www.txrrhistory.com - Tower 102 and Tower 208 - Houston (Magnolia Park)

Tower 102: Crossing of the Galveston, Harrisburg and San Antonio, and International - Great Northern railroads
Tower 208: Crossing of the Houston Belt & Terminal, and Port Terminal Railroad Association railroads

The Magnolia Park community of east Houston was laid out in 1890 on land owned by Thomas Brady. At this time, Brady was a board member of a new railroad, the Houston Belt and Magnolia Park Railway, which had been chartered to build a line from Houston to Buffalo Bayou in the vicinity of Brady's land. Freight traffic never developed, but the line did have a passenger business transporting visitors to the Magnolia Amusement Park. The line went into receivership in 1891 but was acquired by the International - Great Northern (I-GN) Railroad. In 1896, the Galveston, La Porte and Houston (GL&H) Railway building north from Harrisburg (Tower 30) crossed the Houston Belt and Magnolia Park Railway in Magnolia Park. Under the ownership of the Galveston, Houston & Northern (GH&N) Railway, construction continued further north across Buffalo Bayou to a location known as Magers (Tower 86) . The GH&N became part of the Southern Pacific (SP) system when it was acquired by the Galveston, Harrisburg and San Antonio (GH&SA) Railway in 1905. Tower 102 was authorized for service on March 31, 1915 with an 8-function mechanical interlocker to control the crossing in Magnolia Park.

When the I-GN line became a valuable industrial track as a result of the construction of the Houston Ship Channel, its ownership was conveyed to the Houston Belt & Terminal (HB&T) Railroad which was owned by the major railroads serving Houston. The SP line was similarly valuable because the swing bridge that had been constructed over Buffalo Bayou was an important connection between SP's Englewood Yard and the industries along the south bank of the ship channel. Industrial growth resulted in additional rail construction by SP's Texas & New Orleans (T&NO) Railroad and by the City of Houston (and later, the Port of Houston Authority) to facilitate rail service to waterfront industries. The establishment of the Port Terminal Railroad Association (PTRA) in 1924 further developed rail service along this section of the south bank of Buffalo Bayou. Ultimately, the GH&SA route between Tower 30 and Buffalo Bayou was abandoned (and in recent years, converted to a bike trail between the bridge and Tower 102) since it duplicated SP's T&NO route that was closer to the Ship Channel. The T&NO tracks along the waterfront had been extended by PTRA to connect to the SP swing bridge to facilitate easy access to PTRA's large yard on the north side of Buffalo Bayou via Galena Junction (Tower 214). This required crossing HB&T's former I-GN line at a junction that was known initially as "Crossing C" near Old City Yard and Booth Siding. Years later, a decision was made to interlock Crossing C to improve traffic flow in the vicinity. On November 12, 1957, a letter from HB&T to the RCT announced that an interlocker at Crossing C had become operational on September 24, 1957, and that this junction was "not previously interlocked but now controlled by Tower 30". The letter also requested RCT to "please assign tower number to interlocked HB&T (I-GN) - PTRA crossing". The next day, a response letter from RCT stated that the engineering department "can't find a file for this interlocker, but will set one up", requesting additional details as to the precise nature of the interlocking. This was provided in a return letter on November 15th, and on November 18, 1957, the Tower 208 designation for Crossing C was officially conveyed to HB&T in a letter from RCT.

Site Photo, Tower 102 (Jim King, Dec. 2006)

Above: Facing north, the site of Tower 102 is now the south end of a greenbelt park and paved trail built along the former
GH&SA right-of-way. The HB&T (I-GN) line in the foreground is still used, and continues to Tower 208 to the right. As a nice
historical touch, the interlocker control box (below) was retained by the park developers and is still padlocked, apparently
preventing vandals from throwing incorrect signals to the ghost trains on the GH&SA. Various other railroad remnants are
visible at the site, but the foundation of Tower 102 was not located.

 

Site Photos, Tower 208 (Jim King, c.1998)
  
Above: The Tower 208 crossing is non-descript, but a sign remains intact to identify the location. Below: The SP swing bridge over Buffalo Bayou probably hasn't swung
open in many years, but the lower sign on the side provides the phone number to call "Southern Pacific". The text on the other sign could not be read at a distance.

 

Satellite Image, Magnolia Park

Location Map, Towers 102 and 208

 
Last Revised: 1/20/2007 JGK - Contact the Texas Interlocking Towers Page.