Texas Railroad History - Tower 121 - San Antonio, Texas

San Antonio East Yard -- Galveston, Harrisburg & San Antonio (GH&SA) Railway

Tower 121 had the distinction of being one of the last standing towers in the state of Texas. The tower was authorized for operation on April 10, 1925, and officially closed on February 26, 2001 at 9:00 am. At that time, control functions for the tower were shifted to the Union Pacific (UP) Dispatching Center in Spring, Texas. Beginning around December 20, 2002, the building began to suffer severe damage from vandals. Corrugated siding was removed from the building and two fires of suspicious origin were set in the building but did not burn it to the ground. On the night of January 16, 2003, the tower burned to the ground from a fire probably set by vandals. By the next day, a contractor for UP removed the charred remains. The lever controls for the tower were reported to have been preserved by a San Antonio historical group well prior to the fire.

One of the interesting aspects of Tower 121 is that it was a single-railroad yard tower, not a traditional interlocking tower at a junction of two or more railroads. It appears that Tower 121 was authorized through the Railroad Commission of Texas (RCT) approval process without any consideration as to whether this was truly required by law or policy. This may have been related to the interlocker authorization sought for Tower 117 by the Houston Belt & Terminal Railroad a year earlier (1924). Tower 117 was the first "yard tower" to have been subjected to the RCT approval process. This clearly set a precedent for yard towers that may have affected Tower 121 as well as the RCT's later decision to require Santa Fe to seek approval for their yard interlocker at Canyon. For Tower 121, Southern Pacific wrote a letter to RCT dated April 8, 1925 requesting interlocker design approval and a tower number assignment. The letter states "This plant does not serve railroad crossings at grade but is being constructed for our convenience and improvement in operation." Approval was granted two days later.

Below are images of Tower 121 in its later years of service.

Historic Photos - Tower121

Photo by Carl Codney.

Photos by Myron Malone.

The above photos show that the tower was located only a few feet away from a large brick building, and that the tower roof was approximately the same height as the roof of the building.

Satellite Images, Tower 121
Above: The left image is a Terraserver aerial photo of Tower 121 and the adjacent building taken in 1995. The building's roof occupies the lower portion of the image. The roof of Tower 121 appears as a white square next to (and above) the left corner of the building. On the right, an equivalent Google Earth image of more recent vintage (precise date unknown) shows that the tower has been removed. Below: GoogleEarth satellite image of Tower 121's location south of I-35 and just east of I-37.

Last Revised: 9/5/2008 JGK - Contact the Texas Interlocking Towers Page.