In General
Getting Here


In General

Back in the old days before the UP took everything over, it was the Cotton Belt and Missouri Pacific Railroads.

Location / Name:
Tyler TX, Smith County

What's Here:
Former Cotton Belt Depot
Diamond between the former Cotton Belt (E/W) and Missouri Pacific (N/S)
Former Cotton Belt Tyler Yard

GPS Coordinates: 32.354844, -95.298460
Phone A/C: 903
ZIP: 75702

Access by train/transit:

The Scoop:

"We" moved to Tyler in 1959 when I was 8.  We lived near Hogg Junior High School, but attended Gary Elementary School until we were old enough to go to the junior high.  Back in the mid 70's, I worked with a fellow, Jan Smith, who had attended Gary Elementary a generation earlier (in the 30's) and said all of the streets that are bricked paved in the area, were dirt roads back then.  It was interesting to talk to Jan and I considered myself lucky for knowing him, even if it was for such a short spell.  In later years, I met this fellow Marvin Mervis when I worked for Westinghouse in Hunt Valley.  I found out that his dad owned a shoe store in downtown Tyler on the square, around the same time we lived there.... how about that for being a small world?

So, Tyler is where I saw my first GP-30's, and fell in love with them... Hence, the GP30 part of my email address.

Back then, and up into the mid 80's, Tyler was serviced by two railroads as noted above.  The Mopac came the closest to where we lived on Victory Drive, being a short walk through the woods, and where it came thru that part of Tyler, it was up on a high fill.  The Cotton Belt tracks run east-west, and the Mopac line ran north-south.

When I lived there, I used to go down the the Cotton Belt yard a lot, and would get rides on the engines... how cool is that for a budding railfan!?  You could also ride all around the yard on your bike - if you can imagine a world when no-one chased you off!  I don't remember if there was a hump in the yard, but they did do switching... there was also a turntable and roundhouse.   On one trip to the yard, there was a burnt-up F unit sitting in front of the roundhouse! 

The last time I was there, the turntable was gone, and it didn't look like much was going on in the yard.  Being only a hundred miles from the yards in Dallas, they probably do most of the switching there.  The yard still has 13 tracks in it, tapering off to 5 on the east end.  Because of my last job I had as a field engineer, I was able to visit Tyler on two occasions, once in 1985, and again in 1999.

Tyler has a station still standing - the former Cotton Belt depot, and it is home to a railroad museum: The Cotton Belt Depot Museum.  The depot is located off of E. Oakwood St, two blocks off of N. Broadway Ave, but you need to take E. Line St. off of Broadway, and then north on E. Spring Ave.

Adjacent to the depot is the former CB-MP diamond, also known as Tower 183.  This diamond is was protected by a simple swing gate.  The Cotton Belt has the majority of traffic coming thru here - even back in the 60's I only remember seeing only one train a day on the Mopac......  too bad, but I never paid it much mind.  

As far as signals go, there are signals just off to the west side of the diamond, station, and Spring Ave.  They are also spaced at regular intervals, and I could use pictures of them if anyone feels like going out and getting them for my page.

For additional information on railfanning in Tyler, visit Ken Freeman's site.  There you will learn about the history of Tyler railroading all the way from the "Tyler Tap" up to the current day.

One last note, if you are into renaissance faires, one of the largest ones going is held south of Tyler every spring, the Four Winds Renaissance Faire.  They also have a few special events in the fall such as a Celtic Festival and a Steampunk get-together.

Pictures in and around the Tyler depot are courtesy Ken Freeman, I've been looking for good ones for a long time.  Thanks Ken!

I could still use additional pictures of Tyler.....  if you have something to add or correct, my email is here

Ken Freeman
Denver Todd

Websites and other additional information sources of interest for the area: Ken Freeman's excellent site  a quickie history on the Missouri Pacific

Getting Here

If you are coming from Dallas via I-20 exit 556, downtown is about 9 miles off the interstate.

From the east via I-20, take exit 571A and come into Tyler via US271.

From the south, such as Houston, I would jump off I-45 at exit xx and take US79 to Palestine, then head north to Tyler via 155.

If you're coming down from the north-east via I-30, through Little Rock, I would probably opt for getting off at Mt Pleasant at exit 162A and come into town via US271, never tried it, so I can't vouch for the routing.  Getting off at exit 162A vs exit 162 takes you by the small yard in Mt Pleasant.



  The Depot, and the Cotton Belt Depot Museum

GPS Coordinates: 32.354729, -95.298783
210 E Oakwood St, Tyler, TX 75702
(903) 595-7232

The depot was a former Cotton Belt station, and now houses a museum.  There's more info on Ken's site.

The Cotton Belt Depot was opened to the public in 1905 and continued service until the last passenger train, #8, departed in April 1956.  In 1988 the Southern Pacific deeded the depot to the City of Tyler.  The City restored the depot to her original beauty in 2003.

                Photos by Ken Freeman.


A few pictures of the depot from Google Street View:


  The Diamond / Tower 183

GPS Coordinates: 32.354844, -95.298460

The diamond is referred to as Tower 183.  Almost all junctions and diamonds in Texas are numbered, something set up by the state in the early days of railroading.  It's kind of lucky for us, for no matter where in the state towers were built, we have an orderly record of them... it's too bad other states didn't do the same thing! 

After leaving Tyler in 1964, I returned in 85 and 99, and the pictures below are from then.  Luck was with me for catching both a Mopac and Cotton Belt freight at the gate in 85.  It appears that the red/green reflectors on the arm disappeared over the years.

You will notice, in the pictures from Ken, that the gate has been taken down completely :-(


  Looking north across the diamond. 

 Photos by Ken Freeman.


For a few more shots of this diamond, check out:

For a great guide to the area, check out Steve Sandifer's Houston railfan guide at:

For more info on the towers of Texas, check out: (the motherload of information!)

Another great site with info on railroad structures in all of Texas (listed by county, ie: The city of Tyler is in Smith county, so don't click on Tyler county) is at :

   The Yard

Where the turntable and roundhouse used to be.

The entrance is just off of Beckham at Oakwood via Poplar.

The west end of the yard, adjacent to the turntable area.

The east end of the yard.


  WB Cotton Belt Signals at Tower 183/the Diamond

  Photos by Ken Freeman.


  Along Bellwood Rd for a Siding

I wonder if the UP has replaced these signals with standard Darth Vader type colorlight signals yet?

Looking at this screenshot, it appears that the signal closest to us is a GRS searchlight, while the one farther away from us, is a US&S searchlight, if not, they mixed up the hoods! :-).





  Overpass at Front St with Cotton Belt still on it, photo by Ken Freeman.

   The former headquarters of the Cotton Belt in Tyler at 1517 West Front Street, by Ken Freeman.

This is a collection of stuff I have from Tyler, it's small, but some of them are pretty cool.....

Envelopes commemorating flights out of Pounds Field

  A police patch I traded for on my 1985 trip....

These things were all over the place when we moved here in 1959!!!

Matchbook cover I inherited from my folks

These showed up on EBay a couple of years ago.... nice....

A couple of ham radio QSL cards, both "silent keys" now, as the callsigns are not in the FCC database anymore


New: 2/21/2007
Mod: 15-Apr-2019