Texas Railroad History - Tower 64 - Greenville

A Crossing of the Missouri - Kansas - Texas Railroad and the St. Louis Southwestern Railway


Above: John W Barriger III took this photo of Tower 64 from the rear platform of his private railcar in the 1930s or early 1940s as his train left Greenville headed southwest toward Dallas on tracks of the Missouri-Kansas-Texas ("Katy") Railroad. The Katy's Hunt Yard is visible in the distance. Tower 64 was a Katy tower with a concrete, first floor base, similar in design to Tower 53 and Tower 93. (John W Barriger III National Railroad Library) Below Left: This photo from the 1930s appeared in the 2001 Katy Lines Calendar produced by the Katy Railroad Historical Society. The track straight ahead is looking toward Commerce on the St. Louis Southwestern (Cotton Belt). The track to the left is the Katy line into Greenville from Dallas. Below Right: When Tower 64 was decommissioned, the wooden upper floor was removed but the concrete bottom floor was left intact, and remains so today. The concrete square that sits above the door was the second floor landing for the staircase. (Greg Harrison photo, 2008)

The town of Greenville was founded when Hunt County was created by an act of the Texas Legislature in 1846. Some 30 years later, the first railroad arrived when the East Line and Red River (EL&RR) Railroad reached Greenville in 1876. The EL&RR was the brainchild of citizen-investors in the east Texas town of Jefferson, the largest town in north Texas at the time and a major river port whose economy was threatened by the burgeoning railroad construction in Texas. Hoping to avert a crisis, they funded a narrow gauge railroad to build west from Jefferson to McKinney and east to Shreveport. Upon reaching Greenville in 1876, the EL&RR paused construction, apparently due to lack of financial resources.

By the time the EL&RR reached Greenville, the Missouri-Kansas-Texas (MKT, "Katy") Railroad had already built across the Red River and established a base in Denison in 1872. While the Katy pondered its next move, the Missouri-Kansas-Texas Extension Railway built from Denison to Greenville in 1880. The railroad had been chartered as the Denison and Southeastern Railway, but during construction, the "Extension" name was adopted to tempt the Katy into buying the line. The temptation succeeded, and in 1881, the Katy continued this line beyond Greenville to the southeast, building fifty additional miles to Mineola where a connection to the Texas & Pacific (T&P) Railway was made.

In 1881, the Katy bought the EL&RR and directed it to proceed with the 32-mile narrow gauge branch to McKinney as originally planned. The Katy also sponsored the Dallas & Greenville Railway to build a 52-mile track between the namesake cities. Construction was completed in 1886 and the route was formally acquired by the Katy at that time. That same year, a new Texas Attorney General was elected on a campaign to go after the railroads for non-competitive activities. For purchasing the EL&RR, he proceeded to sue the Katy in 1887 for non-compliance with Texas' railroad ownership laws. In 1890, the Texas Supreme Court confirmed a lower court's order that the Katy forfeit the EL&RR charter. Placed in receivership, the bankruptcy court directed the EL&RR Receiver to issue receiver certificates to pay for converting the Greenville - Jefferson segment to standard gauge (the Katy had converted the McKinney segment in 1887.) The conversion was completed in 1892 and the entire railroad was sold to the newly chartered Sherman, Shreveport and Southern (SS&S) Railway in 1893.

A law passed by the Legislature and signed by the Governor in 1899 allowed for a legal reorganization of Katy rail lines in Texas; this put the Katy back in compliance with Texas law. Motivated by the new law, the Katy acquired the SS&S in 1901 to regain possession of the original EL&RR route. This lasted until 1923 when the Katy's reorganization out of bankruptcy resulted in the entire route from McKinney to Jefferson (and beyond, to Waskom) being sold to a newly chartered, Texas-based subsidiary of the Louisiana Railway & Navigation Co. (LR&N). The Louisiana & Arkansas (L&A) Railway then bought the LR&N in 1929, and in turn, was bought by Kansas City Southern (KCS) Railway in 1939. The following year, now operating as a KCS subsidiary, the L&A abandoned the tracks to McKinney west of Farmersville, but the Greenville to Farmersville segment was retained. At least by 1956 (and probably much earlier), the L&A had established a connection at Farmersville with the Gulf, Colorado & Santa Fe Railway line that went south to Dallas. At some point, KCS gained access to the Dallas/Ft. Worth market via this connection. The L&A was fully merged into KCS in 1992, and the following year, KCS purchased the Santa Fe tracks south from Farmersville giving it access to Dallas on its own tracks.

