Texas Railroad History - Tower 53 - Fort Worth (Ney Yard)

A Junction of the Missouri-Kansas-Texas, the Houston & Texas Central, the Fort Worth & Rio Grande, and the International & Great Northern railroads

Historic Photo, Tower 53

Tower 53 as photographed by John W Barriger III in the 1930s or 40s. This view looks north with the H&TC line crossing
the double track Katy main lines.

Tower 53 was originally listed by the Railroad Commission of Texas (RCT) as "South Ft. Worth (Ney)", and was located at the south end of the Missouri-Kansas-Texas (MKT) Railroad's Ney Yard. The tower controlled a junction of four railroads: the MKT (more commonly, the "Katy"), the Houston & Texas Central (H&TC) Railroad owned by Southern Pacific (SP), the Fort Worth & Rio Grande (FW&RG) owned by the St. Louis San Francisco Railway ("Frisco"), and the International & Great Northern (I-GN), a railroad later acquired by Missouri Pacific (MP). The eventual need for Tower 53 began in 1881 when the Katy built from Ft. Worth to Hillsboro. Five years later, the FW&RG built from Ft. Worth to Brownwood. To connect with the Katy, a spur was built due east from FW&RG's main line in west Fort Worth and then north to the Katy yards that had been established in south Ft. Worth. Santa Fe built a line into Ft. Worth from the south in 1891, so the FW&RG spur and the Santa Fe main crossed at Bird's Siding, a little over a mile southwest of Tower 53.

Also in 1886, the Fort Worth and New Orleans (FW&NO) Railroad built from Fort Worth east to Waxahachie, crossing the Katy in the process (a crossing reportedly protected by a gate in the pre-interlocker days). In 1901, the FW&NO became part of the H&TC, with whom it connected in Waxahachie. The fourth railroad at Tower 53, the I-GN, arrived in 1902 when I-GN built a main line from Waco to Fort Worth. The I-GN line crossed the H&TC on a bridge a mile southeast of the Katy yards, but I-GN added a spur from that location which paralleled the H&TC all the way to the Katy crossing (a spur upon which Cole St, adjacent to Echo Lake, now resides; Echo Lake was built as a water source for I-GN steam engines -- see the 1927 Sanborn map below). On July 23, 1904, the Tower 53 interlocker opened serving four railroads. In later years, this made it possible for the Katy, SP, MP and Frisco to interchange cars without having to go through Tower 55.

Modern Photos of Tower 53 Site (Photos by Jim King c.2005)

Facing northwest, the former SP line comes in from the right and joins the former Katy main heading
north to Ney Yard. Previously, the SP line crossed the Katy and curved northward, paralleling the
Santa Fe tracks to Polk's Tower where they crossed on the way to Tower 55.

Above: Looking southeast at what is now known as Midlothian Jct., Tower 53 would have been visible
as a structure on the opposite side of the Katy tracks.

Tower 53 was a manned interlocking tower that had twenty five functions. It continued in operation until it was retired in 1957-58 and replaced with an automatic interlocking. The late 1990s merger of SP with Katy successor Union Pacific (UP) allowed trains on the former SP branch to Ennis to begin operating to Tower 55 via the Katy main line, eliminating the need for the Tower 53 crossing as of August 8, 1997.

Above: A close up of the Tower 53 crossing. The H&TC line from the southeast (lower right)
crossed to the northeast prior to the UP/SP merger.

Location Maps for Tower 53

Above: This 1927 Sanborn Fire Insurance index map has been annotated with the railroads
of south Ft. Worth and Tower 53. Tower 124 is Bird's Siding.
Below: A satellite perspective looking northwest toward Tower 53


Last Revised: 3/15/2014 JGK - Contact the Texas Interlocking Towers Page.