A Crossing of the Abilene & Southern Railway and the Pecos & Northern Texas Railway
Rails did not arrive in the small town of Tuscola south of Abilene until 1909 when the Abilene & Southern (A&S) Railway built 54 miles from Abilene to Ballinger as part of a grand plan to build south to Sonora via San Angelo. Since a Gulf, Colorado & Santa Fe (GC&SF) Railway line already existed between Ballinger and San Angelo, the A&S connected with the Santa Fe at Tower 128 in Ballinger and never proceeded further south. Within three years, Santa Fe built 183 miles of track between Slaton Junction (near Lubbock) and Coleman, crossing the A&S near Tuscola. Because Santa Fe's construction was done under the charter of a subsidiary, the Pecos & Northern Texas (P&NT) Railroad, Tuscola was officially listed by the Railroad Commission of Texas (RCT) as an A&S/P&NT crossing. The crossing had been uncontrolled for many years until Tower 129 was commissioned by RCT as a 6-function mechanical cabin interlocker on March 15, 1927. In 1926, the A&S was purchased by the Texas & Pacific (T&P) Railway but retained its name as an operating subsidiary. T&P's plans for the A&S may have been the impetus for getting an interlocking plant installed. The Santa Fe line remains in use today by successor Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF), but the A&S tracks were abandoned in the 1990s by Union Pacific.
Cy Martin provides this description of the interlocker cabin: "A friend of mine was trying to organize an effort to acquire the A & S before it was abandoned. We checked the Tuscola interlocker out. It was a cabin about the size of an outhouse, containing levers and a telephone."
Tower 129 Photos (from Journal of Texas Shortline
Railroads, Vol. 2, No. 1, 1997)
Above: The tracks at Tower 129 crossed at an acute angle north of Tuscola with the cabin sitting in the south
quadrant. This photo looks northeast along the A&S toward Abilene. (undated photo, collection of Joe Dale Morris)
Below: An A&S locomotive passes the cabin as it heads northeast toward Abilene. (undated photo, collection of A. C. Green)
Above: William Thompson provides this photo from the late 1980s showing him and his fellow crewmembers about to cross the Santa Fe line at Tower 129. Missouri Pacific owned the tracks and was a subsidiary of Union Pacific by this time.
Tower 129 Site Photos
Above: The utility poles in the distance mark the route of the A&S tracks near the crossing of
the former P&NT line (now BNSF) at Tuscola. The view is north-northeast with the BNSF
tracks at right heading southeast toward Coleman. (Jim King photo, 2010)
Below: This image shows the acute crossing of the A&S with the P&NT (now BNSF.) The cabin's location was in the south quadrant, a short distance beyond the right-field fence of the Jim Ned High School baseball stadium. Do you suppose a slugger has ever hit a homerun far enough to strike a passing BNSF train?
Tower 129 Location
Above: A high school baseball stadium overlooks the site of Tower 129, but the ball field may have preceded the interlocker's construction. This
site near Jim Ned Creek hosted a school as early as 1884 when the original Jim Ned School District was organized. The school and the district changed
names a few times, with the district eventually becoming the Jim Ned Consolidated Independent School District. When the town of Lawn joined the district
in 1957, the school adopted its current name, Jim Ned High School.