Texas Railroad History - Tower 57 - Dallas (Water Street)

A Junction of the Major Railroads in Downtown Dallas before Union Station

By the time interlocking towers came under authorization of the Railroad Commission of Texas (RCT) in 1902, Dallas was already a major city served by multiple railroads. A mass of tracks descended on the downtown area, particularly along the east bank of the Trinity River. Ultimately, urban growth and flood prevention would require the city to build levees and reroute the river further west in the 1910-1920 timeframe. But in late 1904, the river still ran right up to the edge of downtown, along the appropriately named "Water Street". At the far south end of Water St., beyond where the street actually ended, Tower 57 was commissioned for service in late 1904, a first attempt to manage the complex rail mix at the west edge of downtown.

In 1997, the Southwest Railroad Historical Society publication The Clearance Card published a photo on its Spring 1997 cover with this caption:  "The photo came from the Layland Museum in Cleburne. The photo caption (on the back of the original) read 'Santa Fe Interlocker, Water Street tower and Oak Cliff Viaduct, Dallas, March 1911.' "  It noted that Water Street paralleled the Trinity River near Houston Street, and the viaduct that was under construction in the photo [behind the tower] is now called the Houston Street Viaduct.

The Clearance Card , Spring 1997 (used with permission)                             Tower 57 on Feb. 1, 1911 during the viaduct construction (G. W. Cook Collection, Southern Methodist University)

This photo appears to show the tower being raised in height. After this photo was published in The Clearance Card, long time Dallas resident Bill Bentsen provided the following photo from Dallas Rediscovered: A Photographic Chronicle of Urban Expansion, 1870-1925 by William L. McDonald

Enlarged photo taken from the book, Dallas Rediscovered, published by the Dallas Historical Society, 1978.

Bill explains...
"There is a picture of Dallas looking south from the Courthouse, c. 1915. ...You'll need to imagine standing on a higher floor on the south side of the old red courthouse at Main and Houston and looking southward along Houston street (the white street prominent in the photo). Look along the viaduct portion to where the street turns southward to Oak Cliff. Right in the middle of the tracks and right beside the viaduct is a tower-like structure...it's Tower 57."

Another image of Tower 57 is provided by Dennis Hogan (below left) in the form of a postcard showing the Dallas County Viaduct (now Houston Street), probably taken around 1912.  This is the clearest indication of exactly where Tower 57 stood. During the construction of the Houston Street Viaduct, the tower elevation had to be increased for the tower operator to see over the new bridge. Years later, Reunion Arena was built to the right of the tower location and the adjacent Reunion Arena parking garage was built where the tower was located. Reunion Arena was razed in 2009. Approximately the same view now [from Google Street View] is below right.

In 1905, the Sanborn Fire Insurance Co. published a map of Dallas that definitively shows the location of Water St. The map also shows an unidentified 2-story structure that appears to be Tower 57. The fact that the structure is not identified may relate to the timing of the map's publication in 1905. The cartographic work for the map may have been performed in the latter part of 1904 during the tower's construction.

Above: The proximity of Water St. to the Trinity River is apparent from this 1905 Sanborn Map of Dallas.
Below: A likely candidate for the Tower 57 structure is the small rectangle adjacent to the tracks in the bottom portion of the
map. Note that Houston St. ended near the tower. This was long before the viaduct was constructed from the end of Houston St.
across the Trinity River.

Tower 57's demise occurred with the redesign of Dallas Union Terminal in 1916 that created Towers 106 and 107 to manage the flow of trains through the Union Station area.

Last Revised: 5/10/2017 JGK - Contact the Texas Interlocking Towers Page.