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  • South Texas Junctions

    Carl M. Lehman

    SP GP40-2 No. 7672 leads a westbound freight past Tower 17 in Rosenberg in September 1992.
    Pacific RailNews - August 1994 - Page 40

    If you don't like railfanning in congested urban areas, but you do like nonstop and varied action, you will probably want to visit two junctions located within a short distance of the Houston metropolitan area. The first site sees heavy mainline traffic from two railroads, while the second site sees heavy action from three Class Is, along with some shortline activity thrown in. Better yet, all trains in both locations can be watched and photographed without bouncing from location to location.


    Rosenberg, Texas, located 35 miles south west of Houston on U.S. Highway Alternate 90 (90A), is a crossing of Southern Pacific and Santa Fe main lines. The SP line is the east-west Sunset Route between New Orleans, Houston, San Antonio and California, while the AT&SF main is the north-south route between Fort Worth, Houston and Galveston.

    Tower 17, a large structure manned 24 hours per day, sits at the southwest corner of the diamond. The SP branch line to Wharton (originally Victoria, but SP is in the process of abandoning and salvaging this trackage) leaves the main and heads south just west of the tower ; another branch went to Guy, but has been torn up. There are two interchanges between the SP and AT&SF main lines here. The one south of the tower is used for exchanging cars, while the one north of the tower is used by run-through trains. There are sidings on both roads in Rosenberg, with SP's starting just west of the tower, and AT&SF's starting just east of the tower.

    Santa Fe stations two locomotives here for local work; they are kept two blocks east of the tower next to the small crew building. In addition to the many mixed manifest freights on both lines, the AT&SF line sees doublestack, grain, potash, sulfur and coal unit trains. Some of the heavier trains use mid-train remote units. Pool and lease power has been showing up regularly on both AT&SF and SP, which just adds to the variety of paint scheme mixtures you can see here.

    The majority of trains on the Southern Pacific main are eastbounds; most west bound SP trains run on the Bellaire line between Bellaire Junction and Eagle Lake, about 10 miles north of Rosenberg. The SP freights that ply this busy main line include unit doublestack and " rock trains," SF's term for unit gravel trains in this area. The SP line also sees Amtrak's Sunset running eastbound about 10:30 a.m. every Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday, while its westbound counterpart is due in the early morning hours on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

    After crossing, the two main lines run parallel east of the tower for 2 1/2, miles, then the AT&SF turns southeast on its trek toward Galveston, while the SP continues eastward to Houston. SP uses road frequency 161.550 in this area, while AT&SF uses 160.650. You can also hear conversations on SP PBX channels 160.890 and 160.950.

    Three Point Comfort & Northern Geeps lead a PC&N train exercising trackage rights over the Union Pacific main at Navasota in June 1992.
    Pacific RailNews - August 1994 - Page 41

    Photography is good in all directions near the tower, and also about a block east at the Houston Street grade crossing. There is plenty of space for parking be tween the main lines near Houston Street. Be alert for both eastbound SP and south bound AT&SF trains, as there are no crossings to the west or north for quite a ways, and the lineside signals face away from you. Westbound SP and northbound AT&SF trains blow for the Third Street crossing to the east which, along with signal indication, gives you advance warning of approaching trains.

    Traffic through Rosenberg is fairly steady, though a lunchtime lull on both lines is typical-a perfect time to grab some lunch at one of the many restaurants in town.


    Navasota is 65 miles northwest of Houston on State Highway 6. Twenty-five miles to the north, in Bryan/College Station, the Southern Pacific and Union Pacific main lines to Houston come together to share a Single route to Navasota. In Navasota the two railroads split again, with the SP continuing straight south and the UP eventually curving off to the east. After the lines split, the Santa Fe line from Somerville to Beaumont, Texas, crosses the SP, and then runs between the SP and UP main lines. For about one mile, the three Class I mains parallel each other. There is a seldom-used siding between the SP and AT&SF lines that can serve as an interchange track.

    The Southern Pacific main line hosts all SP traffic between Houston and Dallas, in addition to the triweekly northbound Houston section of Amtrak's Eagle at about 10:30 a.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. The Santa Fe line sees numerous mixed freights, along with some unit grain trains on their way to and from Beaumont. The Union Pacific main line hosts UP freights along with trains from short line Point Comfort & Northern. PC&N trains run on trackage rights between PC&N home rails to the south and those of its sister road, Rockdale, Sandow & Southern, to the north. The frequencies used in this area are 161.550 for SP, 160.740 for UP, and 160. 935 for AT&SF.

    Johnson Street crosses the joint SP/UP track one block north of the junction, and Abraham Street crosses the tracks to the south where the lines split. Depending on lighting, photography can be excellent in all directions on all three railroads. There is parking on both sides of the tracks, and there are a few places to eat nearby. It isn't often that an hour will pass without a train going by on one of the three main lines, and Point Comfort & Northern trains can show up at any time.


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    • Original Author Carl M. Lehman

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