Texas Railroad History - Tower 198 - Henrietta

A Crossing of the Missouri, Kansas & Texas Railway and the Fort Worth & Denver Railway

Left: This annotated 1953 aerial image ((c) historicaerials.com) highlights the three railroads that served Henrietta. The Fort Worth & Denver (FW&D, yellow arrows) enters town from the southeast (right) and departs (upper left) to the northwest to Wichita Falls. The Missouri - Kansas -Texas (MKT, pink arrows) comes in from the east (right) and curves northwest paralleling the FW&D. The archives of the Railroad Commission of Texas (RCT) maintained by DeGolyer Library, Southern Methodist University (SMU) have a document identifying February 4, 1952 as the date the Tower 198 automatic interlocker was installed where the two railroads crossed (red circle). Prior to that date, all trains would have been required to stop at the crossing before proceeding. The abandoned grade (orange arrows) of the Southwestern Railway (SWRy) coming in from Archer City is visible curving northeast to its former connection (blue circle) with the MKT to enter Henrietta. The SWRy was abandoned in 1920, more than thirty years before this aerial was taken.

: There is scant evidence today of the MKT at the site of the Tower 198 crossing. The FW&D tracks remain in use, now owned by Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF). (Google Earth 2021)

Henrietta was founded in 1857 as the county seat of Clay County. It was soon abandoned due to frequent Indian raids, but in 1870, settlers permanently reclaimed the town. The year 1882 saw the arrival of the first railroad, the Ft. Worth and Denver City (FW&DC) Railroad (the 'C' was dropped in 1951, becoming simply the FW&D.) The rail line was being built from Ft. Worth to Wichita Falls, eighteen miles northwest of Henrietta, part of a larger project to connect Fort Worth with Denver. Construction was suspended for three years at Wichita Falls before resuming in 1885, reaching Harrold 34 miles farther northwest by the end of the year. FW&DC construction resumed out of Harrold on May 24, 1886 with rapid progress through Vernon, Chillicothe, Quanah, Amarillo and Dalhart. In 1888, track-laying crews reached the New Mexico border 37 miles northwest of Dalhart at the new town of Texline. At the border, the FW&DC connected to Colorado & Southern rails coming south from Denver. Trains began running the entire distance between Denver and Fort Worth in April, 1888, making stops at Henrietta. At the time (1890 census), Henrietta had approximately 2,000 residents, a bit larger than Wichita Falls.

In July, 1886, the Gainesville, Henrietta and Western (GH&W) Railway was chartered to build a 70-mile line between Henrietta and Gainesville, where the Gulf, Colorado & Santa Fe Railroad was building a north/south main line. More significant, however, was that Gainesville was already the western terminus of a Missouri, Kansas & Texas (MK&T, "Katy") branch line. [Note that the MK&T changed its name to "Missouri - Kansas - Texas" (MKT) as it emerged from bankruptcy in 1923, but to most people, it remained simply "the Katy".] The Katy branch to Gainesville had originally been built by the Denison & Pacific (D&P) Railroad out of Denison via Whitesboro in 1878-79, a distance of 42 miles. The Katy was expanding from its base at Denison where its bridge over the Red River had spawned significant economic growth. The Katy's strategy was to arrange for independent investor groups to establish financing and obtain Texas railroad charters pursuant to building branch lines for the Katy. These railroads were built with the full expectation that the completed lines would at some point be leased, and ultimately bought, by the Katy. Despite having little stock ownership in the Katy, rail baron Jay Gould was elected as President of the railroad in December, 1879. A year later, Gould leased the Katy to the Missouri Pacific (MP) Railroad where he had a large stock ownership position. Though the public perceived MP as the face of Gould's expansion in Texas, new lines and acquisitions were legally assigned to the Katy because MP did not have a Texas railroad charter. Ironically, neither did the Katy, as was later established by a Texas Supreme Court case. The Court ruled that Texas' 1870 state law allowing the Katy's Kansas charter to serve as permission for track construction on the Texas side of the Red River bridge did not grant the Katy the right to expand elsewhere in Texas (but that's another story...)

The D&P line to Gainesville was an example of an independent investor group chartering a railroad that became a branch line for the Katy; it was bought by the Katy in November, 1881. The GH&W was another such line, however, the presence of Herbert Melville "Hub" Hoxie on the GH&W Board of Directors left no doubt that this was a Gould operation all the way. Hoxie had a lengthy career in railroading and was a close associate of Gould, including being named the General Superintendent (GS) of the Texas & Pacific when Gould took control of it in 1881. Construction of the GH&W commenced at Gainesville in September, 1886 and the line was completed to Henrietta in April, 1887. Three months earlier, it had been sold to the Katy during construction. Unfortunately, Hub Hoxie did not live to see it completed. Shortly after being named President of the GH&W, he died in New York in late 1886 at age 55 due to complications from kidney stone surgery.

