Crossing of the San Antonio & Aransas Pass Railway, the Houston Belt & Terminal Railroad, and the International & Great Northern Railroad
Tower 84 first appears in Railroad Commission of Texas (RCT) records in the 1911 RCT Annual Report where it is listed as an electrical interlocker at location "Houston" with 36 functions, but with no authorization date, controlling a junction of the San Antonio & Aransas Pass (SA&AP), Houston Belt & Terminal (HB&T), and International & Great Northern (I-GN) railroads. This information is repeated in subsequent annual reports until the 1917 report, which lists it as having 34 functions, but still no authorization date. Finally, in the 1924 annual report, Tower 84 is listed with an authorization date of February 18, 1918 and 35 functions. The 1925 and 1926 reports repeat this same data, but the 1927 report lists the authorization date as August 10, 1910 and the number of functions as 46. The 1928 report further augments this information by listing the location as "Houston (Walker Ave.)". Perhaps confusion over the large number of Houston area interlockers (and occasional erroneous information about them in RCT annual reports) motivated RCT to add the "Walker Ave." designation. Whatever the case, this was apparently not the only designation used. In the book The Southern Pacific Guide Texas and Louisiana Lines, author David M. Bernstein refers to Tower 84 as being at "Rusk Ave." Bernstein mentions that the functions of Tower 84 (along with those of Towers 116 and 116A) were consolidated into Tower 117 on June 1, 1971, and that on April 17, 1983, the functions of Towers 81 and 84 were transferred to HB&T's Traffic Operations Center at Houston Union Station. Bernstein lists 1988 as the date Tower 84 was "retired", but this apparently refers to Tower 84's interlocking functions. Presumably, the actual tower structure has been gone for a long time; we have uncovered no one who remembers the tower and no photos of it are known. Fortunately, the precise location of Tower 84, where the SA&AP crossed Walker Avenue, can be determined from the 1924 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map of Houston.
Historic Map, Tower 84
Above: The 1925 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map of Houston shows a structure located along Walker Ave. on the west side of the diamond near a "Pipe Storage" area for "Horton
& Horton Building Contractors". Under magnification (at right), the map reveals the structure to be a two-story "Signal Tower". We believe this is Tower 84 because the three
railroads known to be interlocked by Tower 84 cross in this area (see map below), and the Railroad Commission 1928 Annual Report lists Tower 84 as "Houston (Walker Ave.)".
Note that Walker Ave. was never paved at Tower 84 and appears to have hosted the rail line, and nothing else, in this vicinity. The paved street does exist northwest and
southeast of the Tower 84 area.
Tower 84 Area Satellite Image
Above: Only faint traces of the SA&AP remain, but the other rail lines in this area are still intact, although the former I-GN connection to
the HB&T is no longer in place. The I-GN line crossing McKinney St. is the former "Columbia Tap" rail line that was one of the earliest
rail lines in Texas [see discussion at Tower 134].
Below: A more recent satellite image shows that the I-GN "Columbia Tap" became a hike & bike trail in 2009.
Above: Greg Johnson provides this undated photo of the Tower 84 equipment cabinet. The former SA&AP rails were still
intact at the time.
Below: Greg also took this 1970 photo of SP #1818 on the SA&AP at Tower 84.
Below: A recent bird's eye view from roughly the same angle as above shows that the SA&AP tracks are long
gone. The Waddell's Warehouse building remains, although the sign on the wall has changed. In 2009, the
building was designated as a historic structure by the City of Houston.
Tower 84 Site Photos from Tom Kline (Click to enlarge)