A Crossing of the Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad and the Texas Electric Railway
The town of Italy, so named supposedly for its Mediterranean climate, was incorporated in 1891, shortly after the Missouri-Kansas-Texas (MKT) Railroad ("the Katy") arrived as it built from Waxahachie to Hillsboro. Ten years later, Italy received its second railroad, the International-Great Northern (I-GN), as this railroad completed a major line from Spring, near Houston, to Ft. Worth via Waco. The I-GN crossed the Katy north of town, but the crossing was not at grade, with the I-GN passing over the Katy on a trestle. The two railroad stations were approximately a quarter mile apart, with the I-GN station located near what has since become "downtown" Italy. Some of the impetus for the growth of this downtown area may have been the arrival of the Southern Traction Company's electric interurban rail line from Dallas to Waco in 1913. This line paralleled the Katy on much of its route south of Waxahachie, but turned to the east before reaching Italy and entered town on a southwest heading. The tracks ran down Main St., crossing the I-GN at grade at Ridge St. where the Interurban Station was located. As far as is known, this grade crossing was uncontrolled since it does not appear in the Railroad Commission of Texas (RCT) list of numbered interlockers; all trains would have been required to stop before crossing the diamond. This probably had little effect on the Texas Electric, the new name for the interurban when the Southern Traction Co. merged with the Texas Traction Co. in 1917. All interurban trains would be stopping for passengers anyway. The crossing was a block north of the I-GN passenger station located at Ridge and Poplar, so with many (perhaps most) I-GN trains stopping as well, the penalty of stopping at the uncontrolled interurban crossing was potentially negligible.
The interurban tracks continued past the station onto Clark St. and began angling toward the Katy tracks on the southwest side of Italy. Where Clark St. ended, the tracks continued, crossing the Katy at grade and then paralleling it much of the way to Hillsboro. In 1931, an interlocker was approved for this crossing, designated Tower 174. Since this crossing existed in 1913, presumably it was uncontrolled until the interlocker was established. The impetus for installing the interlocker in 1931 is unknown, but it may have resulted from Katy's desire to have fewer trains stop at the Katy passenger station, a quarter mile north of the crossing.
The interurban tracks through Italy were abandoned in the 1940s. The I-GN line was abandoned by successor Missouri Pacific in 1967; the Katy line through Italy was abandoned in the 1980s.
Historic Photo, Tower 174 Interlocker
Above: The Tower 174 interlocker electronics cabin is shown in this photo from the collection
of Dr. George Winn. The Katy rails aren't visible but the Katy right-of-way parallels the line
of utility poles extending off into the distance. The Texas Electric car appears to have just
crossed the diamond. (hat tip, Jimmy Barlow)
Historic Map, the Railroads of Italy
Above: Index map of the 1921 Sanborn Fire Insurance map of Italy, annotated to highlight rail lines
Italy, September 2008 (Photos by Jim King)
Above: Facing north, the I-GN traversed a low area in what is now the Italy Cemetery, rising
to cross the Katy on a bridge supported by two concrete abutments that remain in place. It is
likely that the camera is facing directly down the ROW, but the tracks were higher, supported
by a trestle approach that rose to the height necessary to cross the top of the abutments.
Below: Beyond the abutments, the I-GN crossed over US77 and proceeded north to Ft. Worth.
Above: Facing northeast, the Katy ROW is in the immediate foreground, used as a gravel road for a nearby construction
site. In the distance, Clark St. ends with a turn toward the Katy. The Texas Electric tracks would have departed Clark St.
there and crossed the Katy about where the camera is located. The abandoned tracks remained visible in Clark St. until
they were removed (or perhaps covered) by a repaving project within the past ten years.
Aerial Imagery, Italy (Microsoft Virtual Earth)
Above: Facing east, the I-GN bridge abutments are visible adjacent to US77, with the abandoned Katy ROW passing between them,
paralleling the highway. From the south (right) abutment, the I-GN ROW can be followed across the cemetery and through a wooded area,
entering downtown at far right. The ROW through the wooded area is on a filled grade well above the level of the cemetery, so it is likely that
a trestle was used to gain the remaining height difference across the cemetery to the south abutment.
Below: Facing west, the abandoned Katy ROW is easily seen paralleling the highway and passing between the I-GN bridge abutments. The Katy bridge
over Houston Creek appears to still be in place at upper left in the image.
Above: The crossing at Tower 174 is easy to visualize with this aerial photo of the southwest side of Italy.
The Texas Electric remained between US77 and the Katy for the trip south to Hillsboro.