A Crossing of the International - Great Northern Railroad and the San Antonio & Aransas Pass Railway
Rockdale was founded in 1873 as the International - Great Northern (I-GN) Railroad was building a rail line from Hearne to Austin; the tracks reached Rockdale in February, 1874. The town quickly developed into a shipping point for local agricultural products. In the 1890s, lignite mines were dug in the vicinity, adding to the local economy. In 1891, the San Antonio & Aransas Pass (SA&AP) built north through Rockdale heading for Waco, giving Rockdale rail service in all directions. Tower 54 was constructed as a manual interlocker to control the crossing of the two railroads and was authorized for operation by the Railroad Commission of Texas on September 1, 1904. The I-GN became a Missouri Pacific property which subsequently merged into Union Pacific (UP) Railroad, the railroad that operates the line today. The SA&AP line became a Southern Pacific (SP) property in 1925 and continued in operation for many years. SP abandoned the line from Giddings through Rockdale to Cameron in 1959, at which time Tower 54 was decommissioned.
Historic Photo, Tower 54
Above: Facing west, Tower 54 is shown in detail in this photo from the John W Barriger III National Railroad Library. The I-GN yard at Rockdale
is visible in the distance and the town water tower can be seen to the left. This photo was probably taken in the late 1930s and it shows that the
diamond was located on a street grade crossing. Today, that crossing can be accessed virtually by Google Earth Street View yielding the image below.
Below: Facing southeast, the tower's foundation remains visible beside the UP tracks.
Below: This Google Earth satellite image of Rockdale shows the SA&AP depot
as a white-roofed
building in the far upper right corner. The SA&AP right-of-way continued southwest before curving
to a more acute angle as it crossed the I-GN at the Plum St. grade crossing. The SA&AP continued
in a south-southwest direction paralleling E 2nd Ave. and exiting the image before turning south
Above: Facing northeast, the tower foundation is visible on the south side of the tracks (Jim King photo)
Below: Google Street View provides this image of the former SA&AP depot in Rockdale, sitting to the left of the right-of-way.
Above: The Sanborn Insurance Map of Rockdale from 1925 shows the location of the railroad "Signal Tower". Note the
absence of connecting tracks between the two railroads.
Tower 54, Location Map