&P train from Marshall, and four months later, Sherman celebrated the December arrival of the first train from Texarkana.

The T&P came into Dallas on a due west heading along a right-of-way (ROW) granted by the city that became Pacific Ave. At the west end of downtown, construction stopped as T&P faced the task of crossing the Trinity River and its wide floodplain. The substantial livestock shipping business that quickly materialized motivated the railroad to bridge the river. The cattle were coming from the west and had to ford the river to reach the downtown railhead, which had insufficient land for stock pens to accommodate the volume of business available. To solve this problem, T&P built a bridge across the Trinity to Eagle Ford in 1874 and established new livestock facilities.

T&P had not been the first railroad to enter Dallas; that honor belonged to the north/south Houston & Texas Central (H&TC) Railway. It became controlled by Southern Pacific (SP) in 1883 and was subsequently leased to SP's Texas & New Orleans (T&NO) Railroad in 1927, but it was an independent railroad in 1872 when its tracks finally entered Dallas. "Finally", because the construction had begun in Houston in 1856 and had been delayed for many years due to the Civil War and its aftermath. Dallas was not the final destination; the H&TC would continue north to complete its line to the Red River at Denison. Hoping to capitalize on Dallas' prospects as a two-railroad city, investors began to look at building rails in other directions. Cleburne, about fifty miles southwest, was viewed as a prime opportunity. It had become the seat of Johnson County a few years earlier and was experiencing rapid population growth.

The first effort to build to Cleburne was chartered as the narrow gauge Dallas & Cleburne Railroad Co. in 1876, but capital was difficult to raise and no construction work was performed. The company was reorganized into the Dallas, Cleburne & Rio Grande Railway Co. in July, 1879, but this effort similarly failed to attract investors. In September, 1880, a new charter was issued for a standard gauge rail line to Cleburne to be known as the Chicago, Texas & Mexican Central Railway Co. (CT&MC). The new charter included authorization to extend the CT&MC northeast from Dallas to Paris, a provision the previous charters lacked. The construction to Cleburne occurred in 1881, and local newspapers announced the first train from Dallas in January, 1882. By then, the CT&MC was essentially bankrupt, and they had difficulty getting their telegraph lines completed because of failure to pay their contractor. The lack of cash also caused the CT&MC to be very slow to correct issues identified by the inspector from the Railroad Commission of Texas (RCT), a requirement of their state charter.

Despite its poor financial shape, the CT&MC was able to connect at Cleburne with the Gulf, Colorado & Santa Fe (GC&SF) Railway and begin earning revenue from passenger and freight service. The GC&SF tracks had reached Cleburne only two months earlier as part of a main line under construction from Temple to Fort Worth. It did not take long for rumors to spread that the GC&SF would come to the rescue of the CT&MC as a means of gaining a route into Dallas. As the primary railroad serving the Port of Galveston, the GC&SF was expanding aggressively under its President, George Sealy, who had solved its fiscal woes through some clever financial moves in 1879. The Fort Worth Daily Democrat of March 3, 1882 reported "...that the company proposes to clear the road of debt, and that negotiations on that basis are going on with the Gulf, Colorado and Santa Fe for the Chicago, Texas and Mexican Central."

With much greater intrigue, rumors about the GC&SF and the CT&MC had surfaced several weeks earlier. An Ennis Review story had weaved a few facts with some rank speculation to allege a conspiracy among the GC&SF, the H&TC and the CT&MC to "out-flank" rail baron Jay Gould. Gould had gained control of two major Texas railroads, the T&P and the International & Great Northern (I&GN), and a third, the Missouri, Kansas & Texas (MK&T, "Katy"), that came south from Kansas, crossed the Red River at Denison, and had begun to expand farther into Texas. Gould leased all three to his Missouri Pacific (MP) Railroad which had tracks to St. Louis from Texarkana. The rumored plot centered on building to Paris to meet the St. Louis - San Francisco ("Frisco") Railway which had begun construction from Missouri southwest through Ft. Smith, Arkansas to the town of Hugo in Indian Territory (Oklahoma.) At Hugo, the Frisco planned to bridge the Red River and proceed fifteen miles south to Paris. A Santa Fe or H&TC branch to Paris would give St. Louis and Kansas City traffic a faster route to or from most Texas destinations compared to the Katy's route through Denison, a possibility that alarmed the Gould syndicate.

