Texas Railroad History - Cruse Tower - "near Cruse, Texas"

A Crossing of the Houston East & West Texas Railroad and the Grogan Manufacturing Co. Tram

The existence of this interlocker is known from a document obtained by Carl Codney directly from Southern Pacific (SP) Railroad. The single-page "Statement Showing Levers, Functions and Division of Expense at Interlocking Plant" dated January 16, 1928 (see below) is filled out with information pertaining to a crossing of the Houston East & West Texas (HE&WT) Railway and the Grogan Manufacturing Company. SP acquired the HE&WT in 1899 and continued to operate it separately until March 1, 1927 when it was leased to SP's Texas & New Orleans (T&NO) Railroad. The location of the interlocker is stated as "near Cruse, Texas". SP timetables list a station with that name in Liberty County about a mile north of the Cleveland station. It is certainly possible that among the Railroad Commission of Texas (RCT) documents stored at DeGolyer Library there is information pertaining to Cruse, but a file for the Cruse interlocker has not been noted during previous reviews of the archive. Today, the HE&WT tracks continue to be operated as a main line for Union Pacific (UP).

Grogan Manufacturing was a well-known wood products company with a long history of sawmill operations in several places around Texas, two of which were located along the HE&WT. The first of these was the original Grogan operation near Bivins in northeast Texas, seven miles south of Atlanta. The other was at Gladstell in northwest Liberty County near Cleveland. Gladstell was founded in 1912 by the Grogan brothers, George and Will, and named for their daughters, Gladys and Estell. By 1913, the community had a Post Office and an eventual population of 500.

The Grogan sawmill at Gladstell had a tram operation which apparently crossed the HE&WT main line. Uncontrolled tram crossings existed notwithstanding state law and RCT regulations, and some trams eventually were interlocked (e.g. among several, Towers 178 and 180 involved a Grogan tram, and Tower 143 was a tram crossing of the T&NO). SP's document states that the Cruse interlocker went into service on January 21, 1928. This was less than a year after T&NO leased the HE&WT; the management change may have played a role in the decision to interlock this location, but we do not know if the crossing had already been in use.

SP Document dated January 16, 1928

Above: SP's document states that a cabin interlocker "near Cruse, Texas" was placed in service on January 21, 1928, and taken out of service on January 6, 1930, a mere two-year existence. The document was created five days before operation commenced, and it was revised in April, 1928 to record the date and drawing number of the official design plan. This attention to timely documentation reinforces the idea that RCT was notified about the Cruse interlocker and had granted authority to operate. The April revision to the plan drawing would have documented "as installed" details. Note that the entire cost of operation was borne by the Grogan Manufacturing Co.

Without RCT files or additional SP documentation, there is no direct explanation for why the interlocker does not have a tower number assignment, though lack of a number does not imply lack of RCT approval. SP's document states that the Cruse interlocker went out of service on January 6, 1930, less than two years after it opened. This time duration is significant; there is evidence from RCT and SP files related to the tram interlocker at Devers (Tower 143) that suggests RCT may withhold issuing a tower number for an interlocker designated as a "temporary plant". The time limit to qualify as "temporary" is not known but was likely specified by RCT regulations. At Devers, RCT authorized the interlocker for operation in 1923 but did not assign a tower number until 1928. Whether this delay was related to the regulated duration of a "temporary plant", or was merely an oversight by RCT and T&NO, is unknown. Unlike Devers, Cruse operated a relatively short period of time. If this was anticipated by T&NO, they would have requested approval as a temporary installation and, apparently, a tower number assignment never became necessary.

So...where was this cabin interlocker "near Cruse, Texas" actually located? According to SP employee timetables dated April, 1926 and September, 1930, a station known as Cruse was 0.5 miles north of the T&NO's crossing of the Gulf, Colorado & Santa Fe (GC&SF) Railway (later interlocked as Tower 202) in Cleveland. The timetables do not mention a crossing at Cruse, but the interlocker was in and out of service between the dates these timetables were published. More important however, the designation "near Cruse, Texas" implies a location possibly some distance away, i.e. "near Cruse" may simply mean that among the stations listed in SP's timetable, Cruse was the nearest to the interlocker. The next timetable station to the north was 4.3 miles away (Westcott.)

