www.txrrhistory.com - Tower 164 - Gainesville
A Crossing of the Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad and the
Gulf, Colorado & Santa Fe Railway
The Gainesville area was settled long before the railroads arrived. The town was organized in 1850, named for US Army General Edmund Gaines, but was not officially incorporated until 1873. Gainesville grew slowly after the Civil War, but benefitted as a supply point on cattle drives to the north. Forty miles east of Gainesville, in 1872, the Missouri-Kansas-Texas (MKT, "Katy") Railroad bridged the Red River from Indian Territory into the new town of Denison. A year later, the Houston & Texas Central main line from the south was completed into Denison and this connection fostered significant commercial growth in the Denison area, motivating other investors to build rail lines in various directions out of Denison. One of these was the Denison & Pacific Railroad which built 42 miles from Denison to Gainesville in 1879. Nearly as soon as it was completed, this line was purchased by the Katy as part of their strategy to expand their network out of Denison.
The Katy had the only rail line into
Gainesville until 1886 when the Gulf, Colorado and Santa Fe (GC&SF) Railway
built north out of Ft. Worth, passing through Gainesville with a line that
eventually terminated at a junction in Purcell, Indian Territory. This
construction was part of an agreement with the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe
Railway ("Santa Fe") wherein Santa Fe agreed to buy the GC&SF after it completed
some specific construction projects. With rail service from Gainesville to the
north, south and east, local investors chartered the Gainesville, Henrietta and
Western Railway in July, 1886 to build west from Gainesville to Henrietta. This
70-mile construction was completed in 1887 and the line was promptly sold to the
Katy, giving them a through line from Denison to Henrietta that was later
extended further west to Wichita Falls and beyond.
Although the Katy's route through Gainesville was generally east/west, the tracks through town were on a north/south bearing because their line from the east came in south of downtown while their line from the west came in north of downtown. When the Santa Fe built their north/south line into Gainesville, they mostly paralleled the existing Katy route through town with the Katy on the east and the Santa Fe on the west. These parallel lines evolved into multiple tracks and industry spurs, and eventually, Santa Fe built a yard on the north side of downtown near where the Katy line curved to the west. The Santa Fe main line crossed the Katy an acute angle near the yards and remained uncontrolled until 1930. The presence of the Santa Fe yard no doubt inhibited the speed of train movements, so the need to stop at the uncontrolled crossing may not have been a significant issue. However, the Santa Fe passenger depot was further south, so southbound passenger trains needed to stop at the crossing before proceeding to the depot. It is also possible that the crossing's proximity to the Santa Fe yards resulted in special "yard limits" rules governing the junction. Whatever the case, the need for an interlocker was deferred until 1931 when Tower 164 was commissioned. Tower 164 was listed as "under construction" in the interlocker table published by the Railroad Commission of Texas (RCT) dated 31 December 1930 (after which, RCT ceased producing this table in annual reports). But documents in the Tower 164 file at DeGolyer Library, Southern Methodist University, report an "in service" date of April 20, 1931. The DeGolyer file does not specify the type of interlocker, but there is a mysterious reference to 24-hour controls being managed by "an operator in the interlocking tower" that appears in an RCT document dated September 16, 1963. If there truly was an "interlocking tower", it was most likely a hut, not a 2-story structure. As such, it would have been "manned" only when train personnel entered the hut to change the signals.
Katy's line through Gainesville lasted until 1970 when the railroad abandoned 99 miles of track between Whitesboro and Henrietta. The Santa Fe line in Gainesville, now part of Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF), remains in active use as a major north/south line serving Ft. Worth.
Historic Photo, Tower 164
This photo provided by Karen Seay shows what appears to be a Santa Fe freight office with "164" posted in two places on
the building. With a 1931 commissioning date, the interlocker was undoubtedly an electronic type, and such interlockers
typically were operated with controls located in a nearby depot or office structure. Santa Fe, as the second railroad at the
crossing, would have been responsible for construction and maintenance of the interlocking plant.
Maps of Tower 164 Crossing Location