Texas Railroad History - Tower 40 - Luling

A Crossing of the Galveston, Harrisburg & San Antonio Railroad and the San Antonio & Aransas Pass Railway

Above Left: Tower 40 (undated, Luling Oil Museum, hat tip Ronnie Lewis)              Above Right: Tower 40, relocated and repurposed (2011, Adrian Gutierrez)

As the Galveston, Harrisburg & San Antonio (GH&SA) Railroad built west from Columbus toward San Antonio, it reached the vicinity of Plum Creek in southern Caldwell County in 1874. During the brief period that it terminated there, nearby settlers began relocating to the vicinity of the railroad and the new town of Luling was formed, named for...well, nobody really knows for certain what it was named for! GH&SA construction continued west out of Luling in 1875, finally reaching San Antonio in 1877. A few years later, the GH&SA became affiliated with the Southern Pacific (SP) Railroad and years later was acquired and merged into SP's Texas-based operating unit, the Texas & New Orleans (T&NO) Railroad.

In 1889, the San Antonio & Aransas Pass (SA&AP) Railroad built a 54-mile branch line from Shiner to Lockhart, crossing the GH&SA in Luling. This crossing was interlocked on June 20, 1904, when Tower 40 was established with a 26-function mechanical interlocker. After various court battles over the next 20 years, SP finally acquired the SA&AP and merged it with GH&SA. Controlling both of the Tower 40 rail lines, SP retired the interlocker in 1931, and in 1933, the SA&AP line from Luling south to Shiner was abandoned.

Tower 40 (Jim King, 6 August 2005)                                                                                     Tower 40 (Google Street View, 2011)
Above: Within a few years after abandonment, Tower 40 was relocated a short distance south of the SP tracks and became a gas station at the corner of Mesquite St. and Pierce St. As of 2011, it was the home of E&R Tire Service, and as of 2020 it's reported to be abandoned. It remains one of the few Texas interlocking towers still standing today.

Above: This 1929 Sanborn Fire Insurance index map has been annotated to highlight the Tower 40 rail crossing on the west side of Luling. Below: The Chief Engineer's office for the Missouri Kansas Texas (MKT) Railroad maintained a reference library of track charts for most major railroad junctions in Texas, even those, such as Luling, which did not involve the MKT. The Luling chart, dated 1915, shows water columns and pipes, station locations, and a coal chute, among other details. (courtesy Ed Chambers)

Below: This image from the 1929 Sanborn map shows Tower 40 located in the southwest quadrant of the crossing. The lettering beneath the tower is not legible, but appears to have been "Railroad Tower".

Left: The 1941 Sanborn index map shows that Mesquite was the name of the north/south street adjacent to and slightly east of the crossing. Note also that by 1941, the route of the ex-SA&AP south of the crossing was abandoned (1933), but the northerly segment to Lockhart was still intact. It was abandoned by T&NO in 1942.

Right: The Tower 40 structure was relocated a few dozen yards south of the crossing and became part of a gas station. The 1941 Sanborn map shows a "Filling Sta" located on the corner of Mesquite St. and Pierce St. The "2" indicates that the back of the station structure had two stories, and this is where we see Tower 40 today.

It is interesting to note that "S. Railroad" became "Pierce" sometime between 1929 and 1941. This is presumably another manifestation of the spelling controversy regarding the last name of Thomas W. Peirce, spelled "ei", not "ie". Peirce was a very successful businessman and a major landowner in Texas (owning 700,000 acres at the time of his death in 1885.) Peirce was an original investor in the GH&SA and was selected to drive the "silver spike" in January, 1883 when two sections of the GH&SA were joined near the Pecos River to complete the southern transcontinental route between New Orleans and Los Angeles. He is the namesake for Pierce Junction (spelled "ie") where Tower 134 was located. See the Tower 134 page for an explanation of why the incorrect spelling of his name is used.

Last Revised: 3/20/2021 JGK - Contact the Texas Interlocking Towers Page.