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Tower 55 train pictures in Fort Worth, Texas

The Texas & Pacific was the first railroad to arrive in July 1876. With the coming of the railroad, Fort Worth became a cattle shipping point and literally became "Cowtown". The first grain elevator in Fort Worth was completed in 1878. By 1900 the Missouri, Kansas and, Texas (the "Katy"), the Gulf, Colorado, and Santa Fe, the Fort Worth and New Orleans, the Fort Worth and Brownwood, the Fort Worth and Rio Grande, the Fort Worth and Denver City, the Fort Worth, Corsicana and Beaumont, and the St. Louis Southwestern (the "Cotton Belt") served the town. The economic engine changed from cattle shipping to meat process in 1902 when three companies opened plants in the city: Swift, Armour, and McNeill & Libby. Fort Worth then became a major meat packing center in the southwest.

The first tower near downtown was built around 1898 and received the number 55 in 1904. The current Tower 55 was built around 1938. Tower 55 had a General Railway Signal Company (GRS) 128 lever pistol grip style interlocking machine until around 1980 when it was replaced by a more modern push button system. This was not the largest interlocking machine. I think the largest in the US was in Tower A near Grand Central Station in New York City with a 400 lever GRS model 2 interlocking machine.

Santa Fe train symbol 305 rolls by Tower 55 in Fort Worth, TX

Improvements to the area around Tower 55 have come in stages. For example the Texas & Pacific bridge along with the Gulf, Colorado, and Santa Fe bridge over Lancaster Ave were built in 1897. The Texas & Pacific Railway Passenger Station was built in 1931. There was quite a bit of re-alignment done to the roads and some of the tracks in 1936 and 1937 to eliminate grade crossings. For example the three track bridge over Vickery Blvd was built in 1937. The next set of big changes was the construction of Interstates 35 and 30 between 1956 and 1958. Fortunately the freeways stayed below track level. However, during the late 90s the mixmaster was totally redesigned with the east west freeway and all interchange connectors going over Tower 55. This pretty much destroyed the photographic potential near the tower. After September 11, 2001 access to the tower was severely restricted.

In May 1995 control was shifted from Tower 55 to the Supervisor of Train Operations (STO) in an office at Centennial Yard. The STO controls not only the tracks and signals around Tower 55 but the double track all the way into Dallas and down to Belt Junction on the south side of Dallas. The tower still stands and is home to signal maintainers on the second floor and special agents on the third floor.

In 2002 there were about 32 trains a day moving in or out of Fort Worth north of Tower 55, 30 trains a day east of the tower, and 27 south of the tower. Many of these operated between Tower 55 and Centennial Yard, however only 24 trains a day operated west of Centennial Yard. When you add in the number of transfers, the UP had 73 movements and the BNSF had 29 movements each day by the tower.

And where are all these trains going to or coming from? I'm so glad you asked! According to the United States Department of Transportation, in 2003 railroads moved 33.4 million tons of freight into or out of the Dallas Fort Worth region. The Union Pacific and BNSF moved 12.3 million tons between DFW and the surrounding area within the South Central region, 9.1 million tons between DFW and the North Central States, 7.5 million tons between DFW and the Southwestern States, 1.4 million tons between DFW and the Pacific Northwest, 2.3 million tons between DFW and the Southeastern States, and 0.7 million tons between DFW and the Northeastern States. The majority of that tonnage moved right by Tower 55. These figures do not include freight traffic moving through the Dallas Fort Worth area. For example, there were 26.7 million tons moving between Houston and the North Central States. About half of that moved by Tower 55 in Fort Worth. In 2003 BNSF moved over 475 million tons of freight in Texas. I'm sure much of that tonnage moved through Amarillo, TX on the Transcon. About 70 percent of BNSF's outbound traffic from Texas was intermodal and chemicals while 70 percent of the inbound traffic was coal, intermodal and agricultural products.

Most galleries progress from one end of a railroad line to the other in a linear fashion. This gallery is different in that all of the pictures were taken within easy walking distance of Tower 55. So I've organized it like a clock face. We will begin in the northeast quadrant, about the one o'clock position and move clockwise around the tower. There are 87 pictures in this gallery from Disks 91, 92, and 93.


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