The common heritage of KCS and the Katy involving the EL&RR route resulted in KCS taking over Katy's Hunt Yard in later years as the Katy lines through Greenville were deemphasized and eventually sold. The Katy branches to Denison (which now goes to Sherman instead) and Dallas are owned by Genesee & Wyoming. Its subsidiary, the Dallas, Garland and Northeastern (DGNO) Railroad, operates the lines and uses two switches and 500 ft. of KCS track to cross between them. The former Santa Fe line north of Farmersville through Celeste and Wolfe City to Paris was abandoned in 1995 and its right-of-way (ROW) is now part of the Northeast Texas Trail.


Above: About 500 ft. of the KCS line through Greenville is now shared with DGNO so they can cross between their line to Dallas and their line to Sherman. The switch for Dallas is east of Wellington St. and for Sherman, the switch is west of Texas St. Below Left: The equipment cabinet for the Dallas switch for DGNO off the KCS sits trackside slightly east of Wellington St. (2013 Google Street View) Below Right: Facing east, the DGNO track to Sherman is visible having just branched off of the KCS main line west of the Texas St. grade crossing. (2013 Google Street View)
 

In 1887, the St. Louis, Arkansas & Texas (SLA&T) Railway built a line from Commerce to Renner (near Dallas) that passed through Greenville. The SLA&T went bankrupt in 1891 and its assets were taken over by the St. Louis Southwestern (SSW, "Cotton Belt") Railroad. The Cotton Belt ultimately served both Dallas and Fort Worth, providing service via Greenville back to Texarkana and points east. The Cotton Belt was eventually consolidated into Southern Pacific (SP). When Union Pacific (UP) merged with SP in 1995, the Cotton Belt line from Sulphur Springs to Dallas via Greenville was no longer needed, so the Northeast Texas Rural Rail Transportation District (NETEX) was created to acquire the property and operate it.

In 1895, the Texas Midland (TM) Railroad built due north into Greenville from Roberts, a distance of 19 miles. TM had acquired the Texas Central Railroad's existing track from Ennis to Roberts, and the line into Greenville was a northerly extension heading for a connection with the St. Louis San Francisco Railway in Paris. Since the Cotton Belt already had a line from Greenville to Commerce, TM arranged trackage rights to Commerce and continued construction north from there. In 1923, TM built their own line between Greenville and Commerce, paralleling the Cotton Belt. In the early 1930s, TM was bought by SP. Since SP controlled the Cotton Belt, the TM's duplicate line to Commerce was unnecessary; it was abandoned in 1933 with much of the ROW being used for a state highway.

By 1923, Greenville had nine rail lines radiating out in all directions! Yet, despite several grade crossings, only one interlocking tower was ever authorized in Greenville by the Railroad Commission of Texas (RCT). Tower 64 was established on September 24, 1906 at a crossing of the Cotton Belt and Katy railroads on the west side of Greenville, a short distance southwest of Katy's Hunt Yard. The 20-function mechanical interlocker protected the crossing for decades, but was eventually decommissioned (precise date unknown.) The upper portion of the tower was dismantled but the concrete base remains intact. After the interlocker was removed, the crossing was protected by a swing gate. The Tower 64 diamond still exists, but neither track is operated by a major railroad and traffic is sporadic.

Left: This 1923 Sanborn Fire Insurance index map has been annotated to show the nine rail lines radiating out of Greenville. Five had been Katy; three remained but the L&A had taken over the Katy's EL&RR route. It remains intact for KCS, east to Shreveport and west to Farmersville where it turns south to Dallas on former Santa Fe tracks. L&A abandoned the tracks west of Farmersville in 1940. Katy's Hunt Yard was built at the junction of the Dallas line and the EL&RR, and is now a KCS facility.

The Katy branch to Mineola was abandoned in 1956; parts of the ROW succumbed to US 69's expansion. The Katy line to Dallas remains intact, but the former Denison branch now merges at Bells with former T&P tracks and goes to Sherman instead. Through Greenville, these former Katy branches are now operated by DGNO. A Katy maintenance facility (M) was located near the junction of the Katy lines.

