Texas Railroad History - Tower 47 - El Paso

A crossing of the Galveston, Harrisburg & San Antonio, the Texas & Pacific, and the El Paso & Northeastern railroads

Historic Photo, Tower 47

Above: Image SP1499 from the John W Barriger III National Railroad Library shows Tower 47 at an unknown date, probably in the late
1930s or early 1940s. The identity of Tower 47 is confirmed by the nearby "Consumers Ice & Fuel Co." building to the right. According to a
publication of the US Geologic Survey,
Water Levels and Artesian Pressure in Observation Wells in the United States in 1945, Consumers Ice and
Fuel Co. was located at the intersection of Dallas St. and Cotton Ave. in El Paso, adjacent to the historic location of Tower 47. This view is
probably looking south on the EP&NE with the EP&SW crossing in the immediate foreground, and the boxcars in the distance (to the left of
the tower) probably on the T&P or GH&SA tracks behind the tower. This tower was replaced by a brick structure, most likely in the 1950s.

Modern Photo, Tower 47

 Photo by Daniel Walford, March 23, 2004

Tower 47 was the second railroad tower in El Paso, Tower 6 at El Paso Union Depot being the first. While the Union Depot was a passenger facility located close to the river and the New Mexico border, Tower 47 was located further east among the main freight yards at what was then the edge of town in 1904. Railroad Commission of Texas (RCT) records indicate Tower 47 was authorized for operation on July 11, 1904 with a 25 function U.S. & S. Co mechanical interlocking machine at the crossing of the Galveston, Harrisburg & San Antonio (GH&SA), the Texas & Pacific (T&P), and the El Paso & Northeastern (EP&NE) railroads. By 1916 the capacity of the interlocker had been increased to 31 functions. Another increase to 60 functions is noted in the report for 1923. By 1928, ten additional functions had been added, bringing the total to 70.

As a result of a lawsuit filed by the T&P against Southern Pacific (SP) pertaining to a dispute over land rights west of El Paso, the T&P had agreed in 1881 to share a rail line with the GH&SA (partly owned by SP) between Sierra Blanca, Texas and El Paso. Within El Paso, the two railroads operated their own tracks and facilities. The third railroad involved in Tower 47, the EP&NE, had been constructed in 1899 to connect El Paso with coal fields in New Mexico, north of El Paso. The EP&NE was leased by the El Paso & Southwestern (EP&SW) railroad in 1908 which became owned by SP in 1924.

Historic Map, Tower 47 Location

Above: This image taken from the index of the 1908 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map of El Paso has been annotated to
show the rail junction where Tower 47 was located. Although the EP&SW operated tracks through this junction, it was
never listed in the official RCT records as being part of the Tower 47 interlocker.
Below: The Sanborn map of 1954 shows a structure along the right edge of the map, approximately where Tower 47
is now located. Unfortunately, the map's description of this structure is illegible, even under magnification. The map
also shows a 4-story "Switch Tower" along the left edge of the image  Presumably, this was a yard tower west of Cotton
Ave. It appears that the current brick Tower 47 structure replaced the original tower sometime in the 1950's.


Recent Photos, Tower 47 (photos by Ernie Leggett, 2006)

Above: Tower 47 close up.
Below: Tower 47 with Cotton St. overpass in the background.


Email from Bob Phillips, 11/12/2001
"Tower 47 in El Paso is...occupied by only the signal dept. as they still have signal equipment in the bottom floor of it. The tower was still occupied with a control operator (towerman), yardmaster, lead carman, and roundhouse foreman until November 1997 when they were all moved into the yard office building, known as the line desk. The tower has been vacant of these employees since then. There is still a "control operator" at El Paso that controls everything that the Tower 47 operator and Tower 196 operator used to control. They are currently located in the new yard office north east of the roundhouse that UP opened up approximately a year or so ago."

Satellite Image, Tower 47

The pale-roofed structure is Tower 47. This satellite image was taken before the Cotton St. overpass was complete.


Tower 47 no longer standing

Email from Jimmy Barlow, 2/13/2017
El Paso's Tower 47 was still extant in this March 2013 street view...
...but notice (in the above view) the silver metal hut just to the right of the tower--which, unfortunately, is all that shows in this 2017 down-on:

Last Revised: 2/20/2017 JGK - Contact the Texas Interlocking Towers Page.