Texas Railroad History - Tower 113 - Hyatt

A Crossing of the Texas & New Orleans Railroad and the East Texas & Gulf Railroad

"Why did the ET&G cross the T&NO? To get to the other side."
                                                                                    -- Jimmy Barlow

The Sabine and East Texas (S&ET) Railway was founded in 1880 and soon completed a line from Beaumont south to Sabine Pass and north to Rockland via Kountze. The impetus for building north was to serve the massive lumber opportunity presented by the forests of east Texas. In late 1882, the railroad was acquired by the Texas & New Orleans (T&NO) Railroad which had recently been purchased by Southern Pacific (SP). SP had begun acquiring railroads in Texas and Louisiana and integrating them into T&NO's operations; the S&ET was one of the first. Towns began to pop up along the railroad at lumber mill sites. Hyatt was one of these towns, about 15 miles north of Kountze, located at a sawmill built by two nephews of William Marsh Rice (who later founded Rice Institute, now Rice University, in Houston).

In 1917, the Lodwick Lumber Co. built a mill about four miles east of Hyatt at a town they named Hicksbaugh, a combination of the two owners' last names. [Note: Instead of Lodwick, the The Handbook of Texas uses the name Loderick, which is the spelling used by S. G. Reed in his definitive 1941 tome A History of the Texas Railroads. However, Lodwick is the spelling the company used in legal documents filed in a 1947 U.S. Tax Court case and is presumably correct.]  The Lodwick Lumber Co. also chartered the East Texas & Gulf (ET&G) railroad to provide a connection to the T&NO at Hyatt. The railroad construction was apparently completed in late 1917, but gaps and inconsistencies in available records make for a confusing history. The book Texas Railroads: A Record of Construction and Abandonment (C. Zlatkovich, 1981) lists 14.6 miles of ET&G construction completed in 1917 based on Railroad Commission of Texas (RCT) records. This is the only construction Zlatkovich attributes to the ET&G. In later years there were abandonments, specifically: 5 miles, Hyatt to Hicks in 1918; 6 miles, Hicksbaugh to Wurtzbaugh in 1925; and 3.6 miles, Hyatt to Hicksbaugh in 1934. The locations of Hyatt and Hicksbaugh are well known. Wurtzbaugh is known to be south of Hicksbaugh, and both are east of the T&NO. There is no record of the location of Hicks. The fact that there is no additional construction listed implies that the initial 1917 construction crossed the T&NO tracks creating the eventual need for an interlocker. If the ET&G was simply exchanging freight with the T&NO, there would be no need to build across the T&NO main line. And if Hicks was west of the T&NO necessitating the initial crossing in 1917, this segment's immediate abandonment in 1918 should have eliminated the crossing. Yet in 1923, for reasons unknown, a cabin interlocker was commissioned as Tower 113 by the Railroad Commission of Texas (RCT) on April 17.

Above: This 1958 USGS topo map image shows Hyatt and Hicksbaugh, but no specific evidence of the route of the ET&G.

Below: This 1917 RCT map provided by the Texas Transportation Archive shows the route of the ET&G between Hyatt and Hicksbaugh, with a "Non-common Carrier" extension south from Hicksbaugh to Wurtzbaugh. While the route between Hyatt and Hicksbaugh resembles the road running west from Hicksbaugh to US 69 in the map above, it is not sufficiently detailed to be able to make that claim with certainty. That road (now known as County Road 4780) connects to US 69 about 0.6 miles south of Hyatt. The location for Hicks does not appear on the map and no construction is shown west of the T&NO.

If the RCT records used by Charles Zlatkovich were complete and accurate, there was no additional construction on the ET&G after 1917. Yet, Railway Age, Vol. 72 (1922) states that the ET&G had the following construction in 1921:

First Track:  Hyatt to Wurtzbaugh, 9.6 miles. Other Important Work Under Construction:  A line projected from Hyatt to Hicks, 7.8 miles.