The Texas Midland (TM) tracks to Commerce were abandoned in 1933, a mere 10 years after construction. This was due to SP's acquisition of the TM. SP also controlled the Cotton Belt so it didn't need parallel lines to Commerce. Much of the TM right-of-way to Commerce was used for Texas Highway 224. South of Greenville, the TM was abandoned to Kaufman in 1958. Sixty-six miles of the Cotton Belt through Greenville and Commerce is now owned by NETEX and operated by North East Texas Connector, LLC.  The track begins two miles west of the Tower 64 crossing to serve a chemical plant (beyond this point, the ROW is abandoned to Wylie.) To the east, NETEX ownership ends at the west edge of Sulphur Springs. The TM crossed three railroads at grade in Greenville.

  
Above Left: A swing gate protects the crossing, but weeds along the former Cotton Belt tracks to the east indicate sparse traffic. Above Right: The concrete base of Tower 64 remains intact, with an abandoned interlocker control stand nearby (c.2000, Myron Malone photos) Below Left: "Tower 64" is stenciled on the side of the tower. (c.2000, Myron Malone photo) Below Right: Tower 64 sits northeast of the diamond and casts a sharp-edged shadow across the former Katy tracks. Both lines were headed to Dallas, hence the acute angle of the crossing. (Google Earth, Nov. 2018)
 


Above Left: What's left of Tower 64 sits abandoned with an "advance-approach" semaphore in the background. Above Right: This is the distant signal for DGNO trains approaching the KCS interchange. It's rare to see a new semaphore signal. Note the solar power pole adjacent to it. (Greg Harrison photos, c.2008)


Above Left: The camera is looking southwest down the former Katy tracks while the gate is swung across the former Cotton Belt line. Above Right: This close-up of the signal control box (manufactured by Union Switch & Signal Co.) shows that it was stenciled for the two railroads. After the tower was no longer manned but the interlocker was still in place, the controls allowed a train crewmember to line the signals manually before crossing if a proceed indication was not already displayed when approaching. (Greg Harrison photos, c.2008)


Above Left: The Katy maintenance facility in Greenville mostly sat west of Wright St. and north of Spencer St. This image from the 1923 Sanborn Fire Insurance map of Greenville shows there was a turntable and other structures. Unfortunately, the facility straddles a break in the map sheet so it does not show the western edge, which was the Katy track that curved north to reach the Denison branch. The "Main Track" label to the right and slightly below the turntable marks the Katy branch to Mineola which was a southerly continuation of the line from Denison. Above Right: This 2018 view from Google Earth shows that although the maintenance facility was removed, the land has not been repurposed.

Below: Two 2013 Google Street Views of the Katy's maintenance area show industrial remnants but not much else. At left, the view is northwest from the corner of Spencer and Wright. The rail embedded in Wright St. was part of the main line to Mineola. At right, the view is south on Wright where it dead-ends at Spencer. The branch to Mineola continued south into the brush, crossing over the L&A and the Cotton Belt tracks on two bridges.



Above: This Google Earth satellite image of the south side of downtown Greenville has been annotated to show the current and abandoned rail lines in this area. The KCS main line (yellow arrows) runs generally east/west through through town, with Hunt Yard being off the map to the left. The L&A ROW originally (yellow dashed line) ran farther north, but the track was rerouted to share a portion of the former Cotton Belt (green arrows) ROW, eliminating several grade crossings. The KCS and Cotton Belt tracks still cross at an acute angle (red circle) on the east side of town. The Katy line to Denison (blue arrows), now a DGNO line to Sherman, departs the KCS main at a switch (red arrow) at far left and curves north to go past the former Katy depot (pink oval). Katy's Dallas line was actually a branch off of the main line that came in from Denison because the Denison line continued due south (pink dashes) to become the line to Mineola. The Mineola track crossed over the L&A and Cotton Belt tracks on two bridges and a fill (within the orange rectangle.)

