Texas Railroad History - Tower 77 - Carrollton

A Crossing of the Missouri-Kansas-Texas, the St. Louis Southwestern, and the Chicago Rock Island & Gulf railroads

Above Left: Tower 77, undated photo (Dennis Hogan collection) Above Right: This undated photo of Tower 77 taken by John B. Charles appeared in issue #17 of Crosstie, a magazine for the San Antonio Division of Southern Pacific published in 1987.

The Dallas & Wichita Railroad was an effort by Dallas investors to build a rail line to serve mineral rich areas to the north near the Red River. Construction from Dallas began in 1871 but was very slow; only 20 miles had been completed by 1878. That year, the railroad platted the town of Carrollton and then went broke shortly thereafter. The railroad was completed as far north as Denton by 1881 and then sold to the Missouri-Kansas-Texas ("Katy") Railway which had its own line through Denton. Several years later, the St. Louis, Arkansas & Texas (SLA&T) Railway was expanding into north central Texas from Texarkana where it connected with (and ultimately became part of) the St. Louis Southwestern Railway (SSW), commonly known as the "Cotton Belt". Building a line from Commerce to Ft. Worth, the SLA&T passed through Carrollton in 1888, crossing the Katy at grade.

The third railroad into Carrollton resulted from the efforts of native Texan B. F. Yoakum to expand his rail empire in north Texas. Yoakum controlled two major railroads: the St. Louis - San Francisco ("Frisco") Railway and the Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific ("Rock Island") Railroad (with its Texas subsidiary known as the Chicago, Rock Island & Gulf). The Rock Island crossed the Red River near the town of Ringgold and built south to Ft. Worth in 1893. The Frisco crossed the Red River into Sherman in 1901. Yoakum chartered the Red River, Texas & Southern (RRT&S) Railroad to build from Sherman to Ft. Worth. Construction reached Carrollton in 1902 and from there, Yoakum negotiated an agreement to use the Cotton Belt tracks to reach Ft. Worth. The RRT&S was formally merged with the Frisco in 1904.

In 1903, Rock Island built tracks from Ft. Worth to Dallas as an initial step in their strategy to build a major line from Ft. Worth to Galveston. At Irving, this line passed within 11 miles of Carrollton, so Yoakum arranged for Rock Island to build tracks between Carrollton and Irving in 1908. The end result was three lines crossing at Carrollton, motivating the establishment of the Tower 77 interlocker on December 7, 1908. Tower 77 served for at least a half century, its demise occurring sometime in the 1958 - 1968 timeframe.

Above: This image of Tower 77 was captured from a video compilation of 8 and 16 mm. movies taken by H. K. Vollrath in the first half of the 1950s. The movies were transferred to a VHS tape and made available on YouTube by Neil Dahl (hat tip, Jimmy Barlow.)

Below Left: The three lines crossed close to one another, and the Carrollton depot sat immediately southwest of the Cotton Belt / Katy diamond. The equipment cabinets occupy the site where the tower stood. (Jim King photo, 2001) Below Right: The depot was refurbished and relocated 300 ft. northeast as part of a redesign of the area to support the Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) line through Carrollton. From this view, the tower sat between the block light and the tracks behind it. (Google Street View, Sept. 2019)

The City of Carrollton has placed a historical marker on the west side of the depot that says...

Carrollton, Texas Designated Historic Landmark

The Carrollton Crossing

In 1878 the Dallas - Wichita Railroad came to Carrollton and by 1879 the Katy Railroad owned the line. By 1908 there were three railroads using Carrollton as a way station. The Cotton Belt and Katy provided passenger service and maintained a depot while the Frisco railroad only provided freight service. Prior to the 1940's, all significant commence was by rail. Access to the railroads enabled Carrollton to grow and prosper.

Above: Looking northeast, the former Katy crossings of the Cotton Belt (SSW) and Frisco remain intact. The Katy / Cotton Belt depot was in the southeast quadrant of the Katy / Cotton Belt diamond, with Tower 77 located north across the Cotton Belt tracks. The Katy tracks are operated by the Dallas, Garland and Northeastern (DGNO) Railroad, extending only a few miles farther north to serve industry spurs. DGNO also operates the Cotton Belt tracks east from Carrollton into north Dallas, but as of January, 2021, much of this line is out of service. In 2019, DART initiated a project to convert this right-of-way into the light rail Silver Line between Plano and DFW Airport. Carrollton is already served by the DART Green Line which follows the Katy right-of-way. To the west, the Fort Worth & Western Railroad operates the Cotton Belt tracks from Carrollton to Ft. Worth. The Frisco tracks through Carrollton are operated by its successor railroad, Burlington Northern Santa Fe. Below: This simulated 3-D view of Carrollton crossing shows all three diamonds and the relocated depot (purple circle.)

Below Left: Equipment cabinets sit in place of Tower 77 across from the depot (prior to its relocation) in this 2009 image. The massive changes attributable to DART had not yet occurred in Carrollton. (Microsoft Virtual Earth) Below Right: Tower 77 casts a large and lengthy shadow from the west sun in this 1958 image ((c) historicaerials.com). The next available image is ten years later, by which time Tower 77 was gone.

Last Revised: 1/30/2021 JGK - Contact the Texas Interlocking Towers Page.