The Texas Forestry Museum database of tram roads states: "The Grogan Manufacturing Company's mill at Gladstell appeared in a 1915 directory of sawmills as having a daily cutting capacity of 50,000 feet. Forty percent of the mill's business was in tie production. It was still operating in 1928 and was running a company town at Gladstell. Its tram road that year was fifteen miles in length." Gladstell was approximately four miles south of Cleveland, hence any location "near Cruse" was easily within reach of Grogan's lengthy tram. However, if the tram crossing really was near the Cruse station and it brought logs back to Gladstell, there would also have been a crossing of the GC&SF tracks. While this is certainly possible, it seems somewhat less likely that a tram would be built across two Class 1 railroads. This might suggest that there was another Grogan sawmill north of Cleveland served by a tram (sawmills weren't rare in Liberty County.) Or, it could imply that "near Cruse" refers to a location unrelated to the Cruse station in SP timetables, i.e. a location that was likely closer to the sawmill at Gladstell.

The Texas Forestry Museum database of sawmills has this description of the Keno Lumber Co. which was owned by William Cruse.

  The Keno Lumber Company sawmill of William Cruse operated from about 1890 to 1903. The plant also had a planing mill, four miles of tram road, and an engine and some logging cars. William Cruse (listed as Cruise on the 1899 Liberty County tax roll) was recorded as having more than 2,800 acres on four surveys, ten horses or mules, forty-five cattle, thirty hogs, ten dogs, two wagons, $1,000 worth of manufacturing tools, and $3,000 worth in a steam engine and boiler. In 1900, sixty-three people worked at Keno. ... The mill probably had a small commissary. In 1900, the Houston East & West Texas contracted with Keno to supply it some three and a half miles of rails to reach more timber. In return, the mill would have to run fifteen days each month, and when the mill closed, to give the rails back. The Keno Lumber Company sawmill at Keno closed in 1903 or 1904. Keno sold 145 tons of steel rails to W. T. Carter & Bro. of Camden, Polk County, when it was dismantled. The mill was no longer listed in the directories in 1906. In 1905, William and Talluah Cruse permitted the Cade brothers to buy timber and construct a mill on their land.

This establishes that around 1900, William Cruse owned four different surveys of land in Liberty County, and his sawmill was doing enough business with the HE&WT that the railroad agreed to supply (on loan) rails for an extension of Cruse's tram operation in exchange for an assurance that the mill would operate at least 15 days per month. In 1905, the sawmill closed and was dismantled. Cruse then allowed (presumably by lease) the Cade brothers to reestablish sawmill operations on his land and buy his timber. Elsewhere in the Texas Forestry Museum database, a description of the Keno & Cold Springs Transportation Company identifies the location of the Keno Lumber Co. owned by Cruse.

  The Keno Lumber Company of William Kruse (Cruse) operated a lumber plant, about four miles south of Cleveland, from about 1890 to 1902. The mill also had a planing mill, four miles of tram road, and an engine and some logging cars. ICC records for the Keno & Cold Springs Transportation Company note that it was owned by W. M. Kruse and operated four miles of track.

Despite three different spellings of his last name ("Cruse", "Cruise" and "Kruse"), it appears that William's sawmill was "four miles south of Cleveland", i.e. not near the Cruse station listed in SP timetables which was on the north side of Cleveland. The U.S. Geologic Survey (USGS) Geographic Names Information System (GNIS) database lists the Grogan company town, Gladstell, as being located at 30.2849 degrees north latitude, 95.1127 degrees west longitude. This location is almost precisely "four miles south of Cleveland" near the HE&WT tracks. Thus, it is apparent that when the Grogans moved into Liberty County and founded Gladstell in 1912, they did so on or near land that was (or had been) part of Cruse's holdings. The Handbook of Texas states that Gladstell was "on the Houston, East and West Texas Railway between Cleveland and the East Fork of the San Jacinto River in northwestern Liberty County." SP's 1930 timetable lists Gladstell as a flag stop for a few trains.

The precise location of the interlocker "near Cruse, Texas" may never be known. An argument can be made that it was located north of Cleveland between the Cruse and Westcott stations on the HE&WT but closer to Cruse. If so, the Grogan tram out of Gladstell crossed two Class 1 railroads, or perhaps there was another Grogan sawmill and tram north of Cleveland. It is also possible that the interlocker was near a Cruse tract of land in the vicinity of Gladstell, an area where William Cruse once had large land holdings. Topographic maps dating back to at least 1958 show a spur ("Kevin") off the railroad at Gladstell. It no longer exists, and there's no indication that it was any sort of relic of the Grogan tram. The site it served adjacent to the HE&WT looks like it may have once been part of a sawmill or lumber yard, and is now occupied by Oldcastle Lawn and Garden.

Above: This Google Earth image shows the vicinity of Gladstell. The brown industrial site (now Oldcastle Lawn and Garden) was formerly served by a spur from the SP tracks adjacent to US 59. The power line right-of-way east of the site runs southwest for a couple of miles and then turns due south for another mile into the community of Splendora...where it becomes North Tram Road.

Last Revised: 2/19/2019 JGK - Contact the Texas Interlocking Towers Page.