Tower 55 Memories Live On

MKT SD40-2 #600 passes Tower 55 with a northbound coal train in July 1985. (John Shine photo)

Prior to its closing in the mid-1990s, Tower 55 in Ft. Worth had been attracting train watchers for more than six decades, and perhaps even longer. The central Texas interlocking plant had become one of the most widely recognized North American hot spot names. Built in the early 1930s, the tower controlled rail traffic at one of the busiest rail junctions in the southwest U.S., with an average of more than 100+ train movements in a 24 hour period.

Dubbed the "Mix-master" by some area train watchers, it was easy to understand why. Tower 55 orchestrated the traffic across the interlocking of many railroads, all of which today are "Fallen Flags": Cotton Belt (SP), Frisco, Katy, MoPac (T&P), Rock Island and Santa Fe. At times, the movement of freight and passenger trains pass Tower 55 could resemble a broadway stage production in which the characters perform their roles when qued.

Construction of a major interstate highway interchange led to the closure of the tower; it has stood idle since May of 1995. Here is an opportunity in photos to revisit what was once a famous railroad landmark.

New: 1 September 2019


Photo Exhibits

An ex-Santa Fe Hi-Level Coach and sleeper make-up the consist of the Dallas section of Amtrak'sLone Star. It has just left the old Santa Fe station in Fort Worth and has turned at Tower 55. The train will use Missouri Pacific trackage for the remainder of the journey on an October afternoon in 1976. (Gary Morris photo and caption info)

Amtrak E8A #367 slows to a crawl so the Tower 55 operator can deliver train orders the old fashion way, with a long wooden hoop. The single E-unit is in-charge of the Dallas section of the "Lone Star," which on 10 October 1976 consisted only of a high-level coach and an ex-Sante Fe sleeper. (Gary Morris photo)

Santa Fe F7A #327L leads a classic A-B-B-B-A locomotive consist on a late afternoon in May 1970. The five war bonnet-attired EMDs are surplus passenger power and no longer needed to haul the railroads decreasing number of long-distance trains. For the remainder of their time on "Uncle John's" railroad, the once pristine-looking F-units will be delegated to hauling freight. (K.B. King photo, Jim Spears collection)

If this was a "where is it", every photographer in the southwest during the 70s and 80s would get this right away. The Frank Kent Cadillac sign was just as much a landmark in downtown Fort Worth as Tower 55. For some, the challenge was getting the sign composed with the train. Ironic that the Cadillac sign might even be syptomatic of the then-prevailing sentiment of the SD40-2. (Barry Byington photo and caption)

Santa Fe's Cleburne, Texas shops remanufactured seventy U36Cs into 3000-hp "SF30Cs" during 1985-1987. The six-axle freight haulers received a new Dash-7 electrical system, Sentry Wheel-Slip management system, as well as a coat of the company new Kodachrome paint scheme. SF30C #9537 leads northbound freight tonnage past Tower 55 late in the 1980s. (Joel Gilmore photo)

Fort Worth & Denver (Burlington Lines) Train #2, the Texas Zephyr, has just begun the long northbound run (800 miles) to Denver. The seven-car passenger consist was being led on 20 May 1967 by two of the railroad's stalwarts, E7A 9981A and a some-what rare E5B. (Tom Hoffman photo, Marty Bernard collection)

Burlington Northern's Colorado & Southern subsidiary SD7 #813 and 818 bracket Fort Worth & Denver SD7 #853 as they work FW&D's Downtown Yard in Fort Worth just north of Tower 55. Missouri Pacific SD40 #3046 South in the background gets a roll-by on 7 November 1975. (Glenn Anderson photo)

A light engine move in the form of Frisco-painted GP38-2s #464 and 473 bang across the diamonds at Tower 55 on 10 December 1980. The two 2000-hp EMDs are actually the property of Burlington Northern as a result of a BN + SLSF merger three weeks prior. (Jim Spears photo)

Don't let the Alco carbodies fool you; there are six thousand-EMD horses on the point of this southbound general freight. In just a few short moments, the Katy manifest passes Tower 55 and stops at Ney Yard, the final destination. The Alco cab unit and two RS3s were rebuilt by EMD 12 years prior to this March 1968 image. (David Hawkins photo)

MKT SD40 #605 and a sister six-axle unit lead a southbound BN coal train past Tower 55 on 17 April 1987. Coal traffic through Fort Worth grew significantly with the opening of the Powder River Basin in the 1970s. Pooled and run-through power on area railroads became the norm as a result. (Francis J. Weiner photo David Hawkins collection)

A classic A-B-B-A set of F7s bangs across the diamonds at Tower 55 on 3 January 1963. Prior to its 1976 merger with Missouri Pacific, the predominantly east-west railroad provided passenger and freight serice between Texas and Arkansas. Note the early piggyback loads. (K.B. King photo, Jim Spears collection)

A brace of Missouri Pacific 3000-horsepower SDs roll a northbound freight across the diamonds at Tower 55 in July 1983. The crew of lead engine SD40-2 #3240, while mindful of getting their train safely across the system, are also probably wondering about the long-term implications of the six-month-old UP + MP merger. (John Shine photo)

Chicago Rock Island & Pacific GP7 #1297 draws a seven-car transfer run passed three-story Tower 55 on 26 February 1975. The wooden "F.W. Tower" sign affixed to the 34-year-old structure was replaced sometime during the mid to late 1980s. (Glenn Anderson photo)

Rock Island had only a minor presence in Fort Worth; its facilities were located close to Tower 55 at Peach Yard. CRI&P RS1 #744 works a caboose hop in February 1966; the outside-braced crummy adds character to the vintage scene. (K.B. King photo, Jim Spears collection)

Southern Pacific RSD5 #5494 was one of the last locomotives built by Alco employing the 244-engine (November 1955). Additionally, it had been set-up at the Schenectady plant to run short-end first. RSD5s were transferred to Texas because of an inability to handle the rigors of Tehachapi and Beaumont in California. (K.B. King photo in February 1966, Jim Spears collection)

Back to Motive Power Rosters