Railroads came to Terrell early in Texas railroad history. The crossing that eventually became Tower 131 was created in the 1882-1884 timeframe when the Texas Central Railway built from Garrett to Roberts, crossing the Texas & Pacific (T&P) at Terrell. The T&P had arrived about ten years earlier as they built a main line west from Marshall to Dallas, ultimately heading for El Paso. The Texas Central had been chartered by interests that controlled the Houston & Texas Central (H&TC) Railway with a plan to build routes that would complement H&TC's operations. One of these lines would depart the H&TC main at Garrett, a junction north of Ennis, and proceed northeast to Paris. Roberts, a small community between Terrell and Greenville, became the end of the line for the Texas Central when it entered receivership in 1885. As the Texas Central was being reorganized out of bankruptcy in 1892, New York railroad investor Hetty Green purchased the Garrett-to-Roberts line and used it as the basis of a new railroad, the Texas Midland (TM). She assigned her son E. H. R. Green to run the railroad and he quickly established Terrell as the headquarters of the TM. Under Green's leadership, the TM continued building north to Greenville and Commerce, eventually reaching Paris in 1897. At Paris, a connection to the St. Louis - San Francisco ("Frisco") Railway provided a route northward into Oklahoma and Missouri.
The Frisco connection provided the TM with reliable freight and passenger traffic to the north while the H&TC provided reliable traffic to the south. With the T&P operating significant passenger and freight business on their east/west line, it made sense to construct a Union Depot in Terrell to serve both railroads, which was completed in 1901. The location of the Union Depot adjacent to the crossing most likely helped delay the establishment of an interlocker. Since freight depots for both lines were also near the diamond, a full interlocker would have had essentially zero impact on train speeds through Terrell since virtually every train would be stopping near the diamond anyway. The crossing was finally interlocked officially on January 19, 1927 when Tower 131 was commissioned with an electric interlocking plant; the controls were located inside the Union Depot.
The TM was sold to Southern Pacific (SP) in 1928 and soon thereafter was merged into SP's Texas & New Orleans Railroad. Over the next 50 years, SP abandoned all of the original routes of the TM. When the Kaufman-to-Greenville segment was abandoned in 1958, Tower 131 was decommissioned as there was no longer a live crossing in Terrell. The Union Depot lasted into the early 1960s and was razed, replaced by a T&P depot further west. The last TM abandonment was the Commerce-to-Paris line in 1975. Meanwhile, although the T&P has gone through various ownership changes, the main line through Terrell, now owned by Union Pacific, continues to see extensive traffic.
Above: DeGolyer Library at Southern Methodist University provides this image of the Terrell Union Depot taken February 26, 1961, roughly
three years after the TM was abandoned. The photographer is standing approximately on the TM right-of-way immediately south of the former
Below: Two much earlier images of the Union Depot shows that the corner
tower originally had a "witch's hat" roof. Most likely, this was
replaced with the roof that appears in the 1961 photo for maintenance reasons, or perhaps due to storm damage. The lower left image shows
the TM tracks beside the depot, crossing the T&P near the lower left corner of the image. The lower right image shows a westbound T&P train
stopped at the depot.