www.txrrhistory.com - Tower 124 - Forth Worth (Bird's Siding)

A Crossing of the Fort Worth & Rio Grande Railway and the Gulf, Colorado & Santa Fe Railway

In 1886, the newly chartered Fort Worth & Rio Grande (FW&RG) Railway began to build southwest from Ft. Worth, reaching Brownwood in 1891. Construction was largely funded by the Vanderbilt syndicate, which had dreams of extending the line to the Pacific Ocean harbor at Topolobampo, Mexico. Since construction materials would have been shipped to Ft. Worth by rail, it is not surprising to find that the 1898 Sanborn map of Ft. Worth shows the FW&RG line starting adjacent to the Texas & Pacific (T&P) tracks, near the intersection of Hemphill St. and South Ave. (now called Vickery Blvd.) Charles Zlatkovich's research on Texas railroad construction also lists a 1.67 mile line in Ft. Worth built by the FW&RG in 1891. This was a branch line to the Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railway ("Katy") main line in Ft. Worth which was located east of the FW&RG. The FW&RG was not part of a larger railroad and thus would have been dependent on other railroads for interchange to reach other markets. The branch line also crossed a Santa Fe main line, and exchange tracks were built at this junction which became known as Bird's Siding. Since Santa Fe line also built into Ft. Worth in 1891, it is not known which railroad actually reached the Bird's Siding location first.

In 1901, the FW&RG was acquired by the St. Louis - San Francisco Railway ("the Frisco"), which funded additional construction south of Brownwood to Brady (1903) and Menard (1911) to pursue increased livestock shipments from the vast central Texas range. Three years later, the FW&RG/Katy connection in Ft. Worth was commissioned as Tower 53, with the Frisco, FW&RG's owner, being listed as one of the railroads served by the tower. In 1926, a cabin interlocker was placed in service at Bird's Siding designated as Tower 124. Santa Fe's line was a heavily used north/south route between Temple and Ft. Worth, so the use of a cabin interlocker at this location indicates that traffic was light on the FW&RG.

Much of the traffic on the FW&RG was livestock and related agricultural business from the sparsely populated areas south and west of Brownwood. Santa Fe also served Brownwood, and began to aggressive compete for the same traffic by extending branch lines into Brady, Eden, San Angelo and Sonora. In particular, Santa Fe's 1911 branch line that departed the main line at Lometa for Brady and Eden paralleled a portion of the FW&RG near Brady. To save money for both companies, Santa Fe and FW&RG reached an agreement to share a portion of FW&RG's tracks in this area in exchange for payments by Santa Fe. The railroads also began cooperating in livestock shipments to Ft. Worth. It was not uncommon for shipments on Santa Fe to be handed over to the FW&RG in Brownwood for transport to Bird's Siding, where the shipment would be handed back to Santa Fe. From a customer's standpoint, this routing had the advantage of being shorter in time and distance, and much less likely to face congestion passing through Temple on the Santa Fe. These were important considerations since shipping livestock required feeding and watering. Eventually, Santa Fe decided to purchase the FW&RG from the Frisco, a sale consummated in 1937, thereby shortening their route from Brownwood to Ft. Worth by 117 miles.

Historic Map, Tower 124 and Vicinity

Above: This annotated Sanborn index map c.1911 shows Bird's Siding (Tower 124) in south
Fort Worth. The location of the branch line's departure from the FW&RG main became known
as Belt Jct., presumably due to some later association with the Ft. Worth Belt Railway. The
tracks between Belt Jct. and Bird's Siding remain intact as of 2013, but the tracks east of
Birds' Siding to Tower 53 were abandoned some time after 1983.

7/13/13: Kal Silverberg emailed to explain that the FW&RG sale to Santa Fe in 1937 did not
include the line north of Belt Jct. because that was where Frisco's primary yard in Fort Worth,
8th Avenue Yard, was located (roughly at the top of the Sanborn map). The Frisco interchange
with Katy and Southern Pacific was over the branch line, which was intact through 1983.
The merger of the Frisco into Burlington Northern [BN] occurred in 1980, and at some point
prior to 1983, operations shifted from the Frisco's 8th Avenue yard to the [BN-owned] Fort
Worth & Denver North Yard.

Kal also mentions that "recently" [c.2012?], Belt Jct. was renamed "Fort Worth Jct." Does
anyone know if the term "Belt Jct." was used prior to the 1937 sale to Santa Fe? I wonder
if the branch line was sold to Ft. Worth Belt Railway as part of the Santa Fe sale as a way of
allowing the Frisco to access Tower 53 from 8th Avenue Yard for interchange purposes?

Below: These two excerpts from the legal journal Southwestern Reporter Vol. 89 provide a snippet of the evidence in a
1902 lawsuit against Santa Fe and FW&RG regarding a cattle shipment from San Angelo to Corsicana via Bird's Siding.

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Modern Photo - Tower 124 (c.2002)

Above: On the remaining interlocker cabinet at Tower 124, the word below "West End" is "Bird's". (Jim King photo)
Below: A bird's eye view of Bird's Siding! It is easy to imagine that there might have been large cattle pens in the open space
adjacent to the crossing. The abandoned FW&RG grade remains visible along the north edge of W. Biddison St.

Location Map - Tower 124

Last Revised: 7/14/2013 JGK - Contact the Texas Interlocking Towers Page.