Crossing of the Galveston, Harrisburg & San Antonio (GH&SA) Railroad and the St. Louis, Brownsville & Mexico (SLB&M) Railway
Victoria is one of the oldest towns in Texas, and it was one of the earliest to see rail service. The first railroad to arrive was the San Antonio and Mexican Gulf (SA&MG) Railroad which built from Port Lavaca to Victoria in 1861. The Civil War intervened and the railroad was destroyed and then rebuilt in stages, eventually becoming part of the Gulf, Western Texas and Pacific (GWT&P) Railway in 1871. The GWT&P built a line from Cuero to Victoria in 1873 completing the 56-mile route from Cuero to Port Lavaca. The GWT&P also built west from Victoria to Beeville in 1889, a distance of 55 miles. Southern Pacific (SP) gained control of the GWT&P in 1882 and it was formally integrated into the Galveston, Harrisburg and San Antonio (GH&SA) Railroad in 1905. At the time, the GH&SA was SP's principal operating company in south Texas. In 1882, the New York, Texas and Mexican (NYT&M) Railway became the next railroad to reach Victoria, completing a 91-mile line from Rosenberg. The NYT&M was acquired by SP three years later and merged into the GH&SA in 1905.
It was the next railroad to enter Victoria, the St. Louis, Brownsville and Mexico (SLB&M) Railway, that necessitated the construction of Tower 90. The SLB&M was financed by a syndicate led by famed railroader B. F. Yoakum, and its first president was the notorious south Texas railroad promoter, Uriah Lott. The SLB&M built a 13-mile branch to Victoria from their main line at Bloomington in 1912, and as a result, Tower 90 was commissioned in January, 1913. This crossing was somewhat unusual compared to typical towers because the SLB&M ended less than two miles west of the crossing. Its trains would typically not have been "at speed" when approaching the tower, and as a branch line, the traffic level may not have been particularly high. The crossing could have been handled by other rules governing non-interlocked crossings, but it is likely that the GH&SA insisted on an interlocker since their line was part of a through route from Houston to Beeville and points south. This might have qualified as a good location for a cabin interlocker that would have remained lined for the GH&SA most of the time, but the 1917 Sanborn Fire Insurance map clearly shows the tower to be a two-story structure.
The above map shows the railroads in Victoria highlighted on the Sanborn Fire Insurance index map from September, 1917. The map shows that the SLB&M line ended less than two miles west of Tower 90. Below, the detailed 1917 Sanborn map shows Tower 90 ("R R Signal Tower") as a two-story structure located on East South 3rd St. between S. Navarro St. and S. Depot St. Tower 90 was abandoned in 1972, probably due to a line relocation or abandonment.
Much has changed in the railroad landscape of Victoria in the past century. Yet, state railroad maps show four of the five historic lines into Victoria as still in use (although one appears to be in limited operation and another is preserved only to serve a power plant). Kansas City Southern Railroad has plans to rebuild the fifth line, the previously abandoned ex-NYT&M from Rosenberg, to shorten the rail distance between Houston and Victoria. If anyone can supply additional information about current and past rail operations in the Victoria area, please contact us.
Tower 90 Site Photo (photo by Carl Codney, 12/12/2003)
Above: This is a view looking east at the site of Tower 90 along the unpaved 3rd St. Comparing this view to the Sanborn map, Tower 90 should have been located at the mound of dirt to the left of and just beyond the SP tracks.
Below: The swale of the former SLB&M right-of-way is easily spotted where the branch intersected the main line southeast of Tower 90. [Jim King photo, Dec. 2006]
Personal Observations of Roy Ekstrum (8/26/2005)
I've lived in Victoria all my 52 years and my home is about 6 blocks from where tower 90 was. My grandfather worked the Victoria to Alice train up til the day he died in 1943. I've visited the actual location of 90 many times looking for leftovers but they are pretty slim. Bases of the distance signals are still in place on the south end on the SP and on the west end on the ROW of the MP. The MP track was pulled up in the mid 80s I think, I really don't remember when it was but do remember the track crossing Moody St. by the river bridge, and I do remember the tracks in the MP yard in the early 70s. I've never seen a photo of tower 90... I have no idea what it looked like, I think either the Frisco or the SLB&M built it and maintained it... There was a second interlocker in Victoria but it was just a blockhouse, was removed several years ago... It was where the main crossed the line running from Port Lavaca going to Cuero. Another crossing was about 0.1 mi toward Port Lavaca from the Houston/CC line. That is where the MP crossed going to the cotton compress. Both of these were controlled by the station about 6 blocks down the street, I think. That MP crossing I don't think even had a signal with it. And at one time another interlocker was planned for the line that ran to Port O Connor and was to cross near the old compress. That line was to run to Yoakum but was never built out to Yoakum. The POC to Victoria part was built but was relined to come in to Victoria and crossed the SP at tower 90.
Personal Observations of Leonard Ruback (8/31/2005)
I did not frequent that part of town in the timeframe given (too young plus the area is a bit ...uh... rough). The GH&SA line is still there and hosts coal trains to Fannin (Coleto Creek). The MP line is long
gone. I do remember the MP line crossing the highway just before the Guadalupe River bridge. I never saw a train on it though. Today the old MP roadbed is a street. Back when I explored the area, the old grade was a gravel street. I do not think you could find any evidence of a rail line ever being there today. The MP also crossed the river down by the power plant. The line served numerous aggregate pits south of town. Today the area is a city park / lake. There is some evidence of this left if you know where to look. There used to be a horrendous curve on the MP line right at the Water St. crossing. The MP also served a large cotton compress which was located right next to the SP yard and north of North St. I do remember this line crossing North St and running through people's back yards. Never
saw a train on it though and it was probably abandoned from north of Port Lavaca Drive when I was young.
Satellite Image, Tower 90 Site