Texas Railroad History - Tower 48 - Yarnall
A Crossing of the Southern Kansas Railroad and the Chicago, Rock Island & Gulf Railway
In 1886, the Southern Kansas Railroad, a Santa Fe subsidiary, built southwesterly across the Texas panhandle, stopping at a temporary railhead in Carson County that became known as Panhandle. The town of Amarillo had not yet been founded, and the residents that began to occupy Panhandle hoped that the Ft. Worth & Denver City (DW&DC) Railroad, which was building northwesterly into the area from Ft. Worth, would cross the Southern Kansas Railroad at Panhandle, creating an instant boom town. But when the FW&DC bypassed Panhandle some 14 miles to the south, the Panhandle Railway was chartered to build a connecting line from Washburn, a stop on the FW&DC, to Panhandle and a connection with the Southern Kansas. In 1898, the Southern Kansas bought the Panhandle Railway at a foreclosure sale, and when Amarillo was founded a few miles northwest of Washburn, the Southern Kansas used trackage rights on the FW&D to reach Amarillo via Washburn.
In 1902, the Choctaw, Oklahoma and Texas (CO&T) Railroad built due west from the Oklahoma border, stopping at a connection with the Southern Kansas line between Washburn and Panhandle, a junction that became known as Yarnall. In 1904, the Chicago, Rock Island & Gulf Railway, part of the Rock Island railroad system, acquired the CO&T and extended the line 18 miles west into Amarillo. Tower 48 was established at that time (July 13, 1904) to control the Rock Island's crossing of the Southern Kansas.
In 1908, Santa Fe decided to extend the Southern Kansas line from Panhandle through Amarillo and on to New Mexico to provide an alternate to their existing transcontinental route through Raton Pass. As soon as the 25-mile segment to Amarillo was completed, the line between Panhandle and Washburn became unnecessary and it was removed that same year. The removal of the Southern Kansas tracks meant that Tower 48 was no longer necessary at Yarnall. The 1909 Railroad Commission Annual Report states that it was "abandoned March 28, 1908 and crossing removed".
In the 1980s, the Rock Island line was abandoned, but the Santa Fe and FW&D lines remain in active use by BNSF, the successor to both railroads. The Rock Island grade is easy to find paralleling Interstate 40, but the long abandoned route of the Southern Kansas line that crossed at Yarnall is unknown. Satellite photos show possible remnants of the right-of-way between Washburn and Panhandle which remain to be field checked.
There is some confusion over the spelling of Yarnall. Some sources spelled it "Yarnell", but the origin of the name is unknown.
Modern Photo, Tower 48 Site
(photo by Jim King)
The berm of the Rock Island grade is easily visible at Yarnall, which is shown on maps to be located where the railroad crossed Texas Highway 207.
Tower 48 Location Map
Satellite Image, Tower 48 Vicinity
Satellite images of Yarnall show tell-tale signs of a possible junction, but it's hard to imagine that these signs
would have persisted for 90+ years.