www.txrrhistory.com - Tower 65 - Algoa

Crossing of the Gulf, Colorado & Santa Fe Railway and the St. Louis, Brownsville & Mexico Railroad

The Gulf, Colorado & Santa Fe (GC&SF) Railway began building its main line out of Galveston in 1877, passing through the area south of Houston where the town of Algoa was founded shortly thereafter. Algoa never amounted to much - a few hundred people at best - but it became a railroad junction in 1906 when the St. Louis, Brownsville & Mexico (SLB&M) Railroad reached Algoa from the south as it completed its main line from Brownsville to Houston. Tower 65, a 25-function mechanical interlocker, was immediately established to control the crossing which was likely to see heavy traffic. Although the SLB&M crossed the GC&SF line with the intent of building into Houston, they were able to negotiate a trackage rights agreement with Santa Fe to use GC&SF tracks from Algoa as a means to get to Houston. The final Santa Fe agreement, dated April 1, 1908, worked well enough that SLB&M canceled their plan to build into Houston, eliminating the need for Tower 65. Beginning with the 1913 Annual Report, the Railroad Commission of Texas official list of interlockers records Tower 65 as "Abandoned and crossing removed".

David Currey comments: "I used to be a brakeman on the Missouri Pacific's Kingsville Division. To me, the way the Missouri Pacific got onto the Santa Fe at Algoa sure looked like maybe there used to be an interlocking there. But my official guide from 1930 doesn't show such a thing. Then in my Wells Fargo bank, there was a map of their routes around the turn of the century, and there was a line drawn from Algoa to Houston separate from the Santa Fe. All the other lines on the map appeared to be accurate representations of rail routes, so why should the StLB&M route be drawn any less accurate? I went to Algoa and poked around, including asking some of the locals, and none could help me much, except one said there used to be a turntable there, which I find hard to believe. The only evidence I could find was a road which on the map lined up with where the track would have been had it continued on past Algoa. This road also made sort of a jog as you might expect if it had crossed over the tracks to continue on the other side. Also, two private driveways were directly opposite each other in the jog, which seemed pretty odd and too coincidental."

From the 1932 USGS Survey Map, Algoa Quadrangle (1929 Survey)

Julian Erceg tipped us off to the existence of a 1932 USGS map of Algoa in the
University of Texas map collection on-line. The above image extracted from this
map clearly shows a spur extending north of the Santa Fe line, and a small stub
track from the south stopping just short of the Santa Fe tracks. By the date of
this survey, the original crossing had been gone for ~ 20 years.

Track Chart, Algoa (from Santa Fe Railway Historical Society)

Above: This image of a portion of a Santa Fe track chart of the main line through Algoa shows the SLB&M junction. South is 'up' and Galveston is to the
left. The 'Joint Line B' agreement (indicated by the shaded area on the map) covered main tracks and sidings from "Algoa to T&NO Jct. (beginning lease to
HB&T Co.)". SLB&M's route into Houston was from Algoa to Alvin on the original GC&SF main line and then from Alvin to T&NO Jct. (Tower 81) on a
line that Santa Fe built in 1883 to reach Houston. North of Tower 81, the Santa Fe tracks were leased to Houston Belt & Terminal (HB&T) leading into
New South Yard. HB&T was jointly owned by the major railroads serving Houston, and much of their property was original Santa Fe construction.
Below: This image from Ken Stavinoha's collection (provided to us via Don Harper) shows the joint Santa Fe depot at Algoa. Magnification (further below)
shows the SLB&M sign on the side of the depot and the GC&SF lettering on the front of the depot. What is particularly interesting about this photo is that it
clearly shows the name "Gulf Coast & Santa Fe" while the correct, legal name of the railroad was the "Gulf, Colorado & Santa Fe". Perhaps this was a
mistake on the part of the construction company, confusion with the "Gulf Coast Lines", or maybe by the time this depot was constructed, the local citizens
had used the name in error for so long that management opted to stick with the common, but incorrect, name. Neither the Handbook of Texas nor S. G. Reed's
definitive work
A History of the Texas Railroads has any reference to "Gulf, Coast & Santa Fe", but the name nonetheless pops up in odd places, such as the
Sanborn Fire Insurance Map of Navasota. Whatever the case, given the location and size of the sign on the building, the word "Colorado" would not have fit!

 

It is apparent from the above photo that for some period of time, the SLB&M tracks crossed the Santa Fe toward Houston. It is unlikely that the line ever went very far, perhaps only a few hundred yards, and since this was the "end of the line" for SLB&M's tracks from Brownsville, a roundhouse and other facilities would have made sense here. Both lines are in active use today. The GC&SF line is now operated by Santa Fe successor Burlington Northern Santa Fe and remains the principal route onto Galveston Island and the port facilities located there. The SLB&M became a Missouri Pacific property and is now operated by successor Union Pacific. The SLB&M line from Algoa to Brownsville sees heavy use as the only rail line into the lower Rio Grande Valley.

Tower 65 Location, Satellite Image

 
Last Revised: 12/6/2009 JGK - Contact the Texas Interlocking Towers Page.