Todd's Railfan Guide to

In General
Getting Here
Fire & Police


In General

Location / Name:
Flatonia TX

What's Here:
Tower 3 (relocated)
the Flatonia Photo Pavilion
Diamond Crossing
Interchange between the UP's Cuervo and Giddings Sub-Divisions
the Flatonia Yard

GPS Coordinates: 29.687102, -97.115421
ZIP: 78941

Access by train/transit:

The Scoop:

If you are travelling Interstate 10 between the cities of Houston ands San Antonio, or are in Austin and want to spend an afternoon somewhere else, Flatonia offers the railfan a convenient location to stop for food or drink, and take in a little railfanning in the process.  Everything is close to the I-10 exit.

Flatonia was one of the earliest busy railroad junctions in the state of Texas, hence Tower 3.  Tower 3 has been moved from its original location and preserved.  There is also a caboose on display next to the tower.

Another big draw is the Photo Pavilion that the city has erected for railfans.  For some, it may not be as close to the tracks as they may want, but it sure beats the heck out of waiting for a train in the summer sun!

There are approximately 25 trains a day, including Amtrak.  The two rail lines are Union Pacific, formerly the Southern Pacific.  The east-west line is UP's former Sunset Route.

Flatonia is approximately halfway between Houston and San Antonio TX.  If I wasn't in such as rush to get from San Antonio to Houston back in 1985, I would have stopped here :-(

As for signals, we have a collection of three different styles: colorlight, "trilight" style colorlights, and searchlight.

Websites and other additional information sources of interest for the area:
http://www.towers.txrrhistory.com/003/003.htm (most of the historical information came from this page)

Aerial shots were taken from either Google Maps or www.bing.com/maps as noted.  Screen captures are made with Snagit, a Techsmith product... a great tool if you have never used it! 


Getting Here

Exit 661 off of I-10 from either the Houston or San Antonio directions.

From Austin, take the Ben White (TX71) east out of town, go about 35 miles, and than take TX95 south in Smithville into Flatonia.

From Victoria (along the Gulf Coast), head north on US 77 to I-10 and head west two exits (13 miles).


The  above map in a PDF is here


  Photo Pavilion

GPS Coordinates: 29.687382, -97.115983
602 W. North Main St, Flatonia, TX 78941

The park was opened in 2002.  It stands on the former location of Tower 3.  All railroad towers in Texas are uniquely numbered throughout the whole state, as it was decided early on by the Texas Railroad Commission to number them this way.

The park hosts railfan events the first Saturday of April and November.


  Tower 3

Tower 3 used to be located where the photo pavilion is located now.  It was opened in 1902.  It was closed in 1996 and then moved to it's current location and renovated.  Tower 3 is available for tour by appointment only by contacting the Flatonia Chamber of Commerce at 361-865-3920. 

Many more excellent pictures and information can be found on this page: http://www.towers.txrrhistory.com/003/003.htm

  UP's Flatonia Yard

Can't tell you anything about the yard or how frequently it sees activity, but the Google map truck was lucky enough to catch something in the yard.  The yard has five tracks in it, and it looks like the middle track is probably the thru track.  Don't know when the new interchange track was put in, but it is not on the 1965 USGS map.

The east end of the yard, the crossing, and the "new" interchange track.

The east end of the yard, the shot with the engines in it was taken from Google Maps, about where the yellow "X" is.

  ex Galveston, Harrisburg & San Antonio Rwy Depot

It is now the Flatonia Police Department building.

  ex San Antonio & Aransas Pass (SA&AP) Railway Depot

Now used as a storage/freight shed by the UP.

ex San Antonio & Aransas Pass (SA&AP) Railway Freight Depot

Mentioned on the Tower 3 page is a former SA&AP freight depot, but I can not find it on Google Maps, if anyone knows what building it is, please shoot me an email with a picture.


  EB Searchlight Signals

A two head searchlight installation for the approach to the yard.

  EB "Tri-light" Colorlight Signals

Two sets of signals, one for the interchange and one for the crossing.

  WB Colorlight Signals

For the interchange and the crossing.

  SB "Trilight" Colorlight Signals

For the interchange and the crossing. 


  NB Colorlight Signals

For the interchange and the crossing.



Fire and Police

Flatonia Volunteer Fire Co

Flatonia Police Department

The police department's building is the former Galveston, Harrisburg and San Antonio (GH&SA) Railway Depot.


the Lyric Theater

I used to live in Tyler TX back in the early 60's.  Back then, a lot of towns still had wooden sidewalks, many of which I assume by now have been replaced with concrete as shown here.  By the time we moved to Tyler in 1959, everything was concrete, but in a nearby small town we used to go for dinner, they still had wooden sidewalks and dirt streets.

