A Major Crossing of Four Railroads near Downtown Fort Worth
Tower 55 was razed in mid November, 2022
Fort Worth promoter B. B. Paddock created the "Tarantula Map" envisioning his
town as a major railroad center with lines extending in all directions like the
legs of a giant spider. But this was truly a vision since he imagined it in
1873, three years before even the first railroad had reached Ft. Worth. That
railroad was the Texas & Pacific (T&P) arriving from Dallas. Paddock's vision
quickly became a reality as the T&P was joined by the Missouri-Kansas-Texas (MKT,
"Katy"), the Gulf, Colorado & Santa Fe (GC&SF), the Fort Worth & Denver (FW&D),
the Fort Worth & New Orleans (FW&NO), the Fort Worth & Rio Grande (FW&RG), the
St. Louis, Arkansas & Texas (SLA&T), the Chicago, Rock Island & Texas/Gulf
(CRI&T/G), and the International - Great Northern (I-GN)...
1876: T&P, Dallas (Eagle Ford) to Ft. Worth
1880: T&P, Fort Worth to Baird
1880: T&P, Sherman to Fort Worth (line shared with MKT)
1881: GC&SF, Temple to Fort Worth
1881: MKT, Fort Worth to Hillsboro
1882: FW&D, Fort Worth (Hodge) to Wichita Falls
1886: FW&NO, Fort Worth to Waxahachie
1887: FW&RG, Fort Worth to Granbury
1887: GC&SF, Fort Worth to the Red River
1888: SLA&T, Renner to Fort Worth
1894: CRI&T, Paradise to Fort Worth
1903: I-GN, Waco to Fort Worth
1903: CRI&G, Fort Worth to Dallas
Many of these rail lines were owned by larger railroad companies at the time they were constructed. This along with years of railroad consolidation distilled the ownership into a handful of companies competing for Fort Worth business. The focus of Fort Worth rail operations was the major junction near downtown where the east/west T&P main line crossed three major north/south lines: the Katy, the Santa Fe, and the Houston & Texas Central (H&TC, successor to the FW&NO owned by Southern Pacific). To control this junction, these four railroads collaborated on establishing an interlocker which was commissioned as Tower 55 by the Railroad Commission of Texas (RCT) on September 26, 1904. At that time, Tower 55 housed an electrical interlocking plant built by Taylor Signal Co. with 122 functions and 89 levers. This was by far the largest interlocking plant in Texas with 75% more functions than the second place interlocker at that time, Tower 42. Tower 55 held the record for initial interlocking functionality until Tower 106 was commissioned with 139 functions in 1916.
Above: A magnification of Tower 55 taken from the image below provided by the John W Barriger III National Railroad Library. The image shows a due south view with T&P #902 facing east at the diamond. This photo was likely taken in the 1930s, but it is not known whether this is the original Tower 55 commissioned in 1904. Consistent with this image, the 1926 Sanborn Fire Insurance map of Fort Worth depicts a 2-story tower structure in the northeast quadrant of the crossing, with a 1-story shed behind it. Sometime later, this structure was razed in favor of a 3-story brick tower in the southeast quadrant (see photos further below).
Above: Another image from the Barriger Library, this one shows the west side of Tower 55 with T&P's East (City) Yard in the distance. From this direction (facing east), the shed behind the tower is partially obscured.
Above: This Barriger image looks north up the Katy tracks towards Tower 55; downtown is beyond the T&P water tank at left that advertised "3 Famous Trains". Behind it, advertising is barely visible on the side of the Waples Platter Company. Below: A clearer view of the water tank and the Waples Platter Company building taken from a painting by John Winfield commissioned by Jim & Terry King in 2006. Waples Platter was a grocery company that sold White Swan brand foods.
Above: Glenn Anderson took this photo of CRI&P 1297 passing Tower 55 northbound on Feb 26, 1975. This 3-story brick structure replaced the wooden tower seen in the Barriger photos. Note the "F.W. Tower" sign on the side of the building. Below: The same view of Tower 55 is shown in this photo taken by Myron Malone on July 3, 1989. The brakeman riding the Denver & Rio Grande locomotive is H. L. Hunt. By this time, the "F. W. Tower" sign has been replaced by a "Tower 55" sign.
Interior Photos from Tower 55 (Jay Tatum, photographer)
Above: View to the north from Tower 55, with the Santa Fe depot ahead on the left
Below: the tower operator's desk
Above: Railroaders of yesteryear could scarcely imagine the massive I-30 and I-35W freeway interchange that now engulfs Tower 55. The tower, with its shadow offset to the northwest, remains in the southeast quadrant of the crossing, but with today's automation, it is no longer used for its original purpose. Below: The area looked much different in 1958, but not as devoid of freeways as one might think! This view shows the future I-35W was already limited access. The view is to the north-northwest. The Fort Worth Macaroni Co. factory (left of center) changed its name a year later to O. B. Macaroni Co. Pasta is no longer manufactured there, but the building has been preserved for other uses.
Below: The 1926 (left) and 1951 (right) Sanborn maps show the relocation of the
tower from the northeast to the southeast quadrant. Today,
with only two railroads, Burlington Northern Santa Fe and Union Pacific, the
track arrangement is much simpler than before.
Additional historic and modern views of Tower 55 are available here.