A Crossing of the Missouri-Kansas-Texas ("Katy") Railroad and the St. Louis - Southwestern Railway ("Cotton Belt")
Waco has always been one of the major rail junctions in Texas, so it is not surprising that several interlockers were established there. The major tower-controlled crossings were at Tower 8, Tower 21 and Tower 59, but a lesser known interlocker, Tower 144, was also built to regulate a crossing of the Katy and Cotton Belt railroads. These two railroads had adjacent yards in northeast Waco, and their lines crossed at an acute angle at the south end of the Katy Yard. In May, 1928, Tower 144 was authorized as a manual interlocker to control this crossing. It is not known whether this was a cabin interlocker or some other structure, but in this timeframe, numerous cabin interlockers were authorized by the Railroad Commission of Texas (RCT) and were designated as such. Thus, Tower 144's designation as a "manual interlocker" in the official tower list may indicate that it was something other than a typical cabin interlocker, possibly a manned tower.
While the former Katy main line remains in daily use by Union Pacific (UP), the former Cotton Belt tracks are only partially intact. Some time around 1970, track changes were made that allowed the Tower 144 interlocker to be abandoned. In the 1980s, Cotton Belt service through Waco was terminated.
Modern Photos, Tower 144 Location (courtesy, Tom Kline)
Above: Facing northeast along the ex-Katy main, the Cotton Belt line is visible diverging to the right
toward the yard. The former crossing now sits beneath a US77 overpass.
Below: Facing southwest, concrete pads are visible in the foreground, possibly related to a former
signal or interlocking structure. Cotton Belt Road is visible to the right.
Above: A portion of the index to the 1926 Sanborn Fire Insurance maps of Waco shows the railroads in central
Waco highlighted. The map is rotated so that northwest is "up". Towers 59, 21 and 144 were all located along the Katy main
line. The I-GN spur to Tower 21 allowed them to serve downtown from their main line that skirted the east side of Waco.
Tower 8 is off the right edge of the map where the Cotton Belt line to Corsicana crossed the I-GN line to Ft. Worth. The
detailed Sanborn maps show the Cotton Belt crossing the Katy at Tower 144, separating from the Katy by a short
distance, and then converging with the Katy and passing through the Tower 21 interchange.
Below: A portion of a 1957 track chart (below) provided by Tom Kline refers to a track parallel to the Katy main line as
"Used by St. L. S. W. as New Main Line". From this it appears that the Cotton Belt ["St. L. S. W."] had begun using either
the Katy main line or a parallel Katy track as their new main line by the late 1950s.
Satellite Image, Tower 144 Vicinity