Crossing of the Galveston, Harrisburg & San Antonio, and the St. Louis, Brownsville and Mexico railroads
Above: Looking out on the St. Louis, Brownsville & Mexico (SLB&M) Railway tracks in the late 1930s or early 1940s, John W Barriger III snapped this photo from the rear of his business car as he viewed the junction his train had just passed at Blessing. Although Barriger was facing east-northeast at this point, his train was headed generally south toward the Rio Grande Valley. The small white building with the window is very likely the cabin where the Tower 157 interlocker controls were located. The Southern Pacific (SP) tracks cross in front of the building with Palacios to the right (south) and Bay City to the left (north.) In the foreground, the only transfer track at Blessing ran diagonally between the two railroads in the northwest quadrant of their crossing, confirmed by track charts and historic USGS Topo maps. As the SLB&M carried substantially more traffic than SP's line, the interlocker was most likely operated solely by SP train crews when they needed to cross the SLB&M. The signals would otherwise be lined to allow continuous movements on the SLB&M.
Grateful for the New York, Texas & Mexican Railway choosing to build through
his land in 1903, J. E. Pierce settled for "Blessing" as the name of the new
town he was promoting when the Post Office rejected his first choice of "Thank
God". The railroad, owned by Southern Pacific (SP) and merged into SP's
Galveston, Harrisburg & San Antonio (GH&SA) property in 1905, was building from
Bay City to Trespalacios (soon renamed Palacios), a town on Tres Palacios Bay
that had paid a bonus to SP to attract the railroad. In 1905, Blessing received
additional railroad service when the St. Louis, Brownsville & Mexico (SLB&M)
Railway crossed the GH&SA there when constructing a major rail line between Bay
City and Refugio. Despite service from two railroads, Blessing never grew much
beyond a few hundred residents.
According to Railroad Commission of Texas (RCT) documentation, they commissioned Tower 157 for operation on August 27, 1929. SP documentation states that the cabin went in service a few months earlier on May 1. It was a mechanical cabin interlocker with power-operated distant signals located in the northwest corner of the crossing diamond. The interlocking plant had a 12-lever control frame, with four levers controlling signals, four controlling derails, and two controlling facing point locks. From the photo above, it appears that the original cabin was replaced with a larger structure on the northeast corner of the diamond, which might have served as a depot. Modifications to the interlocker were authorized by RCT on July 18, 1941 and August 10, 1948, but the details are unknown. SP's branch line to Palacios was abandoned in 1985, eliminating the need for the interlocker. The ex-SLB&M line continues to function as a major rail artery between Houston and the lower Rio Grande Valley, currently owned by Union Pacific.
Site Photos, Blessing, Texas
(Jim King, December 2006)
Above: This photo from December, 2006, shows a small metal pole on the north side of the ex-SLB&M tracks immediately east of the County Road 482 grade crossing. The SP tracks crossed just beyond the pole, and the cabin visible in Barriger's photo would have been located near the pole. The pole is the remnant of the type of control box often associated with a simple interlocker that is used for lining the distant signals for the crossing. The pole was most likely installed when the cabin was dismantled.
Satellite Map, Blessing
Google Street Views, Blessing
Above: Looking southwest at the Farm Road 482 grade crossing, the headlight of an approaching train is barely visible in the distance. The interlocker cabin was on the opposite side of the road. Below: The opposite side of the road. This 2013 view shows that the control box pole visible in the 2006 photo is gone.