Texas Railroad History - Tower 136 - Pampa

Panhandle & Santa Fe Yard Interlocker at Pampa

Above: John W Barriger III took this photo from the rear of his business car in the early 1940s as his train proceeded northbound on Panhandle & Santa Fe tracks through Pampa. The cabin at far left may have housed some electronics for the Tower 136 interlocker, but the plant was controlled from the depot.

Pampa, so named by the foreman of the White Deer Land Co. for its resemblance to the pampas he had seen in Argentina, was a creation of the Southern Kansas Railway when the area was selected for a station in 1887. The railroad had been chartered a year earlier by the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway to build southwest from Kansas through Oklahoma and into the Texas Panhandle. The new town of Panhandle City was reached in 1888 and construction stopped there. Eventually the line was extended into Amarillo where a connection to another Santa Fe property created the beginnings of what has become a major transcontinental route. All of Santa Fe's properties in this region of Texas were ultimately consolidated under the Panhandle & Santa Fe (P&SF) Railway.

Pampa grew as the county seat of Gray County, becoming a major farming center for the vast plains of the Texas Panhandle. Oil was discovered in the area, and this led other railroads to become interested in serving Pampa. In 1927, the Clinton-Oklahoma-Western (COW) Railway was chartered to build due west into Pampa from Oklahoma. Santa Fe acquired the railroad while it was still under construction and completed the line in 1929, entering at the northeast edge of Pampa and paralleling the Santa Fe main line into the yards. In 1929, the Fort Worth & Denver Northern (FW&DN) Railroad was chartered to build to Pampa from the Fort Worth & Denver (FW&D) main line at Childress. The route would go due north to Shamrock and then west to Pampa through oil rich areas. This 110-mile line was built in 1932, becoming the last, newly constructed continuous rail right-of-way of more than 100 miles ever built in Texas.

Although the arrival of the FW&DN into Pampa might have motivated the establishment of an interlocker, the Tower 136 interlocker was actually commissioned before either the COW or the FW&DN reached Pampa. Railroad Commission of Texas (RCT) records list a commissioning date of 8 May 1928 at "P&SF Yards". As explained by the establishment of Tower 135 a few months earlier in Canyon, this was an identical situation where P&SF was directed to seek RCT approval for their yard interlocking system, even though no other railroad was involved.

The P&SF main line through Pampa survives as a major route for Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF). The FW&D line into Pampa was abandoned in 1970. The COW branch survived a bit longer, into the early 1980s.

Map of Pampa

Above: According to notes in the Tower 136 file at DeGolyer Library, Southern Methodist University, the interlocker was an electronic plant located at the "east end of double track" in the P&SF yards northeast of downtown, controlled by a "table type interlocking machine in depot." Although a connection with the FW&D existed, it is unlikely that it was ever a major source of traffic exchange. The blue spur that ends near US 60 was the FW&D passenger station lead.

Above: The brick FW&D passenger depot has survived at what appears to be its original location along the passenger lead. Below: The former P&SF passenger depot remains open, most likely used as an office since passenger services ceased. The busy BNSF main line does not carry any regularly scheduled Amtrak service.

Last Revised: 4/23/2019 JGK - Contact the Texas Interlocking Towers Page.