Texas Railroad History - Tower 202 - Cleveland

A Crossing of the Texas & New Orleans Railroad and the Gulf, Colorado & Santa Fe Railway

Cleveland began as a railroad town, named by the Houston East & West Texas (HE&WT) Railway for Charles Lander Cleveland, who donated acreage for the community in 1878. The HE&WT had begun building north out of Houston in 1877, eventually reaching Nacogdoches in 1882 and the Louisiana state line in 1885. Unfortunately, the HE&WT was built as a narrow gauge railroad which limited opportunities for exchanging traffic. The HE&WT overcame this mistake by converting the entire line from Houston to Shreveport to standard gauge on 29 July 1894. Five years later, Southern Pacific (SP) bought the HE&WT but continued to operate it under that name. In 1927, the HE&WT was leased to the Texas & New Orleans (T&NO) Railroad, SP's principal operating subsidiary in Texas and Louisiana. In 1934, the HE&WT was fully merged into the T&NO.

An east/west line through Cleveland was built by the Texas, Louisiana & Eastern (TL&E) Railroad. The line began in Conroe in 1892, where connections were available with the International & Great Northern Railroad and the Gulf, Colorado & Santa Fe (GC&SF) Railway. Construction that year proceeded 22 miles east to Cleveland, and then six miles further east to a location known as Meriam in 1893. In 1897, the GC&SF acquired the TL&E but did not resume eastward construction until 1901, reaching Silsbee in 1902. By this time, GC&SF had acquired the Gulf, Beaumont & Kansas City Railway through Silsbee which provided significant access north into the forests of east Texas and south to Beaumont. Back to the west, the GC&SF tracks extended through Cleveland and Conroe all the way back to Somerville on their main line between Galveston and Temple.

The T&NO and GC&SF  lines crossed in Cleveland at an acute angle, with the GC&SF on a NE/SW heading and the T&NO on a NNE/SSW heading. The 1926 Sanborn map of Cleveland shows a depot in the acute angle northeast of the diamond, but the 1939 map shows the depot relocated south of the Santa Fe tracks, still east of the T&NO. This was a joint passenger depot that survived into the modern era, although it is no longer standing. With two major railroads crossing at Cleveland, a manned tower might have been appropriate, but one was never built. The crossing remained uncontrolled until 1954 when it was finally interlocked with a plant designated Tower 202. Union Pacific (UP) now owns the former T&NO; Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) now owns the former GC&SF.

Photos of the Tower 202 Crossing

Above: The University of North Texas Library provides this undated photo of the Tower 202 crossing in Cleveland. The interlocker electronics were housed in the white cabin trackside, just beyond the Santa Fe tracks that cross behind the depot. In the shadows between the cabin and the train, a small sign says "202" on two sides, both of which are visible at this angle to the photographer. The depot is faded but the logos of both railroads are apparent. The train is heading north across the diamond on the Southern Pacific tracks.

Below: Compared to the above photo, this image is almost precisely the opposite view, albeit on a different date. The "202" pole shows the interlocker controls more clearly. The Santa Fe railcar is on a stub track next to the depot that comes off of an exchange track behind the depot. The image was taken in June, 1980 by Joe Thompson.

Satellite Map, Tower 202 Crossing

Above: The shaded orange area shows the location of the last joint depot. The Tower 202 interlocker electronics appear to be housed in a standard cabin structure commonly found at junctions throughout Texas. The red dashed line shows the stub track that existed beside the depot (with rails barely visible.) Below: Google Street View image of the crossing looking south along the UP tracks. The ripples in the rails are artifacts of the photography process.

Above: Google Street View image looking northeast along the BNSF tracks; note the two rail cars on the exchange track. Below: Google Street View image looking southwest along the BNSF tracks; the same two rail cars are on the exchange track at left. The stub track that ran next to the depot can be seen branching off of the exchange track at the near end of the rail car.

Last Revised: 1/27/2018 JGK - Contact the Texas Interlocking Towers Page.