Two Trunk Line Crossings of the Trinity Valley & Northern Railway near Dayton
Originally known as West Liberty (for its location west of, and across the Trinity River from, the town of Liberty), the town of Dayton ("Day Town") was named for a nearby land owner, I. C. Day. By 1860, it was known as Dayton Station on the Texas & New Orleans (T&NO) rail line between Houston and Beaumont. Dayton prospered as southeast Texas grew with commerce focused on three industries: farming (mostly cotton and rice), timber harvesting and oil production. In 1906, the Trinity Valley & Northern (TV&N) was built by the Dayton Lumber Co. to provide improved inbound transportation for raw timber to its mill at Dayton, and better outbound connections for its wood products. In addition to a connection with the T&NO which it crossed in Dayton, the plan was to build north from Dayton as far as Cleveland where two additional railroads provided service. Operations began on the first ten miles in 1908, by which time the Beaumont, Sour Lake & Western (BSL&W) had built through the area. The BSL&W crossed the TV&N at Fullerton, five miles north of the T&NO crossing in Dayton. This immediately gave TV&N a second trunk line connection, providing competition for TV&N's outbound freight.
Tower 110 first appears in the Railroad Commission of Texas (RCT) list of authorized interlockers in the 1919 Annual Report. In a chart dated December 31, 1918, Tower 110 is listed as a mechanical interlocking plant with 18 functions serving the T&NO / TV&N crossing authorized for service June 2, 1917. This was about the time that the Dayton & Goose Creek (D&GC) Railroad was founded to build from the T&NO line at Dayton south to Baytown, site of the massive Humble Oil refinery (now ExxonMobil). From track charts of the era, it appears that the D&GC and TV&N both connected at the Tower 110 crossing. However, the D&GC was not listed in the RCT annual report as being served by Tower 110. The reason for this omission is unknown, but reasonable speculation is that the TV&N tracks actually crossed the T&NO to reach the D&GC, so technically, the DG&C did not access the interlocker. It is also unknown whether Tower 110 was a manned two-story tower. It is not listed as a cabin interlocker, but that terminology was not in widespread use in RCT's files until the mid-1920s. Given the nature of the operations with one main line of frequent service and two branch lines of intermittent service, it was most likely only periodically manned, either by train crews or other yard personnel, being perhaps a one-story "hut" similar to Tower 103. As a result of the construction of the D&GC line to Baytown, the connection with the BSL&W at Fullerton became a more valuable asset for the TV&N. The BSL&W competed with the T&NO for D&GC oil traffic to and from the Baytown refinery, with the TV&N providing the short haul between Dayton and Fullerton. The D&GC tracks remain in operation today as a major branch to Baytown under T&NO successor Union Pacific
RCT files show that Tower 110 was authorized for abandonment on October 18, 1926, and actually removed from service on March 18, 1927. The impetus for abandonment was the lease of the D&GC to the T&NO. When this was accomplished, the D&GC no longer used the TV&N for competitive access to the BSL&W at Fullerton. This had been a major source of revenue for the TV&N. With the T&NO handling all of the D&GC oil traffic, trains no longer needed to use the TV&N to cross the T&NO main line in order to reach the BSL&W at Fullerton.
About two years after Tower 110 was abandoned, an 8-function cabin interlocker, Tower 148, was authorized by RCT to begin service at Fullerton (on April 13, 1929) protecting the BSL&W / TV&N crossing. The BSL&W needed the interlocker to eliminate the requirement for its trains to stop at Fullerton. By this time, however, the TV&N was in full decline with lumbering areas north of Fullerton becoming depleted. By the end of 1929, the TV&N had abandoned all of its track from Fullerton to Lumm (~ 12 miles). The only operating trackage that remained was the short segment between Dayton and Fullerton. The TV&N shut down in 1932 and the tracks were abandoned in 1933, eliminating the need for Tower 148. Both the BSL&W and T&NO tracks remain in use today as main line routes, now owned by Union Pacific.
Historic Track Chart, Dayton
Above: This is a photograph of a linen track chart owned by Bruce Blalock of the Katy House B&B in Smithville showing the junction at Dayton. The TV&N line ran
north from the junction while the D&GC line ran south. (Jim King photo)
Above left: Fullerton no longer appears on topographic maps and is not identified in the Handbook of Texas. Fortunately,
the US Geologic Survey Geographic Names Information System has a record of its map coordinates. Beyond Fullerton,
the TV&N went through Fouts and terminated at Lumm, about 15 miles north of Dayton. Neither of those places can
be found on maps today, but again, both had map coordinates listed in the Geographic Names Information System.
The TV&N crossing of TX321 north of Dayton (right image) coincides with the intersection of "Tram Road" running
northeast toward Fullerton. Just north of where this image cuts off, Tram Road ends, but satellite imagery shows the
right-of-way continuing northeast and then curving to an east-northeast heading roughly parallel to the BSL&W tracks.
The right-of-way to the east was likely a spur built by TV&N to extract logs from land it controlled.