www.txrrhistory.com - Tower 175 - Etter
A Crossing of the Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific Railway and the Panhandle & Santa Fe Railway
In the late 1920s, railroads began expanding in the Texas Panhandle to serve the burgeoning agriculture and mineral businesses located there. In 1927, the Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railway built north from Amarillo to Stinnett. Rock Island already served Amarillo on its Choctaw Route that ran from New Mexico to Oklahoma and points east. A couple of years later, construction continued north from Stinnett through the towns of Morse, Gruver and Hitchland, and ultimately reached Liberal, Kansas, site of another Rock Island main line, the Golden State Route. The Golden State Route also passed through the northwestern tip of Texas, including the towns of Stratford and Dalhart. In 1930, Rock Island decided to build a connecting line between Morse and Dalhart. Near Dalhart, portions of this line occupied the former Enid, Ochiltree and Western right-of-way, a failed railroad from twenty years earlier.
In 1931, the Panhandle & Santa Fe railroad built north from Amarillo to Boise City, Oklahoma. This line crossed Rock Island tracks in two places -- the Golden State Route in Stratford, and the Morse-Dalhart connecting line further south at a place that became known as Etter, named for W. K. Etter, a Santa Fe railroad official. Interlockers were established for both crossings, with Tower 175 (probably a cabin interlocker) assigned for the junction at Etter.
A small settlement grew up around Etter and in 1940, the census reported 150 people there. In 1942, the U.S. Government built the Cactus Ordnance Works near Etter to manufacture ammonium nitrate for use in explosives to support the war effort. As many as 6,000 people worked at the plant during peak years, and the railroads undoubtedly benefited from the freight traffic generated by the plant. Today, the Rock Island line west of Etter has been abandoned, but the line to the east remains in operation by a shortline railroad, the Texas Northwestern (TXNW). Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) operates the former Santa Fe line. Connecting tracks between the two railroads remain in place although the diamond has been removed.
Site Photo, Tower 175 (Jim King photo, c.2001)
A string of box cars can be seen on the connecting track southeast of the former junction at Etter.
The crossing diamond was removed in recent years, and was still sitting in the weeds next to the
BNSF line at the site of Tower 175. The US287 overpass is visible in the distance. Jeff Ford adds...
"Tower 175 at Etter was protected by a swing gate. The hinge post is visible
in your photo. ... The TXNW turns a tidy profit storing cars, handling unit
grain trains, and switching petrochemical interests including the Valero McKee
refinery northeast of Dumas."
Location Map, Tower 175