The GC&SF didn't serve Dallas, a problem solved by acquiring the CT&MC with its authorization to build to Paris (truly the only reason it was a player in this intrigue.) Reportedly, the CT&MC had begun surveying "...between Dallas and Paris for the location of depots." (Dallas Weekly Herald, December 29, 1881.) The San Marcos Free Press of January 26, 1882 added a bigger claim, that... "Five miles of grading from Dallas toward Paris are completed, and the line is located as far as Farmersville -- forty-two miles. Two hundred men are now employed on the the line northeast of Dallas ... and the road will be rapidly pushed through to Paris where it is to form a junction with the St. Louis & San Francisco road..." This construction activity attributed to a financially ailing CT&MC seems an implausible rumor...unless, of course, the GC&SF was funding it.

Left: North Texas railroads c. 1900; between 1902 and 1930, interlockers numbered and authorized by RCT were commissioned for operations at numerous towns, and there were several in Dallas and Ft. Worth

Since the GC&SF charter didn't authorize construction to Paris, any such work (if it actually existed) would need to be done officially by the CT&MC. The Ennis Review had claimed the existence of a secret arrangement between the two railroads dating back to the spring of 1881 in which they agreed to split the cost of building a line to Paris. Both railroads would have the right to operate there from Cleburne and Dallas, and they would share profits made over the line. Conjecture says the agreement was never finalized because Gould got wind of it. More likely, it was because the GC&SF realized that the CT&MC didn't have the finances to sustain itself long enough for the plan to be realized. As the CT&MC had amassed a large construction debt and was still months away from reaching Cleburne, the GC&SF could acquire it easily at the right time.

Paris was the prize in this competition (which seems very odd today; among the six sets of tracks that eventually entered Paris, only one still exists, with intermittent service from Hugo.)  Gould's T&P already served Paris on a line from Texarkana to Ft. Worth via Sherman. Gould began to examine the possibility of taking over the Frisco to be able to control the Paris gateway. Meanwhile, H&TC investors decided they would start a branch from their main line south of Dallas (near Ennis) to run northeast to Paris. They had already chartered the Texas Central (TC) Railway in 1879 to build a northwest branch into the Texas Panhandle. With foresight of the long term potential, the TC charter had included rights to build a northeast branch to Paris. Construction on this branch began near Ennis in 1882 and reached Kaufman and Terrell before the TC went into a lengthy receivership. As part of the TC's reorganization, the branch toward Paris was sold off and completed by the Texas Midland Railroad in the 1890s.

The GC&SF proceeded to buy the CT&MC, gaining tracks to Dallas and the right to build to Paris. The property officially transferred on August 1, 1882. While this was a good, strategic move for the GC&SF, it did nothing to solve their biggest problem: they were entirely dependent upon Texas commerce. Unless the GC&SF could find a partner to stimulate traffic with out-of-state markets, they were destined to become subservient to the bigger railroads in Texas. The obvious suitor was the much larger Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe (AT&SF) Railway which viewed Galveston as an attractive port for agriculture exports from the high plains. The GC&SF main line from Ft. Worth to Galveston would be a boon to AT&SF (which had no operations in Texas) if the two railroads could establish an appropriate interchange point. Negotiations resulted in an 1886 agreement under which the AT&SF would acquire the GC&SF on favorable terms if the GC&SF completed three construction projects within a year, specifically: a main line from Ft. Worth to Purcell, Indian Territory (to meet the AT&SF building south from Kansas); an extension from Dallas to Paris (to connect with the Frisco); and a branch from Cleburne to Weatherford (for a shortcut to west Texas via the T&P, bypassing Ft. Worth.) The GC&SF was able to lay 300 miles of track in one year to complete all of these projects. The acquisition proceeded as planned in 1887 and the GC&SF began operating as a wholly-owned subsidiary of the AT&SF.

The T&P and Santa Fe lines crossed east of downtown Dallas where Tower 22 was commissioned on August 18, 1903 as a 12-function mechanical interlocker. This function count indicates a minimal interlocking plant consisting of a home signal, a distant signal and a derail in each of the four directions. According to RCT's 1906 traffic report, none of the average 23 trains per day past Tower 22 during the twelve months ending June, 1906 were counted as switching movements, i.e. all of them were trains heading into or out of Dallas. In October, 1906, the function count was reported to have increased to sixteen, most likely the addition of a switch and a signal at each end of the transfer track in the northwest quadrant behind the tower.

