www.txrrhistory.com - Tower 80 - Houston (Percival)
Crossing of the Houston Belt & Terminal and the International - Great Northern railroads
Historic Photo, Tower 80 in January, 1949 (courtesy,
Tower 80 was located at Belt Junction in north Houston and remains a very active rail junction today. The north/south line was one of the earliest rail lines in Texas, built by the Houston & Great Northern Railroad in1871. It was subsequently owned by the International - Great Northern (I-GN), Missouri Pacific (MoPac), and Union Pacific railroads. The east/west line was built by the Trinity & Brazos Valley (T&BV) Railroad in 1907, and was subsequently owned by the Burlington-Rock Island (B-RI) and Burlington Northern & Santa Fe (BNSF) railroads. Through common ownership, the T&BV was related to the St. Louis-San Francisco Railway (Frisco). This line undoubtedly carried many Frisco trains between Dallas and Houston and probably explains why the frontage road west of the junction is called Frisco Street.
Tower 80 was established as a 14-function mechanical interlocking tower on July 25, 1913. Railroad Commission of Texas (RCT) records list the Tower 80 interlocking as a junction of the I-GN with the Houston Belt &Terminal (H&BT), with HB&T operating the east/west line and the tower. The tower is first listed in the RCT 1913 Annual Report as being located in Houston, but the 1915 report changed the location to "Percival". Later reports also cite the location as "Houston, Percival" and "Percival (Houston)". This reference appears to be associated with "Percival Yards", the name of the I-GN yards located immediately south of Belt Junction. However, we do not know if the "Percival Yards" name was in use by I-GN in 1915 because the only known reference to Percival Yards is from a 1950s map. It is possible that the Percival name for both the yards and the tower site derives from some other unknown (and presumably geographic) reference.
Tower 80 took control of the nearby Tower 76 interlocking in 1930.
Historic Photo - Tower 80
Above: By the time Tom Kline photographed Tower 80 in 1980, it was a new structure that had replaced the original 1913 tower.
The site of Tower 80 has been commonly known as Belt Junction as indicated by the signs on the exterior of the building. Tom
writes "...the location was referred to as 'Tower NX' at one time...a holdover from the telegraph days. NX was the call sign of the
interlocker. We never called it that but some of the old heads did. The tower was razed in 1985, and video cameras were put in at
the east switch of the plant to OS and record car numbers of passing trains."
1998 Photo - Tower 80 Site
Above: Facing due east at Belt Junction, the former I-GN line crosses in the foreground, just beyond the BNSF
grade crossing at Hardy Rd. Photo by Jim King
Additional Photos by Tom Kline
(click to enlarge)
Tom writes: "A northbound MP freight waits for a clearance card to be written up at the TO office on one of the connector tracks in the northeast quadrant of the junction leading to the Palestine Sub. Notice this connector is double track. Also notice the homemade order stand under the floodlight on the engineer's side of the loco. There were three of these in this area next to the office. They could hold a total of four train order forks each."
Tom writes: "A horribly blurry shot looking west from the train order office down the HB&T/B-RI main of a MP freight grabbing orders while headed north off the "Passenger Main"-now the West Belt-and onto the Palestine Sub. This is a short telephoto shot and as you can see, the office was a good ways away from the diamond. I ran down to hang these orders and shot this view out the west window of the office. Notice the train order signal by the diamond for the north-south main. In the distance is a bulkhead flat car sitting on the lead into the Koppers creosote plant which occupied the northwest corner of the plant."
Tom writes: "That's me handing up wheel reports to the conductor of a Teague-bound train on the B-RI passing the Tower 80 office. Notice the connector track in the background, occupying the southeast quadrant of the plant."
Tom writes: "On the inside of the two connector tracks to the Palestine Sub a northbound eases past after grabbing orders. Notice the High-Speeder order post to the right which replaced the home made stand seen in the night photo above."
Historic Map, Tower 80 Location
Above: This Sanborn Fire Insurance Co. index map of Houston from 1951 shows a crossing of the I-GN and B-RI railroads (upper left part of the image) at Belt Junction, site of Tower 80. Although the east/west line was B-RI (ex-T&BV) heritage and the B-RI's mileposts ended at the interlocker, the junction was actually HB&T's crossing of the I-GN. The HB&T yard limits extended 3.4 miles west of Tower 80's diamond near where the present day Interstate 45 crosses the line. Tom Kline explains..."Operationally speaking, the tower was where the terminal began and ended for the B-RI, but the HB&T still switched a few little sidings west of there and the B-RI didn't. The furthest point south B-RI switched was Oak Forrest, the next station west (timetable north) from the interlocker. As for the B-RI's yard limits, they extended another 18.6 miles west (timetable north) from where the HB&T's ended." The map also shows a line running south from near Tower 80, generally paralleling the I-GN line (and Percival Yards) into downtown. This was HB&T's line into downtown Houston. The HB&T / Southern Pacific crossing located due east of Belt Junction (upper right corner) was the site of Tower 76. Note that "North Loop (Proposed)", now I-610, appears on the map, crossing the HB&T and I-GN railroads at their closest point south of Tower 80. The HB&T right-of-way to this location from near Belt Junction is now occupied by the Hardy Toll Road.
Tower 80 Satellite Image
Tower 80 Location Map