A Crossing of the Houston East & West Texas Railroad and the Houston Belt & Terminal Railroad
Tower 76 was commissioned for operations on November 1, 1908 at a well-known railroad junction in northeast Houston, originally a crossing of the Houston East & West Texas (HE&WT) and the Houston Belt & Terminal (HB&T) railroads. The HE&WT was nicknamed "the Rabbit", but the origin of this name is in dispute. One source claims the name derives from passengers shooting rabbits from the train during stops en route between Houston and Shreveport [Handbook of Texas Online, http://www.tsha.utexas.edu/handbook/online/articles/HH/hfh8.html]. A more plausible explanation can be found in Robert S. Maxwell's book Whistle in the Piney Woods [East Texas Historical Association and University of North Texas Press, 1998] where Maxwell writes... Because of its short, bobbing, narrow-gauge cars, its up and down hill roadbed, its tendency to jump the track, and, above all, its proclivity for "stopping behind every stump", the road was promptly labeled "The Rabbit". Whatever the case, "the Rabbit" was a well-known nickname, and Tower 76 became known as Rabbit Crossing. While the HB&T ownership remains intact, the HE&WT became a Southern Pacific property when it was merged into the Texas & New Orleans (T&NO) Railroad, and it is now part of Union Pacific.
We do not know the fate of Tower 76 and we have not been able to locate a photo of it. The tower is no longer standing and was presumably razed many years ago. Current photos of the crossing site are hard to come by because there are no surface streets leading to the junction (and, being located directly beneath the US-59 Freeway, it is invisible to satellite imaging). However, as shown in the graphic below from the Texas Dept. of Transportation dated 27 February 2007, the Tower 76 nomenclature remains in use, even though the tower and its manual interlocking are long gone. Tower 76 continues to see frequent traffic on both rail lines on a daily basis, and one unusual aspect of this junction is that there are no connecting tracks between the two main lines. The Houston Region Freight Study recommends adding a connecting track in the southeast quadrant of the crossing to provide another route for trains to use between downtown Houston and Settegast yard. Currently, such movements require traveling via Tower 80 or Englewood Yard.
Map, Towers in North Central Houston