Brief History

Prior to the Civil War, the Buffalo Bayou, Brazos and Colorado (BBB&C) Railroad built westward from Harrisburg to Alleyton, a town on the east bank of the Colorado River near Columbus. After the war, the BBB&C bridged the river but proceeded no further due to financial problems. In 1868, the BBB&C was sold to various investors to pay off construction debts and other judgments. In 1870, it was re-sold and reorganized again by Thomas Peirce who amended the charter and renamed it the Galveston, Harrisburg and San Antonio (GH&SA) Railway. In 1873, the GH&SA resumed construction westward toward San Antonio, passing near an existing settlement known as Flatonia. The citizens of Flatonia moved their houses and businesses one mile northwest to the GH&SA tracks and the new town was incorporated in 1875.

In 1887, the San Antonio & Aransas Pass (SA&AP) Railway began a northerly expansion out of its traditional south Texas territory by building a line north from Yoakum with a destination of Waco. The line crossed the GH&SA at Flatonia, which became one of the earliest and busiest rail crossings in Texas. As a rural location which would otherwise not justify a large number of stopping trains, Flatonia was an ideal candidate for a manned interlocking tower due to the high volume of rail traffic. As a result, one of the earliest interlocking control towers, Tower 3, was established at Flatonia in October, 1902.  (from the Tower 3 page)

Historical USGS Maps

Courtesy of the University of Texas Library, click here for their index page.

          1898 USGS map.


I love trains, and I love signals.  I am not an expert.  My webpages reflect what I find on the topic of the page.  This is something I have fun with while trying to help others.  My webpages are an attempt at putting everything I can find of the subject in one convenient place.  There are plenty of other good websites to help me in this effort, and they are listed in the links section on my indexa page, or as needed on individual pages.  Please do not write to me about something that may be incorrect, and then hound the heck out of me if I do not respond to you in the manner you would like.  I operate on the "Golden Rule Principle", and if you are not familiar with it, please acquaint yourself with how to treat people by reading Mathew 7:12 (among others, the principle exists in almost every religion).  If you contact me (like some do, hi Paul) and try to make it a "non-fun" thing and start with the name calling, your name will go into my spambox list! :-)

Please Note:  Since the main focus of my two websites is railroad signals, the railfan guides are oriented towards the signal fan being able to locate them.  For those of you into the modeling aspect of our hobby, my indexa page has a list of almost everything railroad oriented I can think of to provide you with at least a few pictures to help you detail your pike.

If this is a railfan page, every effort has been made to make sure that the information contained on this map and in this railfan guide is correct.  Once in a while, an error may creep in, especially if restaurants or gas stations open, close, or change names.  Most of my maps are a result of personal observation after visiting these locations.  I have always felt that a picture is worth a thousand words", and I feel annotated maps such as the ones I work up do the same justice for the railfan over a simple text description of the area.  Since the main focus of my website is railroad signals, the railfan guides are oriented towards the signal fan being able to locate them.  Since most of us railheads don't have just trains as a hobby, I have also tried to point out where other interesting sites of the area are.... things like fire stations, neat bridges, or other significant historical or geographical feature.  While some may feel they shouldn't be included, these other things tend to make MY trips a lot more interesting.... stuff like where the C&O Canal has a bridge going over a river (the Monocacy Aqueduct) between Point of Rocks and Gaithersburg MD, it's way cool to realize this bridge to support a water "road" over a river was built in the 1830's!!!  

My philosophy: Pictures and maps are worth a thousand words, especially for railfanning.  Text descriptions only get you so far, especially if you get lost or disoriented.  Take along good maps.... a GPS is OK to get somewhere, but maps are still better if you get lost!  I belong to AAA, which allows you to get local maps for free when you visit the local branches.  ADC puts out a nice series of county maps for the Washington DC area, but their state maps do not have the railroads on them.  If you can find em, I like the National Geographic map book of the U.S..... good, clear, and concise graphics, and they do a really good job of showing you where tourist type attractions are, although they too lack the railroads.  Other notes about specific areas will show up on that page if known.

By the way, floobydust is a term I picked up 30-40 years ago from a National Semiconductor data book, and means miscellaneous and/or other stuff.

Pictures and additional information is always needed if anyone feels inclined to take 'em, send 'em, and share 'em, or if you have something to add or correct.... credit is always given! BE NICE!!! Contact info is here

Beware: If used as a source, ANYTHING from Wikipedia must be treated as being possibly being inaccurate, wrong, or not true.


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NEW 01/01/2014
Last Modified 09-Jun-2016