Left: This 1905 Sanborn Fire Insurance map (oriented with northwest "up") shows the
tower trackside at the diamond in the same quadrant as the transfer track. Under magnification (below), the rectangle that depicts the tower is labeled "2 Switch Tower" (indicating a 2-story structure) with two small 'X' symbols to indicate a wooden roof and frame.

The transfer track appears on the 1899 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map of Dallas, yet it did not account for any switching movements in the 1906 report even though Santa Fe's yard was only a short distance southwest of the crossing. Was the transfer track used for some kind of routing that only affected through trains? It could send southbound trains off the Santa Fe line into downtown, but they could not reach the Santa Fe passenger depot in that direction. They could, however, reach the H&TC and T&P passenger stations, but there's no likelihood that either railroad had passenger service over the Santa Fe line to Paris. The 1898 Official Railway Guide (ORG) has Frisco timetables listing St. Louis - Dallas passenger service via Paris that continued to Cleburne and numerous other towns on the Santa Fe main line south of Ft. Worth. This service was undoubtedly operated by Santa Fe through an exchange of cars at Paris, hence the Santa Fe depot would have been used in Dallas.

There were two situations where other railroads used Santa Fe's Paris line. The St. Louis Southwestern ("Cotton Belt") established a track-sharing arrangement with Santa Fe in the summer of 1898 that allowed the Cotton Belt to serve Dallas from Wylie, where its line from Commerce to Ft. Worth crossed Santa Fe's line. In exchange, Santa Fe served Sherman over the Cotton Belt tracks from Wolfe City, a town on the Paris line farther north. But the Cotton Belt is known to have used the Santa Fe depot in Dallas as this was before they laid their own tracks into downtown and built a passenger depot.

The Louisiana & Arkansas (L&A) also had service into Dallas on Santa Fe's Paris line from Farmersville, where L&A's line from Greenville crossed. The depot they used is undetermined; at best it was one daily passenger train each way, hardly worthy of constructing a transfer track at the T&P crossing. In later years, the transfer track was used for switching movements, but its original purpose remains undetermined. Perhaps the 1906 report was simply in error.

Left: The January 16, 1903 edition of Railroad Gazette announced that T&P had ordered four Union Switch & Signal 12-lever interlocking plants to be installed at: Tower 18 -- a crossing of the St. Louis Southwestern Railway at Hodge in Ft. Worth; Tower 20 -- a Katy crossing at Bells; Tower 28 -- a crossing of the Texarkana & Ft. Smith Railway (owned by Kansas City Southern) south of Texarkana; and Tower 22. Purchasing the interlocking plant confirms that T&P was responsible for the design and construction of Tower 22.

By rule, since the Tower 22 crossing existed prior to the 1901 state law that gave RCT responsibility for railroad grade crossing safety, Santa Fe and T&P split the tower's capital costs equally. For new crossings established after 1901, the second railroad to arrive at the crossing (thus creating it) was responsible for the full capital expenditure for the tower and interlocker. Regardless of how the capital costs were divided, the railroads would share the operations and maintenance (O&M) costs typically based on the percentage of the interlocking functions assigned to their tracks. The recurring O&M costs at Tower 22 were most likely split 50/50 since for a normal 12-function mechanical plant, each line would have half of the interlocker functions.

T&P having designed and built Tower 22, it is no surprise that RCT listed them with the operations responsibility when this information was first published in 1916. This was the common approach; the company that designed the tower and managed the construction usually staffed it. This was probably the arrangement preferred by RCT since it precluded the railroads from "finger pointing" about design vs. operations if there was a safety incident attributable to the tower; one railroad was clearly in charge. The railroads were free to negotiate their cost sharing and staffing arrangements, but they usually had no incentive to deviate from the guidelines favored by RCT (and RCT could issue binding orders if necessary.) It was not unusual for the cost sharing percentages to vary over time as interlocking functions were added and removed. In rare instances, the staffing responsibility might be swapped due to a significant change in traffic flow or a decline in the financial condition of a railroad. The busier railroad always preferred to have staffing responsibility since they would suffer the biggest impact from inadequate O&M staffing.

Spurred by the massive Trinity River flood of 1908, Dallas undertook significant efforts to refine its infrastructure to make the city more livable and to mitigate potential damage from the next flood. Among many changes affecting railroads, the T&P tracks on Pacific Ave. would be relegated to secondary status by late 1920 in favor of a main line bypass south of downtown, part of what became known as the Dallas Belt Line. Eventually, the T&P tracks would be completely removed from Pacific Ave., although doing so would take decades since there were numerous businesses served by rail. This reduced traffic through Tower 22 which was located on the far east end of Pacific Ave. Although evidence has not surfaced, this could also have resulted in a swap of staffing responsibility since the reduction in T&P movements would have tilted the traffic count heavily toward Santa Fe.

Left: To bypass downtown, T&P used the Belt Line between T&P Junction and Forest Ave., and the Katy tracks between Forest Ave. and Tower 106. This route opened in late 1920, immediately reducing traffic through Tower 22 and increasing traffic through Tower 19 where previously, T&P trains would have been a rare sight. The T&P tracks between Tower 22 and Tower 106 were relegated to secondary status, functioning as an industry track to serve remaining businesses.

The towers at
Belt Jct. (118) and T&P Jct. (119) opened in 1926 when the Belt Line was completed from T&P Jct. to Gifford. This extension passed over the Santa Fe tracks northeast of Tower 22 and passed under the Katy tracks east of Tower 35. SP freight trains began using the Belt Line, relegating the original main line to secondary status for service to businesses. To access Union Station, SP passenger trains took the Katy tracks (Tower 35 to Forest Ave.) and the Belt Line (Forest Ave. to Belt Jct.) The rerouting of SP trains caused an immediate traffic reduction at Tower 10 where the Santa Fe and SP lines crossed a mile southwest of Tower 22.

On  July 23, 1932, RCT received a proposal from Santa Fe to move the diminished responsibilities of Tower 10 into Tower 19. On September 28, 1932, RCT's Engineering Dept. recommended the proposal be approved by the Commission. RCT's Tower 19 file archived at DeGolyer Library, Southern Methodist University, contains references to Interlocker10-19, but this may have been shorthand notation for the fact that the Tower 10 interlocker became controlled from Tower 19, not that they were functionally integrated into a combined plant. The file also includes a 1961 reference to "Interlockers No. 10 and 22" which implies that the Tower 22 interlocker was still functional, undoubtedly by remote control. The lifespan of Tower 22 remains undetermined although the reduction in traffic would have motivated the railroads to propose its closure, converting the interlocking plant to remote control, most likely from Tower 19. It is not surprising that the structure does not appear on 1956 aerial imagery (
below, (c) historicaerials.com); it had likely been closed and removed perhaps twenty years earlier.

In 1990, the Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) system purchased Santa Fe's yard and much of its trackage from Tower 22 through southwestern Dallas County toward Midlothian. The former Santa Fe yard near Tower 22 is now DART's light rail maintenance facility and portions of the ROW were used for DART's Red Line into southwest Dallas. For many years, the T&P tracks in the vicinity of Tower 22 were out of service. DART used a portion of this ROW to construct a light rail line to southeast Dallas, hence the DART Green Line line now passes the site of Tower 22. The Santa Fe ROW northeast of Tower 22 has become the Santa Fe Trail. Between the former crossing and the DART facility to the southwest, the Santa Fe ROW has not been preserved. Portions have been reclaimed for other uses and at least one building blocks it entirely.

Above Left: This aerial photo of the site of Tower 22 taken during the construction of Interstate 20 in the 1960s (now I-30) shows a string of cars on the exchange track adjacent to the diamond, with what appears to be an isolated clump of trees located near the tracks. The photo's view is roughly east, with the T&P line passing left-to-right across the image and the Santa Fe line diagonally from upper left to lower right. Both of the equipment cabinets marked on the 1956 image are visible. Above Right: This photo from c.1999 looks generally north. Tracks on the former T&P ROW remain intact but out of service. The gravel marks the path of the Santa Fe ROW across the site of the Tower 22 diamond. (Jim King photo) Below: These views northeast along the Santa Fe ROW were taken from Commerce St. in 1999 (left, Jim King photo) and 2022 (right, Google Street View.) At the back of the Texas Ice House, tracks on the T&P ROW are visible in the 1999 view, but only a hint of the DART tracks is visible in the 2022 image.

Below: This Google Street View image from June, 2023 looks northwest from the vicinity of Tower 22. The DART Green Line tracks are to the left, occupying the original T&P ROW. The Santa Fe Trail comes in from the right along the original GC&SF ROW. The camera is on a side trail that provides access to the main trail from nearby streets. The back of the Texas Ice House is to its immediate left. Tower 22 would have been visible in the foreground, on the trail, between the tracks and the storm drain. The building beside the DART tracks is seen under construction at the left edge of the 2022 image above.

Last Revised: 8/17/2023 JGK - Contact the Texas Interlocking Towers Page.