Texas Railroad History - Tower 126 - Ft. Worth (Polk's Tower)

A Crossing of the Houston & Texas Central Railroad and the Gulf, Colorado and Santa Fe Railway

Tower 126 was located in Ft. Worth approximately 4,000 feet south of Tower 55. The Railroad Commission of Texas (RCT) noted this site as being at Violet St. (a street which no longer exists), but it was more commonly known to railroaders as Polk's Tower. An electric interlocking with 33 functions was placed in service at Polk's Tower on 15 June 1926. The 1927 Annual Report of the Railroad Commission of Texas lists Tower 126 as being at "Fort Worth, Polk's Stock Yard". The following year, the report started calling it "Ft. Worth (Violet St.)". The interlocking controlled a crossing of the Houston & Texas Central (H&TC) Railroad and the Gulf, Colorado and Santa Fe (GC&SF) Railway. The Santa Fe line was their main route between Ft. Worth and Cleburne built in 1881. The H&TC line was built in 1886 by the Ft. Worth & New Orleans (FW&NO) Railroad to connect Ft. Worth with the H&TC at Waxahachie, providing a route to the H&TC main line at Ennis. H&TC then acquired the FW&NO in 1901 to given them a direct presence in Ft. Worth.

The crossing at Polk's was created in 1886 when the FW&NO crossed the Santa Fe. The FW&NO yard in Ft. Worth was located west of both the Santa Fe and the Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad ("Katy") at Broadway Street, so the FW&NO tracks had to cross both main lines to go southeast to Ennis. After crossing the Santa Fe at Polk's, the tracks went southwest paralleling the Santa Fe past Main Street and then turned southeast to cross the Katy main line at Tower 53. When Polk's Tower was constructed in 1926, the H&TC was controlled by the Texas & New Orleans (T&NO) Railroad, a Southern Pacific (SP) property. Documents at DeGolyer Library indicate that the tower size was approximately 14 ft. by 20 ft., and the Sanborn Fire Insurance map of 1951 shows the tower as a two-story structure. On March 20, 1961, RCT wrote a letter to Santa Fe, T&NO and the St. Louis - San Francisco ("Frisco") Railroad stating that "Polk's Interlocking" had been officially eliminated. The Frisco involvement may have been related to trackage rights on the Santa Fe, but this is unconfirmed.

In reference to the above map, Kal Silverberg explains the reason for the demise of Polk's Tower...

"Both the Santa Fe [red] and SP [yellow] lines proceeded north from Polk's to Tower 55. At some later time [c.1961], a track swap was arranged between SP and Santa Fe, most likely due to SP not being able to switch at their yard because Santa Fe trains were blocking the lead. The diamond at Polk's was removed and the roads swapped tracks. A new diamond was placed underneath the Allen Avenue bridge and the tracks swapped back. This gave SP more room to switch at the south end of Broadway Yard and led to the confusing state where Santa Fe used the SP bridge over Rosedale, and SP used the Santa Fe bridge. There was a hand throw connection [green] to the Katy [blue] from the SP just south of the diamond under Allen Avenue. The new diamond was protected by automatic signals, but appears to have never been under control of any tower. Since this diamond and Tower 53 were not interconnected, it was possible for the SP to have a green signal at Tower 53 (once it was automated), a red signal at the new diamond, and, if the train was long enough, still block the Katy main line until they could pull into Broadway Street Yard."

To summarize, as the tracks proceeded in parallel north from Polk's to Tower 55, the SP line was on the west with the Santa Fe line on the east. The removal of the crossing at Polk's gave SP more room to switch at Broadway Yard (between Polk's and Tower 55, about where the "SP" is located on the above map.) However, this also created the need for the diamond at Allen St. since the SP line from the southeast had to cross the Santa Fe somewhere if it was to reach Broadway Yard west of the Santa Fe tracks. Originally, that crossing had been at Polk's but was later moved to Allen St. There is no longer a diamond beneath the Allen St. bridge. Sometime prior to 1986, the diamond was replaced by a switched crossover.

Historic Aerial Views, Polk's Tower (copyright HistoricAerials.com)

Above: The yellow square in the left image above highlights the Polk's Tower crossing in a 1952 aerial photo. The tower shadow is visible as a black rectangle to the north (up). The middle
image is a magnification of the left image, with a red rectangle showing the crossing diamond and the green rectangle showing the tower and its shadow. The chimney on the tower is barely
discernable. The right image is a magnification from a 1963 aerial photo. By this time, the track swap had occurred (no crossing diamond in the red rectangle), but the tower, with a more
noticeable chimney, is still standing. The next photo year in the collection is 1968, and it shows that by that time, Polk's Tower had been removed.

Historic Map, Polk's Tower
    
Above: The 1951 update to the 1910 Sanborn map shows a two-story signal tower at the Santa Fe / H&TC crossing. Because this was
an "update" to the 1910 map, numerous details from the 1910 were left in place, such as the "H&TC RR" designation which had been
retired by the T&NO.


Modern Photos of Tower 126 Site
   
Above left: Facing southeast, the former crossing of the Santa Fe (right) and Southern Pacific (left) was eliminated in 1961 when the
railroads swapped main lines leading north to Tower 55. Above right: The concrete equipment cabinet is labeled "West End, Polk's".
Since
the lines no longer cross, any continuing purpose of the cabin and the control box is unknown.
(Above photos by Jim King c.2002)

Below: This bird's eye view (facing east) of the Polk's Tower vicinity shows the interlocker cabin (pictured in the above right
photo) sitting at the edge of the brush, adjacent to the utility pole that is also visible in the above photo. Of greater interest
is the apparent remnant of the foundation of the tower structure visible close to the former SP tracks. It certainly appears to
match the 14' x 20' size noted in the file at DeGolyer Library. Not having the benefit of this bird's eye view at the time the site
was visited to take the above photos, no attempt was made to search for the tower foundation. Note also the path of the utility
poles traces the original route of the Santa Fe right-of-way, undeterred by the swapping of main lines to the north.


Location Map - Tower 126

The tower foundation and interlocker cabin are barely visible near the center of this satellite image.
The two tracks on the left have minimal separation near the former crossing. The track at right is
of Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad heritage.


 
Last Revised: 3/3/2018 JGK - Contact the Texas Interlocking Towers Page.