A Crossing of the Missouri - Kansas - Texas Railroad and the St. Louis Southwestern Railway
The town of Greenville was founded when Hunt County was created by an act of the Texas Legislature in 1846. Some 35 years later, the first railroad arrived when the Missouri-Kansas-Texas Extension Railway was completed from Denison to Greenville in 1880. The railroad had been chartered as the Denison and Southeastern Railway, but midway through construction, the "Extension" name was adopted, apparently to tempt the actual Missouri-Kansas-Texas (MKT, "Katy") Railroad into buying the line, which it did in 1881. Construction proceeded that same year southeast to Mineola where a connection to the Texas & Pacific was made at the future site of Tower 62.
Also in 1880, the East Line and Red River (EL&RR) Railroad reached Greenville from Jefferson in east Texas. Jefferson was a major river port whose economy was threatened by the burgeoning railroad construction happening in Texas in the 1870s. Hoping to avert this crisis, local investors funded a railroad to serve Jefferson with the initial objective of reaching the Sherman/Denison area, which was rapidly becoming a major rail gateway to the north via the nearby bridge over the Red River. In 1881, the EL&RR was acquired by the Katy, and an extension west to McKinney was constructed the following year. But the Katy's ownership was challenged in court, and in 1893, the line became owned by the Sherman, Shreveport and Southern Railway. Over years of legal proceedings and ownership changes, the route became owned by the Louisiana & Arkansas (L&A) Railway, later a subsidiary of the Kansas City Southern (KCS) Railway which continues to operate it today.
Three additional rail lines were built into Greenville. Looking to expand its rail presence in Greenville, the Katy sponsored the Dallas & Greenville Railway to build a 52-mile track between those cities. Construction was completed in 1886 and the route was acquired by the Katy at that time. The following year, the St. Louis, Arkansas & Texas (SLA&T) Railway built a line from Commerce to Renner (near Dallas) that passed through Greenville, providing the first competition for the Katy in Greenville. In 1891, the SLA&T went bankrupt and its assets were acquired by the St. Louis Southwestern (SSW, "Cotton Belt") Railroad. The line ultimately served both Dallas and Fort Worth, providing Cotton Belt connections back to Texarkana and points east. In 1895, the Texas Midland (TM) Railroad built into Greenville from Roberts. TM had acquired the Texas Central Railroad's existing track from Ennis to Roberts; the line into Greenville was a northerly extension aiming to connect to 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 to Paris. In 1923, TM built their own line between Greenville and Commerce, paralleling the Cotton Belt.
By 1900, Greenville had rail lines radiating out in virtually all directions with numerous tracks crossing at grade in town. Yet, 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 south of Katy's Hunt Yard. This interlocker protected the crossing for decades, but the precise date the tower was decommissioned is unknown. The upper portion of the tower was dismantled but the concrete base remains intact. In later years, the crossing was protected by swing gates.
The Tower 64 diamond still exists, but neither track is operated by a major railroad and traffic is sporadic. The former Cotton Belt line is owned by the Northeast Texas Rural Rail Transportation District and operated under contract by Blacklands Railroad. It remains in service east to Commerce and beyond, but is abandoned less than two miles west of the Tower 64 diamond. The former Katy tracks are now operated in both directions by the Dallas, Garland & Northeastern (DGNO) Railroad.
Historic Rail Routes Serving Greenville (c.1928)
Nine rail lines radiated out of Greenville by the late 1920s; many of them are still intact. The Texas Midland tracks to Commerce were abandoned in 1933, a mere 10 years after construction. This was due to the TM's acquisition by Southern Pacific which also controlled the SSW and thus didn't need parallel lines between Greenville and Commerce. Much of this right-of-way is now occupied by TX 224. The remainder of the TM line was abandoned between Greenville and Kaufman in 1958. The Katy branch to Mineola was abandoned in 1956. Portions of this right-of-way are now occupied by US 69. All of the remaining lines still exist to some extent. The L&A to Jefferson is fully intact, operated by KCS. To the west, the L&A was abandoned between McKinney and Farmersville in 1940. The line remains in service from Greenville to Farmersville where it merges with a former Santa Fe track to create a KCS route into Dallas. The SSW line to Dallas is abandoned a short distance west of the Katy crossing where Tower 64 stood. To the east, the line remains in service to Commerce, operated by Blacklands Railroad. The Katy line to Dallas remains fully intact, but the line toward Denison ends at Bells where it connects to former Texas & Pacific tracks to reach Sherman. Both lines are operated by DGNO.
Photos of Tower 64 (Myron Malone,
Above: A swing gate protects the crossing, but weeds along the ex-Cotton Belt route to the east indicate sparse traffic. The concrete base of Tower 64 remains intact, with an abandoned interlocker control stand nearby.
Below: "Tower 64" is stenciled on the side.
The base of Tower 64 is visible on Google Earth northeast of the diamond.