Thursday, April 2, 2009

Texas' Last Interlocking Tower Closing

ROSENBERG, Texas - Effective at 8 a.m. today, Texas begins to lose Tower 17, its last active interlocking tower guarding a railroad junction. All Texas towers were numbered, and the one at Rosenburg, 35 miles southwest of Houston where Union Pacific's former Southern Pacific Sunset Route main line crosses BNSF's former Santa Fe line from the north into the Houston-Galveston area, happened to be 17.

Tower 17's closure is said to leave UP's West Bridge Junction in Louisiana, near the Huey P. Long bridge, as the last staffed traditional tower in service (vs. towers at moveable rail bridges at waterways) in the U.S. west of the Mississippi River.

A 36-hour maintenance-of-way window is in effect today for UP signal forces to change out switches, switch machines, and cut over new signals and take down old ones at Tower 17. The UP Glidden Sub dispatcher now controls the remaining switches and signals. Rosenburg operators are expected to find work at other UP locations.

The last day that Tower 17 will be open will be Friday, Feb. 13, with the last operator reporting for work at 11 p.m. When that shift is over at 7 a.m. Saturday morning, the tower will be closed.

Texas' towers were given numbers, at random, by the Railroad Commission of Texas after the 1901 passage of a state law to regulate crossings at grade of railroads. The numeric progression of Texas interlockings has no logic either geographically or by railroad. It is believed that Tower 196, in El Paso near Union Station, had the highest number. As late as early 1985 there were still well over 100 active interlockings in Texas, but only a couple of dozen or so were controlled by active towers.

Information provided by Trains Magazine

No comments: