Texas Railroad History - Tower 39 - Kaufman

A Crossing of the Texas & New Orleans Railway and the Texas Midland Railroad

Tower 39 was established in 1904 on the north side of the town of Kaufman at a crossing of the Texas Midland Railroad and the Texas & New Orleans (T&NO) Railway. The first railroad to reach the town was the Texas Trunk Railroad which arrived in 1881 from Dallas. The Trunk's objective was to build from Dallas to Beaumont, but the railroad went into receivership shortly after reaching Kaufman, only 36 miles from Dallas. Thus began a lengthy saga involving ownership and receivership of the Texas Trunk that was not ultimately resolved until 1899 when the Legislature passed a law transferring ownership of the Texas Trunk to the Texas & New Orleans Railway. The law required the T&NO to complete the line between Dallas and Beaumont by connecting the Texas Trunk to an existing T&NO line running north from Beaumont to Rockland.

During the years that the Texas Trunk remained mostly a dead end at Kaufman, a second railroad came to town and had a similar fate. The Texas Central Railroad had been chartered to build from the Houston and Texas Central main line at Ennis to a connection with the St. Louis - San Francisco Railroad at Paris. Constructing east and north from Ennis, the railroad entered Kaufman in 1883. It reached Roberts, 19 miles south of Greenville, by 1885 when construction was halted and the company went into receivership. The two railroads into Kaufman were both bankrupt, but they continued operating in receivership providing important transportation resources for local farmers, merchants and citizens. In 1895, Wall Street financier Hetty Green purchased the Texas Central and renamed it the Texas Midland. Her young son, Edward H. R. Green, was sent to run the railroad and he settled in nearby Terrell as the line was completed to Paris in 1897.

Tower 39 was established in June, 1904 as a mechanical interlocker with ten functions. It probably saw steady traffic until 1928 when the Texas Midland was sold to the T&NO by "Colonel" Green (a title gained by an honorary appointment from the Texas governor in 1910; Green used his new title until his death in 1936 -- his estate was claimed by Texas and other states in a case that was eventually settled by the U.S. Supreme Court!). The sale of the Texas Midland put the tower under exclusive control of the T&NO which elected to formally retire its operation. It is not known how the T&NO managed controls at this crossing after 1928, but by this time, electric remote control of switches was common, and the crossing was only 8/10ths of a mile north of the T&NO depot. The former Texas Midland gradually became superfluous to other T&NO (Southern Pacific) routes and it was abandoned in phases. The line south of Kaufman was gone by 1942, and the route to the north was abandoned in 1958. Operations continued on the T&NO line between Dallas and Beaumont until the 1980s when it was mostly abandoned. 

This T&NO track chart from the T&NO Archives shows the acute angle crossing of the two railroads in Kaufman. Tower 39 was likely
located somewhere within the triangle at far left (north). Note the connecting track which allowed movements between Dallas and points
north on the Texas Midland.

Tower 39 Satellite Images (from Microsoft Virtual Earth)
Above left: The tree lines mark the merging northbound paths of the Texas Midland (left) and T&NO (right) railroads approaching their crossing just
off the top of this bird's eye view of the Tower 39 site. The visible abandoned foundation is not likely to be the tower's foundation; it looks larger than one
would expect for a tower footprint and appears too "new" for a concrete foundation abandoned in the 1930s. The telephone poles at the left edge of the
image are associated with a road that runs along this property line. But, there are three telephone poles visible along the T&NO right-of-way that were
probably associated with the railroad.
Above right, this satellite view shows the lines diverging rapidly to the north after their acute angle crossing.

Tower 39 Map

Last Revised: 1/17/2009 JGK - Contact the Texas Interlocking Towers Page.