A Crossing of the St. Louis - Southwestern Railroad and the Texas & New Orleans Railway
The Tyler Tap Railroad was founded in 1871 with plans to "tap"
the Texas & Pacific Railway at Big Sandy for the citizens
of Tyler. By 1879, the railroad had completed a narrow gauge
line from Tyler to Texarkana and the name was changed to the Texas
& St. Louis Railway. The following year, the line was
extended from Tyler to Athens. Athens was by this time an
important east Texas town, and the county seat of Henderson County.
Bankruptcy forced the sale of the Texas & St. Louis Railway
in 1886 and the line came under the control of the St. Louis Southwestern
Railroad, commonly known as the Cotton Belt.
A second railroad, the Texas & New Orleans (T&NO), reached Athens as part of a line stretching from Dallas to Beaumont. The northern part of this line had been constructed by the Texas Trunk Railroad, but a series of bankruptcies had left it stagnant with only a 36-mile line between Dallas and Kaufman. The Texas Legislature authorized the T&NO to acquire the Texas Trunk, but only if it finished the construction of the line from Kaufman to Rockland, where the T&NO had an existing line into Beaumont. This construction reached Athens from Dallas in 1900 and the entire line was completed by 1903. The T&NO was under the control of the Southern Pacific system, and the Cotton Belt came under Southern Pacific control in 1932.
In the late 1920s, with the establishment of yard interlockers at Canyon (135) and Pampa (136), the rules of the Railroad Commission of Texas (RCT) came to be interpreted such that interlockers were required to be approved by the RCT even if the tracks being interlocked were controlled by a single railroad. Previously, only interlockers involving two different railroads were assumed to require RCT approval. Thus, despite being part of the same railroad system, the automated interlocker installed at the crossing in Athens in 1952 was submitted for RCT approval and number 200 was assigned to this interlocker. It is believed that there was never a manned tower structure at Athens. By the time this interlocker number was assigned, there were many other manned interlockers in the state that were being automated with the same technology that was originally installed in Athens in 1952. The original interlocker cabin still stands.
In the 1980s, the T&NO line in Athens was abandoned east of town, with the abandonment eventually extending all the way to Beaumont. To the west, the line remains in place for 13 miles to Eustace, but is abandoned from Eustace to Dallas. The former Cotton Belt line is now operated as a main line by Union Pacific, successor to Southern Pacific.
Location Map - Tower 200