txrrhistory.com - Tower 72 and Tower 184 - Corsicana

Crossings of the St. Louis - Southwestern Railway with the Trinity & Brazos Valley and Texas & New Orleans railroads

It is somewhat unusual to find two numbered interlockers less than 1,500 feet apart, but that was the situation in Corsicana, where the St. Louis - Southwestern (SSW, "Cotton Belt") crossed both the Houston & Texas Central (H&TC) and Trinity & Brazos Valley (T&BV) railroads at grade. The H&TC line from Houston to Denison was the first railroad to reach Corsicana, in the early 1870's. A decade later, a line that eventually became owned by the Cotton Belt was built from Tyler to Waco, crossing the H&TC at grade in Corsicana. In 1907, the T&BV, building north from Teague, crossed the Cotton Belt at grade, a crossing that became controlled by Tower 72 on November 21, 1907. (The T&BV also crossed the H&TC further north, but this was grade separated). The files of DeGolyer Library show that this interlocker was not static over the years, and indeed, there is photographic proof of a radical change to the design of Tower 72. Modifications to Tower 72 were initiated in letters to the Railroad Commission of Texas (RCT) dated April 14, 1932, September 30, 1940, September 30, 1952, and April 21, 1954, but the nature and extent of these modifications remains to be determined. Tower 72 remained active for many years, but was eventually retired and razed. The site of Tower 72 is still active at what is now a crossing of BNSF and UP.

The H&TC had been part of the Southern Pacific (SP) system since 1883, and it was absorbed into SP's primary Texas operating company, the Texas & New Orleans (T&NO) railroad, in 1927. SP acquired the Cotton Belt in 1932, but continued to operate it as a separate company. Although their crossing had existed since the early 1880s, RCT never included it on the list of locations that needed to be interlocked. As an uncontrolled crossing of two railroads, all trains would be required to stop before proceeding, but this may not have been an added burden because the crossing was within SP's yard limits, immediately adjacent to the SP depot, where through trains would likely stop anyway. The rule that was followed until the mid-1920s was that a crossing where both lines were owned by a single railroad could be managed by internal rules and did not require interlocker approval by RCT. This interpretation changed when the RCT began asserting approval authority over yard interlocking systems (see discussion at Tower 121). In the 1930s, railroads began submitting interlocking plans to RCT to cover their own crossings. An interlocker was installed for the Cotton Belt/T&NO crossing, and on December 21, 1937, interim authority to begin operating the newly designated Tower 184 was granted with the interlocker control machine located in the passenger depot. On February 19, 1945, T&NO requested "permission to install an additional color light dwarf signal" for this interlocker, but otherwise, this interlocker appears to have had few changes over the years. The crossing at Tower 184 was retired in 1988 when the Cotton Belt line west of the junction was abandoned. Now, the former Cotton Belt line curves to the south and joins the UP main line heading toward Hearne.

Historic Photos of Tower 72

Above: Looking north past Tower 72 up the ex-T&BV main line through Corsicana, the Cotton Belt
crossing is just past the tower. On the left in the distance is the turret of T&BV Depot, still utilized by
the BNSF Railroad. (photo courtesy of Gary Morris)
Below, a close-up of the tower and its order hoop. (photo courtesy of Gary Morris)


  
Above left: When a young Myron Malone (Webmaster Emeritus of this website) was photographed at Tower 72, he was looking south
down the Burlington - Rock Island (B-RI) Railroad, successor to the T&BV, while standing on the Cotton Belt track. The B-RI was a paper
railroad created to acquire the T&BV when it came out of bankruptcy in the early 1930s. The B-RI was jointly owned by the Burlington
and Rock Island railroads, which supplied all of its equipment and personnel.  Photo by Robert W. Courtney
Above right: Terry Kirkland captured this photo of SP9114 crossing the diamond at Tower 72.

Photos of the Tower 72 and Tower 184 crossings from the John W Barriger III National Railroad Library

Looking west on the Cotton Belt, the above image of Tower 72 was taken by John W Barriger III. The image is undated, but it is clear that
Tower 72 looks substantially different compared to its most recent incarnation pictured in the color photos we have, so much so that it
appears to have been completely rebuilt to a different design. This is not without precedent -- like other structures, towers were damaged by
fire, tornadoes, railroad accidents, etc. The DeGolyer files show that the tower was modified multiple times, but more research is needed
to determine if a complete rebuild was accomplished. Note the water tower in the distance is also visible in the image below taken at the
Tower 184 crossing on the same passage. There, the Cotton Belt continues straight ahead to the west toward Waco while the SP (T&NO)
crosses north to south (right to left) in the foreground.


 

Tower 184  (Everett DeGolyer, Jr, September 1960, courtesy, DeGolyer Library, SMU)

Photos of the Corsicana Crossings from the Tom Kline collection (click to enlarge)
     

     
 

     

Historic Map, Tower 72
    
Above: The 1910 Sanborn Fire Insurance Co. map of Corsicana shows the location of Tower 72 in the southwest quadrant of the
crossing. Under magnification (right), the map reveals a two-story "Switch Tower". Below: The Sanborn map shows the location of the
Union Passenger Station in the northwest quadrant of the Tower 184 crossing. The Tower 184 interlocker was operated from the
passenger station.


Satellite Image, Corsicana Interlockers

Above: This Google Earth view of Corsicana shows the T&NO line (left) and T&BV line (right) running north, angling together toward an
eventual grade-separated crossing on the north side of town. The former Cotton Belt line crosses east/west (right-to-left) in the center, but it no
longer continues west of the T&NO line since the segment to Waco was abandoned in 1988. Instead, it curves to join what is now the Union Pacific
main line to the south toward Hearne. The depot and tower structures are long gone, although the T&BV depot survives (see Google Street View
below), barely visible at the top edge of the image along the T&BV line.

 
Last Revised: 5/15/2017 JGK - Contact the Texas Interlocking Towers Page.