Long before its completion, there had been stories in the press about the possibility of the GH&W continuing beyond Henrietta southwest to Abilene. This idea probably originated in the GH&W charter, but it was reinforced by the actions of the GH&W Board of Directors. In the same article that reported the election of Hub Hoxie as President of the GH&W, the Albany News of September 16, 1886 also mentioned a dispatch from Gainesville stating that the "...stockholders of the company have ordered the immediate construction of the road which will run ... via Henrietta to Seymour in Baylor County." The Denison Sunday Gazetteer of January 23, 1887 (quoting a story from the Gainesville Hesperian on a recent GH&W Board meeting) reported that the Board "...had resolved to issue bonds on the finished road from this city [Gainesville] westward for about 140 miles, at the rate of $20,000 per mile." At the time, 23 miles of the GH&W had been completed; only 47 miles remained to reach Henrietta. As it would take time to obtain RCT authorization for the bonds before selling them, the bond money probably wasn't targeted for construction to Henrietta (which was finished less than three months later.) It is worth noting that the distance from Henrietta to Abilene via Seymour is about 140 miles. The idea of continuing via Seymour was not farfetched; the Wichita Valley Railway (WVRy) was chartered a few years later and built from Wichita Falls to Seymour in 1890. By 1908, the WVRy was part of a through route from Wichita Falls to Abilene via Seymour.

While Gould ultimately made no move to build farther west from Henrietta, the history of the Katy buying branch lines encouraged investor groups to ponder building a westerly extension. One such group proceeded to charter the Red River and Southwestern (RR&SW) Railroad Co. in late 1890 with a grandiose plan to build from the Oklahoma border to "Spofford Junction in Kinney County", a location in south Texas near Del Rio only seventeen miles from the Rio Grande! Given the vast number of political districts through which it ostensibly would pass, legislative approval was a foregone conclusion. The RR&SW was able to raise initial construction funding and it managed to build a 29-mile grade from Henrietta to Archer City.

In A History of the Texas Railroads ((c) St. Clair Publishing Co. 1941), author S. G. Reed says little about the RR&SW (right), as it was among many roads chartered in Texas that were never built. Its 29 miles of graded ROW from Henrietta to Archer City was later used by the Southwestern Railway.

Gould may have pondered building west from Henrietta at some point, but Joseph A. Kemp had a different and more urgent idea. Kemp was a Wichita Falls businessman interested in improving rail service to his town. Kemp realized that a second major railroad was needed to compete with the FW&DC, so he began courting the Katy to extend their line to Wichita Falls. Katy management had no interest in duplicating the existing FW&DC rails between the two towns, but they told Kemp they'd consider an operating agreement if someone else built the line. Kemp and other investors promptly founded the Wichita Falls Railway (WFRy) to build a line parallel to the FW&DC. The FW&DC was none too happy with the plan and they offered a last minute proposal to provide the Katy with trackage rights between Henrietta and Wichita Falls. But the offer was to no avail and the WFRy tracks were laid in 1894. The Katy took out a long term lease to operate the WFRy based on an agreement approved by RCT on November 10, 1894.

Far Left: The agreement between the Katy and the WFRy was established June 12, 1894. [Click the image to read the agreement.] (Hardin-Simmons University Library) Left: The WFRy charter had been filed with the state eight days earlier. (Denton County News, July 12, 1894).

: area map, not all railroads shown

With RCT approval, the WFRy / Katy agreement took effect and formed the basis of a contract between the two railroads for a long-term lease. The new line quickly proved successful for the Katy and for the stockholders of the WFRy. In his 1976 book Katy Northwest, author Don Hofsommer explains that the "...contract resulted, in the course of a comparatively short time, in a condition so favorable to the stockholders of the Wichita Falls Railway that the road acquired the reputation of paying the "largest dividends of any railroad in the United States."

Kemp partnered with his brother-in-law, Frank Kell, to build additional railroads to serve Wichita Falls. One of these, the Wichita Falls & Southern (WF&S), reached Archer City in 1907 and continued south to coal fields in the vicinity of Newcastle. That same year, the newly chartered Southwestern Railway (SWRy) acquired the ROW of the RR&SW which had been formally abandoned seven years earlier. The SWRy laid nineteen miles of track on this ROW from Henrietta to Scotland in 1908. Two years later, the remaining ten miles was completed to Archer City where a connection was made to the WF&S. The SWRy was never profitable, and between 1913 and 1918, its liabilities grew 700% to more than $600,000, leading to its abandonment in 1920-21. Approximately nine miles of the SWRy grade sits beneath the surface of Lake Arrowhead, a municipal water supply reservoir for Wichita Falls built in the mid 1960s.

