www.txrrhistory.com - Tower 56 - McGregor
A Crossing of the Gulf, Colorado & Santa Fe Railway and the
St. Louis Southwestern Railroad
In 1881, the Gulf, Colorado and Santa Fe Railway built north out of Temple to Ft. Worth, passing through the western reaches of McLennan County. A year later, the Texas & St. Louis Railroad (subsequently owned by the St. Louis Southwestern "Cotton Belt" Railroad) built from Waco to Gatesville, crossing the Santa Fe line at a place that became known as McGregor, named for a doctor who donated land for the right-of-way. Its location at a rail junction gave McGregor an advantage over neighboring towns, and soon, McGregor was the focal point for commercial activity in the area. The town continued to grow, exceeding 2,000 population by 1920. An Army ordnance plant was built southwest of town during WWII and spur tracks were built into the complex from both railroads. The ordnance plant was eventually closed and converted to various other uses including a rocket factory.
The Cotton Belt began to cut back on service over this line during the Depression and in 1942, abandoned its line west of Gatesville. Service to Gatesville was curtailed in 1972 when the line was abandoned west of Lime City, a few miles west of McGregor. Sometime in the 1980's or early 90's, Cotton Belt service west of Waco was terminated and the line was mostly abandoned except for a few spur tracks near the depot. The Santa Fe line continues as a very active Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) main line. The tower at McGregor was built as part of the Santa Fe depot located at the diamond. The depot remains intact today (and is used as the Amtrak station for Waco), but the tower portion of the depot structure has been removed. A similar combination depot/tower was built by Santa Fe at the nearby town of Morgan (Tower 50).