A Crossing of the Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad and the Houston & Texas Central Railroad
Historic Photo, Tower 67
Above: The John W Barriger III National Railroad Library supplies this image of Tower 67 taken by Barriger from the rear
platform of his business car sometime in the 1930's or 40's. The view is to the north along the Katy tracks toward Dallas. White
cross-bucks are visible for the Grand Ave. crossings of the Katy (near the tower) and the T&NO (far right).
Settlement around the town of Waxahachie dates back to the 1840s, and by 1850, Waxahachie had become the county seat of Ellis County. By the 1870s, Waxahachie was vying for rail service like many other small towns, but it was bypassed when the Houston & Texas Central (H&TC) Railroad built north through Corsicana into Dallas. This motivated community leaders to charter the Waxahachie Tap Railroad to "tap" the H&TC line at Garrett, 12 miles east of Waxahachie. Construction was completed in 1879, and within a year, the railroad had been acquired by the H&TC. Soon, Ft. Worth interests sought to connect their town with this line and by 1886, the Ft. Worth & New Orleans Railroad had completed a line between Ft. Worth and Waxahachie, connecting to (and becoming acquired by) the H&TC. The H&TC eventually came under the ownership of Southern Pacific (SP), and was ultimately merged into SP's Texas & New Orleans (T&NO) subsidiary.
In 1886, the Dallas & Waco (D&W) Railroad was incorporated to build a line for the Missouri-Kansas-Texas (MKT) Railroad, commonly known as the "Katy", between Dallas and Hillsboro, where it would connect to the Katy main line between Ft. Worth and Waco. The route for the D&W passed through Waxahachie in 1888, crossing the H&TC on the outskirts of town. By 1890, the connection to the MKT at Hillsboro had been made, and MKT acquired the D&W shortly thereafter. As traffic increased, the H&TC/MKT junction in Waxahachie became controlled by Tower 67, authorized for operation by the Railroad Commission of Texas (RCT) on December 1, 1906.
In the early 1900s, B. F. Yoakum controlled both the St. Louis - San Francisco Railway ("Frisco") and the Rock Island Lines. He also controlled a collection of other railroad companies in south Texas known as the Gulf Coast Lines. As the Frisco and Rock Island railroads built south into Texas from Indian territory (Oklahoma), Yoakum sought a connection with his Gulf Coast Lines by building a main line between Dallas and Houston. He accomplished this by acquiring the charter of the Trinity and Brazos Valley (T&BV) Railway, a small shortline operating between Mexia and Cleburne. In 1907, he built north and south from the town of Teague, reaching Waxahachie to the north and Houston to the south. Yoakum stopped in Waxahachie rather than continuing into Dallas because he was able to make a favorable trackage rights arrangement into Dallas on the MKT line. The T&BV did not connect to the T&NO at Waxahachie, but did cross a T&NO spur at what eventually became Tower 187.
For several years, the T&BV enjoyed great business carrying overhead traffic between Dallas and Houston via Waxahachie. In 1914, Yoakum lost control of the Frisco and Rock Island companies, and the T&BV went into a long receivership lasting 16 years. When it ended in 1930, a new company, the Burlington - Rock Island (B-RI) Railroad, was created to own and operate the ex-T&BV rail lines. B-RI was owned jointly by Burlington Northern, operating through its subsidiary Ft. Worth & Denver (FW&D) Railway, and Rock Island. B-RI continued the MKT trackage rights arrangement into Dallas that T&BV had used, and their connection to the Katy became known as "BR-I Junction" (which, despite connecting two different railroads, was never given an interlocker designation by RCT). In the late 1940s, an electrically operated capability was added to remotely control the switch at BR-I junction where BR-I trains got on Katy tracks for the northward trip to Dallas and to permit southward trains to proceed from Tate (the first siding north of Waxahachie) to B-RI junction without train order authority. In those days, Tower 67 was commonly known as Waxahachie Tower.
Until the demise of Rock Island in 1980, both Rock Island and FW&D shared operations over the line, and the route was commonly known as the "Joint Texas Division" (JTD). B-RI was always a paper railroad -- it never owned any rolling stock -- and it became absorbed into the Burlington System when Rock Island went bankrupt. Both the T&NO and Katy railroads eventually came under the ownership of Union Pacific. The former T&NO route is still operational, but the Katy route has been abandoned south of downtown Waxahachie. The Katy rails to the north were sold to Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF), successor to B-RI. The route into Dallas has been combined with the former T&BV line from Waxahachie to Houston to form a continuous Dallas-Houston main line.
Photos and commentary by Jim Cooper
Above: T&NO local freight No. 74 approaches Tower 67 in May, 1958. The train is returning from Fort Worth to Ennis.
Below: Also in May, 1958, Texas Special No. 1 approaches Tower 67 on the Katy line. The "75" on the utility pole
served an unknown purpose, but it is definitely not the tower number.
Jim Cooper explains... [From the December, 1994 issue of The Clearance Card, a publication of the Southwest Railroad Historical Society]
Southward trains activated a light on the panel and rang a bell in the tower upon passing the south end of the passing track at Sterrett (the second passing track north of Waxahachie); northward Katy trains announced themselves in the same way at the north end of the passing track at Nelson (the first passing track South of Waxahachie on the Katy), and northward BR-I trains at the north end of the passing track at Bardwell (the first passing track south of Waxahachie on the BR-I). T&NO trains activated the light and bell about 2 miles east and west of the tower.
The crossing was protected by derails on the main tracks in all four directions and from the transfer track onto the main lines. In order to give a clear signal for any movement, the derails appropriate for the movement permitted by the clear signal must be closed and locked in place and derails for conflicting movements must be open. When a clear signal was displayed for a movement on a particular route, a clear signal could not be given for any other movement. That conflicting routes could not be cleared at the same time was insured by a system of rods moving with the levers operating the derails, locks, and signals that functioned much like a lock and key in that parts would not fit mechanically to permit improper or conflicting routes.
In the above photo, left, Operator Davis is lining up a route for an oncoming
train. The view is looking south down the Katy. The pendulum for the office
clock can be seen above the time-release clock (upon which a coat is hung).
If a proceed signal was improperly displayed, a new route could not be aligned
until 45 seconds elapsed after starting the time release. This seemed like a
long time when an engine is sitting at the home signal blowing its whistle.
In the right photo, Tower 67 operator F. J. Davis entertains Richard Cooper,
son of Jim Cooper, in December of 1957.
The tower was a 24-hour train order office on both the MKT and the T&NO. Although there were also three tricks (shifts) of train order operators at the BR-I depot in Waxahachie that copied most of the orders for BR-I trains, occasionally BR-I trains would be given orders at Waxahachie Tower. Both the tower and the BR-I depot handled Western Union messages at nights and on weekends when the downtown Western Union office was closed. Intra-company messages for both the Katy and the T&NO depots passed through the tower. In the late 1940s and early 1950s between 20 and 30 trains, including 14 passenger trains, were handled daily. During the wheat rush in early summer the traffic was heavier. The tower was replaced by an automatic system in 1958 at which time the train order office was moved to the Katy depot just south of downtown Waxahachie.
Recent Photos, Tower 67 Site (Jim King, January 2008)
Above: View to the northwest along the T&NO. The switch beside the block signal is for the connecting track to the Katy. The
equipment hut to the left appears to be the same one as in the second Jim Cooper photo above. Compare the small black hole
at the top center of the side of the hut.
Below: View to the north along the Katy. The tower was near the utility pole at right.
Satellite Map, Waxahachie Area