It is unlikely that ET&G's "First Track" was in 1921. In addition to the RCT records that list 1917 as the date, Reed states that "operations began in October, 1917, but it was not extended further." Reed had direct access to T&NO records and was meticulous in his use of objective sources and reviewers. Having retired from Southern Pacific in 1937 after 49 years as a traffic manager for SP in Texas, Reed was clearly aware of all of the connecting traffic that T&NO supported. He would not have claimed the specific month that ET&G operations began without absolute confidence that it was correct. It is much more likely that the construction news of this obscure line did not reach Railway Age editors for a few years, and being much further away from east Texas than Reed or the RCT, the mistake is probably theirs. Assuming there was no additional construction after 1917, the April 17, 1923 date for the commissioning of Tower 113 would merely indicate that the crossing was uncontrolled between 1917 and 1923, and that this was not a significant issue for T&NO operations during that period.

The Railway Age reference to a projected line from Hyatt to Hicks is interesting. By RCT records, this distance was 6 miles, not 7.8 miles, and the line had already been built (1917) and abandoned (1918) well before 1921. This may point to an error in RCT documentation (or possibly, but less likely, in transcription thereof by Charles Zlatkovich.) It seems very odd that a 6-mile line would be "formally" abandoned within a year after its construction (i.e. not merely that line operations have ceased, but abandoned with enough formality to be noted in RCT records.) If this was an error in RCT records and the actual abandonment date was, say, 1928 instead of 1918, it would make much more sense. Tower 113 was decommissioned in 1927, hence a 1928 abandonment would be consistent with removal of the interlocker when the (theoretical westerly) line to Hicks ceased operations (and the line was then formally abandoned the next year). Unfortunately, this is simply speculation. The Railway Age article also describes the expansion to Hicks as "projected", but this is inconsistent with Zlatkovich's book indicating the line was built in 1917.

What does all of this mean? As there was no population or commerce in the vicinity west of the T&NO, the most likely explanation is that the ET&G decided to extend the line into the forest west from Hyatt as a "Non-common Carrier" lumber tram to carry raw logs back to Hicksbaugh. This decision might have been made after the initial construction began (hence it does not appear on the above map), and it probably extended 6 miles into the forest to an unspecified location that ET&G designated as "Hicks" (no doubt named for S. B. Hicks, one of the ET&G's owners.) Uncontrolled lumber trams crossing main lines were common throughout east Texas and did not require commission approval if they were not interlocked. Eventually, T&NO requested an interlocker to protect their main line, so the Tower 113 cabin interlocker was installed in 1923. Regardless of when the line west of the T&NO was actually built or where it led, the Tower 113 interlocker only lasted about 4 years. The 1928 RCT Annual Report states that Tower 113 was taken out of service at an unspecified date in 1927. Operations at the Lodwick mill were also winding down about this time, and the mill completely ceased operations in 1928. The ET&G continued serving the small population of Hicksbaugh until it was completely abandoned in 1934. The T&NO line lasted much longer but was abandoned in the 1990s.

Below: On this Google Earth image, Hyatt is the settlement at upper left where County Road 4740 intersects US 69, and Hicksbaugh is the clearing at lower right near the "4800" label. The abandoned T&NO right-of-way is barely visible as a vertical line along the left edge of the image. The precise route of the ET&G, and why it crossed the T&NO, remains undetermined.

Jimmy Barlow adds the following in an email dated 12 May 2017:

"It just so happens that I had a dear and longtime friend who spent some of his childhood in nearby Warren. His name was Jess Harper (1914-2012) and his dad worked for the Lodwick Lumber Co. Even in his 90s Jess was sharp as a tack!  Here is my summation of some emails he sent ca. 2005:

  Although ET&G freight trains ran the length of the line, their passenger trains only served Hicksbaugh and Hyatt, 3.6 miles apart.  But a law required all railroads that provided passenger service to do so over a minimum distance of six miles.  So once a day, ET&G's little train--in reality a modified T-model Ford on railroad wheels--ran EMPTY from Hicksbaugh [I think Jess meant Hyatt?] to Hicks and back (Hicks being nothing more than a signboard beside the track), which made a total run of exactly 6.0 miles!  

I can't find Jess's emails now; I don't think he mentioned what year(s) he witnessed this.  His 6.0 miles doesn't quite match the figures in Zlatkovich's book, so I don't know if this helps clarify anything.  But I found Jess's story amusing.

Amusing, indeed!

Last Revised: 7/29/2020 - Contact the Texas Interlocking Towers Page.