A Crossing of the Beaumont, Sour Lake & Western Railway and the Texas & New Orleans Railway
Sour Lake is the oldest settlement in Hardin County, a small community noted originally for mineral springs that gave the town its name. Drilling had produced modest amounts of oil as early as 1893, but in 1902, a huge "gusher" hit; Sour Lake became a boom town overnight. By the end of 1903, the Texas & New Orleans (T&NO) Railroad had built a spur into Sour Lake from their Houston/Beaumont main line at Nome, seven miles south. The following year, the newly chartered Beaumont, Sour Lake & Western (BSL&W) Railway built twenty miles from Beaumont to Sour Lake. The rail line terminated a mile south of Sour Lake, probably because the boom had packed the town with upwards of 10,000 people and businesses to support them, so there was no room for a second railroad into downtown.
In 1908, the Thompson-Ford Lumber Co. built a sawmill along the BSL&W rail line where it had ended on the south side of Sour Lake. The town that sprang up around the mill was named Grayburg. That same year, the BSL&W reported to the Railroad Commission of Texas that it had completed building 62 miles of track from Grayburg to Houston, continuing the original construction beyond Sour Lake and providing a direct route between Beaumont and Houston to compete with the T&NO. This construction required the BSL&W to cross T&NO's Nome/Sour Lake spur, but the crossing was not interlocked until 1929 when a cabin interlocker was authorized as Tower 155.
In 1924, Missouri Pacific had acquired the BSL&W with an eye toward competing with T&NO for Houston/Beaumont traffic. This eventually contributed to the impetus for an interlocker since otherwise, a full stop at the T&NO crossing would be required. But, since pipelines had eliminated oil tank car traffic from Sour Lake and the population had declined significantly, there was little reason to stop. T&NO, experiencing the same decline in Sour Lake commerce, abandoned the spur from Nome in 1933. This allowed Tower 155 to be removed after only five years of service. Today, successor Union Pacific continues to operate the former BSL&W route as a major line between Houston and Beaumont.
Site Photo, Tower 155
Above: More than 75 years after the T&NO spur was abandoned, the right-of-way is still detectable
on aerial photos. The Tower 155 cabin would have been located somewhere in this view, perhaps
near the modern equipment cabin seen at the right edge?
Location Map, Tower 155