Crossing of the San Antonio & Aransas Pass Railway, Galveston, Harrisburg & San Antonio Railway, and the Houston & Texas Central Railroad
In 1914, the Houston & Texas Central (H&TC) Railroad built a 9-mile connecting line south from Tower 13 on the northwest side of Houston to West Junction on the Sunset Route, southwest of town. This provided an alternate route for trains on the Sunset Route to access downtown Houston. Three years later, the Galveston, Harrisburg and San Antonio (GH&SA) railroad built a line paralleling the H&TC line from Tower 14 (Chaney Junction) to West Junction via Tower 13. Chaney Jct. was approximately 3 miles east of Tower 13 on the H&TC line. This provided double track between Chaney Jct., Tower 13 and West Jct., and permitted the GH&SA to abandon its original line between Stella (near Pierce Jct.) and Chaney Junction via Tower 12. Although both railroads were leased to Southern Pacific (SP) at the time, the GH&SA line was deemed necessary so that the GH&SA could continue to serve Houston on its own tracks.
At the suburban town of Bellaire southwest of downtown Houston, the two parallel rail lines crossed the San Antonio & Aransas Pass (SA&AP) main line from the west which had been built in 1888. The SA&AP was also under SP management control but retained a separate corporate identity. Thus, although the junction involved three railroads all leased or controlled by SP, a numbered interlocker was still required because of the separate corporate entities. Tower 104 opened at this junction as a 17-function mechanical interlocker on February 11, 1916. This date is before the GH&SA line construction was complete; Texas & New Orleans (T&NO) corporate records show that the original interlocker did not encompass the GH&SA track despite the fact that GH&SA is listed in the 1917 Railroad Commission of Texas (RCT) Annual Report as one of the railroads served by Tower 104. The T&NO records show that the interlocker was increased to 31 functions on April 27, 1918 to accommodate the GH&SA and then "Replaced in service March 5th, 1920 following Federal Control Plan D-555 Rev. 8-4-20" as a 26-function interlocker. However, there is no indication that the tower was ever out of service between 1918 and 1920.
SP eventually consolidated corporate control over all three railroads, and by 1927, all three were operated seamlessly by the T&NO, SP's principal operating company in Texas. The 1927 RCT Annual Report lists Tower 104 as abandoned, and according to T&NO historian David Bernstein, "the SA&AP crossing at Bellaire Jct. was removed in 1926 and the Tower 104 interlocking retired. In 1947 or 1948, a new interlocking was installed, controlled from Tower 13...". T&NO documentation shows "Bellaire Tower placed out of service July 7, 1925 account taking over the SA&AP Ry.", undoubtedly due to T&NO's interpretation of RCT rules that single railroad interlockers were not required to be reported on annually (see discussion at Tower 5).
Location Map, Tower 104
Above: Track diagram from Tom Kline showing Bellaire Jct. c. 1990. RCT records
indicate the crossing diamonds were removed in 1926. The ex-SAAP tracks were
removed in the late 1990s.
Table of Interlocker Functions at Tower 104 as of August 4, 1920 (from Carl Codney)
|1. Dwarf signal||1|
|2. Home signal||1|
|3. Home signal||1|
|5. Derail and F.P. lock||1||1|
|6. Two switches||2|
|7. Two switches||2|
|8. Two F. P. locks||2|
|9. Distant signal||1|
|10. Home signal||1|
|15. Home signal||1|
|17. Dwarf signal||1|
|18. Derail and F. P. lock||2|
|19. Home signal||1|
|20. Home signal||1|
|21. Distant signal||1|
|Distant signal "A"||1|
|Distant signal "B"||1|
Photos of Bellaire Jct. from Tom Kline (click to enlarge)
East side of tracks, looking north West side of tracks, looking north West side of tracks, looking south
Satellite Image, Bellaire Jct.