Texas Railroad History - Tower 42 - Texarkana

A Crossing of the St. Louis - Southwestern, the Texas & Pacific, and the Texarkana & Ft. Smith railroads

The area now known as Texarkana has been a major transportation junction for hundreds of years. Indian tribes used a trail passing through the area to move between the Mississippi River and the desert southwest. In 1873, the Texas & Pacific (T&P) Railway laid out the Texas side of the town, shortly before a rail connection was established with the Cairo and Fulton Railroad that had built across Arkansas. The T&P was operating under a Federal charter to build a railroad across Texas, and it acquired two other dormant railroads in 1872 to get started. In 1873, the T&P completed main lines between Texarkana and Marshall, Marshall and Dallas, and Texarkana and Sherman.

Another railroad entered Texarkana when the Texas & St. Louis narrow gauge railroad completed a line from Tyler to Texarkana in 1880. This line was eventually converted to standard gauge and became part of the St. Louis - Southwestern (SSW) Railway, commonly known as the Cotton Belt.

In 1885, the newly chartered Texarkana & Northern Railroad built ten miles of rail north from Texarkana to the Red River for logging purposes. This line was later acquired by the Kansas City, Pittsburg and Gulf (KCP&G) Railroad, led by Arthur Stilwell, to form a part of the main line he was building from Kansas City to the Gulf of Mexico. Renamed the Texarkana & Ft. Smith (T&FS) Railway, it was extended south under a revised charter along the Texas-Louisiana border and eventually reached the new town of Port Arthur in 1897. The T&FS became part of the Kansas City Southern (KCS) Railway when the KCS acquired the assets of the KCP&G during foreclosure.

The level of rail traffic through Texarkana on these three railroads justified the establishment of two interlocking towers. Tower 28 was established as a manual interlocking in October, 1903 where the T&P main line to Marshall crossed the T&FS south of town. Nine months later, Tower 42, a more complex electric interlocking, was opened near downtown Texarkana where all three railroads crossed. Tower 42 survived into the 1990s before it was razed. The fate of Tower 28 is unknown. All of the original rail lines into Texarkana remain active today, except for the T&P line to Sherman which has been abandoned between Paris and the outskirts of Texarkana. The T&P was acquired by Missouri Pacific and the SSW was acquired by Southern Pacific; today both lines are owned by Union Pacific, while KCS continues to own and operate the former T&FS line.

Historic Photo of Tower 42 from the John W Barriger III National Railroad Library

Sunshine illuminates the east face of Tower 42 while the larger northern face remains in the shadow on October 8, 1992. Photo by Myron Malone

A Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad locomotive leads a Tyler-bound intermodal train past the tower on October 11, 1992.  This image shows the narrow west end of the tower and larger south side of the structure. Photo by Myron Malone

South side of Tower 42 on October 8, 1992. Photo by Myron Malone

A timetable southbound Cotton Belt intermodal trains crosses the diamond and blocks the Kansas City Southern main line adjacent to Tower 42.  About a quarter mile east (parallel to the tree line in the photo), the former T&P main crosses the Cotton Belt main, a location also controlled by Tower 42.  About 1/2 mile north of Tower 42 (well out of this photo to the left) the former T&P line to Sherman crosses the KCS.  Tower 28 was about 2 miles south of Tower 42. Above photo dated October 11, 1992. Photo by Myron Malone

Above: Daniel Hardy took this photo of Tower 42 in August, 1980 (credit: Texas Historical Commission)

Interior photograph of Tower 42 in 1988.  Nothing much would have changed before the end of service for the tower in the early 1990's. The interlocking machine of levers in the right edge of this photo was removed from the tower by a local Texarkana historical group just before the tower's demolition.  The machine is in storage awaiting a proper museum venue for its display. Photo by Paul Fafrak.

Above: The 1924 Sanborn Insurance map of Texarkana shows Tower 42 as a 2-story "Ry Signal Tower" in the southeast quadrant of the KCS crossing of the Cotton Belt line. Below: locations of Towers 42 and 28

This satellite view of the vicinity of the historic location of Tower 42 (green) shows that while much has changed in Texarkana over the decades, the railroads remain intact. The T&P line to Sherman is only an industrial spur but the other lines continue as major routes for KCS and UP.

Last Revised: 1/28/2018 JGK - Contact the Texas Interlocking Towers Page.