Below Left: This image taken by Greg Harrison c.2008 faces north from the south side grade of the former Katy branch to Mineola. The total distance was approximately 350 ft. to cross both the Cotton Belt on the south side and the L&A on the north side, but historic aerial imagery shows that this was implemented as two short bridges with a fill between them. Bridge remnants on the north side (pink oval) and south side (wood in foreground) remain. In later years, KCS abandoned the L&A ROW in this area and a new track segment was built closer to the Cotton Belt ROW. By then, the bridges and the fill between them had long been removed. Below Right: This 1956 image ((c)historicaerials.com) shows that the Katy's Mineola branch used short bridges over the L&A and Cotton Belt with a fill between them. The image also shows that there was a connecting track that allowed movements between Mineola trains and Hunt Yard. The short distance between the Hunt Yard lead and the main track to Mineola, along with the relative angle of the two tracks, required the connector to depart the Mineola branch from the fill south of the bridge over the L&A, hence a second bridge over the L&A was required for the connecting track. The Mineola branch was abandoned the same year this photo was taken.
     


The "Other" Crossings in Greenville

Above Left: This photo was taken by Fred Frailey, Special Correspondent and Columnist for Trains magazine, in 1978. It faces west at the crossing of the KCS and Cotton Belt tracks and shows that the diamond was protected by a swing gate. Whether unlatching the gate from its post triggered any signals has not been determined. The dark, wooden post at far left is a side view of a crossbuck; the diamond sat directly on Bois D'Arc Street, a roadway that is not obvious in the photo. Note the WX posts commanding whistles for upcoming grade crossings. (photo courtesy Nathan Bailey) Above Right: This 2018 Google Street View shows generally the same view of the KCS/Cotton Belt (NETEX) crossing, now a substantially more acute angle due to a grade relocation project. The entire area looks vastly different because the project included new bridges for Stonewall and Johnson Streets which are visible in the distance. The large truck on the parking lot in the background is approximately on the former KCS grade (note slight elevation in the grassy area.) KCS rerouted the track onto the Cotton Belt ROW to reduce grade crossings and to pass beneath the new street bridges. Those bridges and the elimination of grade crossings at Mill St. and Stuart St. resulted in retail business relocations (e.g. the Michelin tire store in the above left photo) and other disruptions since there was no longer any traffic. Ultimately, the abandoned area beneath and beside the bridges was reclaimed for other uses. East of the bridges, part of the land was used for a new Hunt County Sheriffs Office and Detention Facility (the parking lot with the truck.) On both sides of the bridges and in between, a major landscape beautification project was undertaken. The KCS/Cotton Belt diamond is now managed by an automatic interlocker.


Above Left: When the Texas Midland first built into Greenville, it continued northeast by sharing the Cotton Belt (red arrows) track to Commerce (toward upper right direction, track still intact) by curving onto it (green arrows.) When TM built its own line to Commerce in 1923, it's main line (yellow arrows) was extended across the Cotton Belt at an apparently uncontrolled crossing (pink circle) and then curved toward Commerce to parallel the Cotton Belt. Additional tracks (yellow dashes) were built to provide a wye for the TM. When SP took over the TM in 1933, the Cotton Belt connection was reinstituted and the TM line to Commerce was abandoned. Despite the passage of 85 years, the path of the TM main line curving toward Commerce remains discernable in this 2018 Google Earth image from east of downtown, north of Lee St. The TM was completely abandoned by 1958. Above Right: This 1958 image shows the TM and Katy crossing southeast of downtown Greenville. They formed an X-pattern that at least by 1958 had been covered by a US 67 highway bridge. Since the Mineola branch was abandoned in 1956 and the TM in 1958, the subsequent reconstruction of US 67 into Interstate 30 eliminated the bridge. ((c)historicaerials.com) Below Left: This 2018 Google Street View is looking south from Lee St. on the east side of Greenville. The red arrow points to a yellow stake that (undoubtedly by accident) happens to sit in the middle of the Texas Midland grade which runs north/south at this location. The yellow arrows point to the visible KCS tracks at the back edge of the property. The pink oval shows that, if not for the 60 years of elapsed time since the TM was abandoned, a crossing diamond would likely be visible. This crossing was not part of RCT's numbered interlocking system and was probably gated. Below Right: The Katy depot still stands in Greenville. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1997.(Google Street View 2018)

 
Last Revised: 3/31/2021 - Contact the Texas Interlocking Towers Page.