www.txrrhistory.com - Tower 103 - Beaumont (Chaison)

A crossing of the Texarkana & Ft. Smith Railway and the Texas & New Orleans Railway

On June 1, 1896, the Texarkana & Ft. Smith (T&FS) Railway opened a 19-mile route between Port Arthur and Beaumont. Port Arthur was named for railroad magnate Arthur Stilwell, and at the time, the T&FS was part of Stilwell's Kansas City, Pittsburg & Gulf Railroad which was on the verge of completing a railroad from Kansas City to Port Arthur. This was completed in 1899, but the company failed and was taken over by Kansas City Southern (KCS) Railway, which continues to operate the route today. Nearby, the Texas & New Orleans (T&NO) Railway operated a branch line from Beaumont to Sabine Pass on tracks originally built by the East Texas Railway in 1881. The route had been acquired by Southern Pacific (SP) in 1882 and conveyed to T&NO, SP's primary operating company for Texas railroads. T&NO built an industrial spur off this line to serve industries in south Beaumont, and this line crossed the KCS rails at a location called Chaison, no doubt named for the nearby community founded by McGuire Chaison in 1854. On October 8, 1915, a cabin interlocker, designated Tower 103, was authorized for service at this crossing by the Railroad Commission of Texas.

Historic Photo - Tower 103

Above: In an email accompanying this photo he took of Tower 103 in 1964, Richard Day remarks: "The view is looking southwest down the SP
industrial spur.  To the right is the KCS main to Beaumont and to the left is the KCS main to Port Arthur.  The locomotive is a northbound KCS
switch job returning to the recently completed new yard across from Lamar University.  At this time, semaphores still controlled the KCS main
with short staff light signals controlling the SP main (one of these can be seen in the view)." Thanks to Richard for providing this great photo!


Tom Kline took these photos of the remnants of the Tower 103 interlocker in April, 2000.
Tom writes "The view [above] of the interlocker electric lock and rod operated derail is looking northeast.
The track to the left is the KCS and you can see the light towers for Lamar University's stadium that
are up against the tracks." Compare Tom's view to the northeast with Richard Day's 1964 view to the
southwest. Both show the same interlocker derail control, but from opposite sides.
Below: The instruction plate is on a relay case behind the view above.

Jimmy Barlow adds the following discussion (dated 8/14/2005).
"When I was in Beaumont last weekend, I took time to check out the Tower 103 interlocker. This is where UP's Chaison Spur business track crosses the KCS main line immediately south of KCS's Chaison Yard. The spur breaks off UP's Sabine Industrial Lead (old SP/T&NO Pt. Arthur branch) half a mile north of Guffey, serves a concrete plant on the east side of US-69, and after crossing the KCS serves the petrochemical area dominated by the Mobil refinery (now Exxon Mobil). The crossing itself is kind of interesting, with the UP track having a short but steep ascent to the KCS from either side. Even so, there are derails on the UP maybe 50 yards on each side of the diamond. These are controlled by a single CTC-style switch motor to which they're connected via the same type of rod system found at manual interlocking towers! UP's absolute signals are a dinky little 2-aspect style on medium-height poles, and the rails are very shiny. Indeed, KCS personnel at Chaison estimated that UP crosses there at least 5 days a week. This spot is easy to photograph, with access via Olin Rd off MLK, less than half a mile north of MLK's intersection with US-69 in south-east Beaumont. Local "railspert" Gary Williams says that both T&NO and KCS had depots at Chaison years ago. If I recall correctly...the current KCS yard office was built as a passenger station (to replace their old downtown station--on KCS Street!--when they vacated that facility in the mid '60's), but I have a feeling Gary was talking about an earlier KCS depot. He also says that long-gone old-timers used to say that T&NO once ran a "mixed" train to Chaison from downtown Beaumont! I wonder if it appears in any old timetables? (Note: This area is called Zummo on some maps; don't know if that was ever a rail name or not.) Interestingly, the first street south of Olin Rd and on the same side of MLK is labeled "V W and R Dr." I got all excited when I saw that street sign, hoping those were the initials of some old railroad, although I couldn't think of any rail line so named (and subsequent research has turned up none). Sure enough, a brother-in-law who lives in that area tells me they stand for Van Waters & Rogers, a former chemical distributor (now known as Univar) who at one time owned a warehouse on the one-block-long dead-end street. He said the warehouse now belongs to healthcare products provider McKesson--which could explain why MapQuest shows that street to be McKesson Dr."
 


The map above depicts the historical locations of the main rail lines and junctions in the Beaumont area, some of which are no longer in service.
Legend: Yellow => Missouri Pacific (MP), Blue => Southern Pacific (SP), Purple => Kansas City Southern (KCS), Green => Santa Fe (GCSF)

Satellite Image, Tower 103 Vicinity

 
Last Revised: 4/16/2009 JGK - Contact the Texas Interlocking Towers Page.