Texas Railroad History - Tower 137 - Big Sandy

A Crossing of the Texas & Pacific Railway and the St. Louis Southwestern Railroad

Above: a locomotive crossing the diamond eastbound on the T&P, with interlocker electronics cabin at left (Chuck Harris photo)
Below: c.1900 view of the Big Sandy depot, long before the interlocker was established (Chino Chapa collection)

In 1873, the Texas & Pacific (T&P) Railway built west across northeast Texas from Marshall to Dallas. A few years later, the Tyler Tap Railroad was organized to "tap" the T&P main line at a location near Big Sandy Creek. This would provide the citizens of the thriving town of Tyler with rail service over a 21-mile narrow gauge line. Because the lines were of different gauge, there was no direct connection. Instead, the Tyler Tap paralleled a T&P siding for some distance, providing a means of exchanging cargo with the T&P. In 1880, under the new ownership of the Texas & St. Louis Railway, the Tyler Tap was extended north by crossing the T&P line and proceeding to Texarkana via Mount Pleasant. In 1886, this line was converted to standard gauge. Rail connections with the T&P were established at the crossing which became known as Big Sandy Switch. The Texas & St. Louis Railway eventually became part of the St. Louis Southwestern Railroad, nicknamed the "Cotton Belt" for its extensive network in the cotton growing regions of Texas and Arkansas.

Railroad Commission of Texas (RCT) records indicate that an electric interlocker, Tower 137, was established at Big Sandy in 1928. Since a union depot had long existed at the crossing, it is likely that interlocker controls were remoted there in lieu of a manned tower. Today, both lines are operated by Union Pacific and continue to see significant traffic.

Tower 137 Site

Looking south toward the interlocker cabinet, the crossing diamond at Big Sandy is almost invisible due to the acute angle at which the two lines cross. This is due to the Tyler Tap being a narrow gauge line when originally constructed; freight was offloaded between rail cars on parallel tracks since the cars could not be interchanged. (Jim King photo)

Below: John Winfield's beautiful painting of the junction at Big Sandy shows the Union Depot. The passenger diesel is southbound on the Cotton Belt. The hut across the tracks from the depot is for the Railway Express Agency, and is depicted on the 1928 Sanborn map of Big Sandy.

Location Map - Tower 137

Last Revised: 3/27/2018 JGK - Contact the Texas Interlocking Towers Page.