Three junctions of the International & Great Northern and Southern Pacific railroads in and around Hearne
Hearne remains perhaps the busiest "rural" rail junction in Texas, a major reason why the surrounding area has historically hosted three interlockers. Hearne's first railroad was the Houston and Texas Central (H&TC) Railroad which arrived from the south in 1868. In August, 1870, the International Railroad was chartered and four months later, it started building east from Hearne toward Palestine, with plans to eventually connect northeast Texas with Laredo. In 1873, the International Railroad merged with the Houston & Great Northern Railroad to form the International & Great Northern (I-GN) Railroad. In 1881, the I-GN completed the line from Palestine to Laredo via Hearne, Austin and San Antonio. On July 16, 1903, Tower 15 was approved by the Railroad Commission to control the junction of the H&TC and the I-GN in Hearne.
A third railroad, the Hearne & Brazos Valley (H&BV), was chartered in 1891 by local cotton farmers desiring to build a railroad from Moseley's Ferry to Hearne, where connections could be made with other railroads. Moseley's Ferry was located where the Old San Antonio Road crossed the Brazos River (a site now occupied by the State Highway 21 bridge). In 1892, the 16-mile line was completed by H&BV to a connection with the I-GN four miles west of Hearne, a location that became known as Valley Junction. In 1899, the H&BV was almost completely destroyed by a Brazos River flood. When it was rebuilt that same year, the north end of the line was re-routed to go directly into Hearne instead of Valley Junction, abandoning the Valley Jct. connection. In Hearne, the H&BV could obtain direct connections with both the H&TC and I-GN, producing favorable competition for the H&BV's loads.
Also in 1899, Valley Junction became the crossing location for the Calvert, Waco & Brazos Valley (CW&BV) Railroad as it constructed 66 miles of track between Marlin and Bryan. South of Valley Jct., the CW&BV re-used the abandoned H&BV right-of-way down to the point where the active H&BV line diverted to Hearne. At this location, which became known as Tatsie, the CW&BV line crossed the H&BV line, paralleled it for 5.2 miles, and then turned southeast toward Bryan. By 1901, the CW&BV had been acquired by the I-GN; the line was extended south to Spring and north to Waco and Ft. Worth. As a result of the I-GN acquisition, Valley Junction became a crossing of two I-GN main lines. A depot was built there to provide for connecting passenger travel between the two routes. Sometime between 1946 and 1950, Tower 194 was established as an automated interlocker to control the crossing at Valley Junction. Although this was not a crossing of two different railroads, railroad companies had begun to solicit approval for all new and modified interlockers as a result of a Railroad Commission policy change in the 1920s. The interlocker controls were most likely located inside the depot, which no longer exists.
In 1914, the H&BV was acquired by the Southern Pacific (SP) system. The Brazos River was bridged at Stone City (near Moseley's Ferry) and the line was extended under the H&TC charter south to Giddings where a connection was made to the San Antonio & Aransas Pass Railroad, another SP property. This extension became known as the Dalsa Cutoff because it permitted SP's Dallas-San Antonio traffic to bypass Houston, a bottleneck that had impacted SP's ability to compete for traffic between Memphis and Los Angeles. In 1929, a cabin interlocker designated Tower 140 was established at Tatsie to control the I-GN crossing of the Dalsa Cutoff.
All of the lines in the Hearne area remain in use by Union Pacific, successor to the I-GN and SP systems.
Historic Photos, Tower 15 Crossing
Above: This image was taken by John W. Barriger III from the rear of a northbound train on the I-GN tracks at the Tower 15 crossing in Hearne. The
photo is undated, but likely dates from the late 20's or early 30's. Facing southwest, the Hearne Union Depot is visible on the left just beyond the H&TC
double track line that crosses in the foreground. Significantly, Tower 15 is not visible, indicating that by this date, it had been removed and the inter-
locker controls relocated to the depot (which displays "15" on the small sign facing the crossing). Tower 15 had been located near the striped pole
(with crossbuck on top) visible right of center of the photo, next to a mound of dirt. [courtesy of John W Barriger III National Railroad Library]
Everett L. DeGolyer, Jr. snapped this photo of the Hearne Union Depot on June 9,
1958. As in the above photo, the depot displays the "15"
symbol indicating it was hosting the Tower 15 interlocker controls. Tower 15 stood immediately to DeGolyer's right. [DeGolyer Library, SMU]
Area Map, Hearne and vicinity
Modern Photo, Tower 15 (Jim King photo)
Above: An eastbound UP freight on the former I-GN main line from Laredo to Longview crosses the former
Tower 15 diamond in front of the abandoned Union Depot in Hearne in August, 1999.
Below: The Hearne depot was relocated (yellow) across the highway from the original site (red) and
restored as a heritage and history display center that opened in 2011. [Google Earth image]
Below: The 1925 Sanborn Fire Insurance map of Hearne shows that Tower 15 was a
two-story structure located across the I-GN tracks from the Union Depot. The
Barriger photo above shows that it did not remain in place much longer.
Satellite Image, Tower 194, Valley Junction
Satellite Image, Tower 15, Hearne
Satellite Image, Tower 140, Tatsie