Two Crossings by the St. Louis Southwestern (SLSW) Railway in Jacksonville
Tower 176: with the International & Great Northern (I-GN) Railroad
Tower 201: with the Texas & New Orleans Railroad
When the International Railroad bypassed the original site of Jacksonville in 1872, the townspeople reacted by relocating the town two miles east to be on the railroad. A year later, the International merged with the Houston & Great Northern Railroad to form the International & Great Northern (I-GN) Railroad. By the end of 1873, the combined railroad operated three major rail segments: Longview to Palestine via Jacksonville, Palestine to Hearne, and Palestine to Houston. The excellent rail connections provided by the I-GN helped Jacksonville to grow and become the center of agricultural business in the area. It also attracted more railroads, beginning with the Rusk Transportation Company, which built a 17-mile wooden tram railroad from Rusk to Jacksonville in 1875. The wooden rails were a failure, causing the Rusk Transportation Company to enter bankruptcy. The remnants of this tram road became the property of the Kansas & Gulf Short Line Railroad in 1881, which used portions of the right-of-way in completing construction of a new railroad between Rusk and Tyler via Jacksonville in 1882. Eventually, this line became the property of the St. Louis Southwestern Railway (SLSW), commonly known as the "Cotton Belt". The crossing of the I-GN and Cotton Belt railroads was close to the yards of both railroads near downtown Jacksonville. In 1931, this crossing was interlocked with a manual swing gate designated as Tower 176.
In 1902, the Texas & New Orleans (T&NO) railroad built through Jacksonville as part of an agreement with the State of Texas to complete a line between Dallas and Beaumont. The T&NO line crossed over both the I-GN and Cotton Belt tracks on trestles. The T&NO also crossed the Cotton Belt at grade elsewhere in Jacksonville, a location that became interlocked as Tower 201. This was most likely a gate on a spur from one of the railroads where it crossed the main line of the other, but the location for this interlocker has not been determined.
Only the former I-GN tracks remain in use in Jacksonville, now owned by Union Pacific. The Cotton Belt tracks survived until abandonment in 1991. The T&NO was abandoned through Jacksonville ten years earlier, although Southern Pacific retained 2.4 miles of former T&NO trackage at that time to continue serving customers via the Cotton Belt. By then, both railroads had long been absorbed into SP.
Historic Photo, Tower 176 Crossing
The John W Barriger III National Railroad Library supplies this photo taken from the rear platform of Barriger's business car on a trip
through east Texas in the 1930's or 40's. The view is west-southwest down the I-GN with the Cotton Belt Lufkin Branch crossing in the
foreground, protected by a swing gate (with "STOP" sign hanging from the bottom rung). The post at right was the connection for the
gate when it was positioned to allow movements on the Cotton Belt. The gate was normally lined against the Cotton Belt; opening it
would trigger distant signals to warn approaching trains. Just beyond the diamond is the Patton St. grade crossing. The T&NO freight
station, served by a spur off the T&NO main line, is visible at far left. The large fill in the distance carried the T&NO over the I-GN,
just beyond the camera's view.
Tower 176 Site
(Google Street View
Above: This is the Patton St. crossing at the site of Tower 176. The image faces southeast
toward the swing gate, which would have been to the left of where the crossing signal now stands.
Below: Sheet 2 of the 1931 Sanborn Map of Jacksonville has been annotated to show the location
of Tower 176 with respect to the Cotton Belt Depot (passenger and freight) and the T&NO Freight
Station. The T&NO tracks (red) to the freight station came off the main line well south of the T&NO's
trestle over the I-GN (off image to left) and ran north before curving east to the reach the depot.
Satellite Image, Tower 176 Location
Above: Facing southeast, the remnants of the Cotton Belt right-of-way are still visible parallel to Patton St. -- note the
warehouse aligned to the ROW. The Barriger photo was taken facing W-SW on the I-GN tracks at the Tower 176 gate.
The tracks serving the T&NO freight depot came in from the lower right. The T&NO spur to the depot came off the
T&NO main line south of their trestle over the I-GN (off image to the right) and went north before curving to the east
to the freight station.
Location Map, Tower 176
Abutments for the Cotton Belt bridge over US175 (above) survived abandonment on the north side of town. On the south
side (below), one abutment for the T&NO trestle over the Cotton Belt survived to be repurposed as a signpost. (GSV images)
Below: The bridge abutments for the T&NO crossing of the I-GN survived
(Jim King photo)