The WF&S fared much better. It was extended farther south to a junction known as Jimkurn where it connected to the Wichita Falls, Ranger & Fort Worth (WFR&FW) Railroad. This created a route from Wichita Falls through Breckenridge and Ranger to Dublin. In 1911, the Katy purchased three Kemp and Kell railroads: the WF&S, the WFRy and another railroad, the Wichita Falls & Northwestern (WF&NW) Railway. In 1920, Kemp and Kell repurchased all of the WF&S stock from the Receiver managing the Katy's bankruptcy, returning the WF&S to independent operation for another three decades (most of it was abandoned in 1954.) Additional lines and branch acquisitions by the Katy in western Oklahoma combined to create a sizable northwest network largely driven by the shipment of agricultural products. The WF&NW provided the link back to Wichita Falls as the gateway to the remainder of Katy's system.

Trains still pass through Henrietta daily; the former FW&D has remained an active main line since its inception. It was absorbed into Burlington Northern long ago and the tracks are now owned by successor Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF). Under Katy ownership, the tracks between Henrietta and Wichita Falls remained operational until 1970. That year, on January 2nd, the Katy's entire Henrietta Subdivision -- from Whitesboro through Henrietta to Wichita Falls -- was abandoned. The Katy had already applied to abandon its northwest network in western Oklahoma, but permission had not yet been granted. Hence, the Katy obtained trackage rights on the FW&D between Ft. Worth and Wichita Falls for the purpose of retaining access to the Oklahoma lines. Those lines were mostly abandoned later in the 1970s, although track segments remain intact today, operated by other railroads. The Katy was acquired by MP in 1988, becoming part of Union Pacific (UP) which had purchased MP six years earlier. Today, all of UP's railroads are consolidated into a single UP operating entity. As there were no longer any Katy tracks through Henrietta after 1970, UP does not have tracks in the vicinity, but it does have trackage rights on BNSF's route from Ft. Worth through Wichita Falls to Amarillo and beyond.


Above Left: This 1954 aerial image ((c)historicaerials.com) shows a somewhat triangularly-shaped yard bounded by the railroads on two sides, with interchange and storage tracks located adjacent to the Tower 198 crossing. The FW&D depot was in the lower right corner of the triangle. Above Right: Vegetation has reclaimed most of the triangular yard, abandoned long ago. Below Left: the FW&D depot c.1950, photographer unidentified, from the Wichita Falls Railroad Museum (hat tip, Chino Chapa.) Below Right: This undated photo by Everett DeGolyer, Jr. (SMU library collection, hat tip, Jay Vollet) shows a train passing the FW&D depot in Henrietta. Jay comments: "
Outside braced cabooses were built from former CB&Q [Chicago, Burlington & Quincy] box cars. Of note are the two former WWII Army kitchen cars turned into FW&D mail cars in front of the caboose."


Above: In 2007, the Google Street View vehicle visited the site of Tower 198. Looking southeast directly down the former Katy ROW, the BNSF tracks to the right proceed past the former FW&D depot site in the distance. The end of a spur track is also visible; this spur can be seen in the 2021 aerial image further above. The relative proximity of the interlocker to the FW&D depot (0.3 miles apart) allowed select northbound passenger trains to pull up to the interlocker and stop there to discharge and accept passengers, thereby eliminating a second stop that would otherwise be necessary if the train had stopped close to the station. An FW&DC Employee Timetable dated June 2, 1940 states "
Passengers leaving or boarding No. 2 at Henrietta will do so at point where train makes stop for M-K-T Crossing and not at depot." It is not readily apparent why No. 2 was singled out. The rule apparently did not apply to train No. 8, a daily northbound passenger train that arrived at Henrietta at 1:07 am (No. 2 arrived at 4:56 pm.) Southbound passenger trains were unaffected since they stopped for the crossing before reaching the station. Below: From the same location in the opposite direction, the Tower 198 crossing diamond would have been visible in the immediate foreground. The Katy ROW ran northwest along the left edge of the nearby clump of trees as it gradually curved away from the FW&D tracks before turning back to the right to become parallel all the way to Wichita Falls.


  Above Left: This 1954 aerial image ((c)historicaerials.com) shows the Katy depot (yellow rectangle) adjacent to the tracks on the south side of Travis St. near its intersection with Main St. This depot appears on the 1934 Sanborn Fire Insurance map of Henrietta identified as "Passenger & Freight Sta." It was approximately 0.2 miles northeast of the FW&D depot. The small dark rectangle along the tracks east of the depot, just beyond Bridge St., is not a building. It is probably a locomotive or perhaps a few railcars casting a shadow since it does not appear on either of the 1953 or 1955 aerials. Above Right: Today, the Katy depot is long gone with no sign of its former presence. Its fate has not been determined. Below Left: the Katy depot c.1930 (University of North Texas Libraries) Below Right: There's no longer any indication that the Katy depot ever sat in this field between the foreground fence and the building barely visible at left. (Google Street View, June 2023)


Last Revised: 7/14/2023 JGK - Contact the Texas Interlocking Towers Website.