Destination — Pecos, Texas, 1970 and 80s…(or to the set of “The Last Picture Show?”) (Part I) re-post and enhanced

Readers have asked me to re-post this because some had difficulty seeing some of the photos.

This is an enhanced version with more background…even has a couple of book recommendations!


I will finish the Delaware series soon, but I thought it is time to spend a little time out west again.

We will visit Pecos, Texas in the 1970 and 80s.  The first part will focus on the operations of the ATSF.  The ATSF ventured south of Carlsbad all the way down to Pecos in the 1970s.  By the way, Pecos is known for a lot of things, its sweet cantaloupes and being the site of the “world’s first rodeo” on July 4, 1883 among others.

The second part will feature the operations of Pecos Valley Southern (PVS) RR.  The Pecos Valley Southern is still operating 23 miles of track south of Pecos.

Thanks to some great photography from a friend, we will visit both as they operated in the 1970 and 80s.


August 1982. ATSF station sign, Missouri Pacific RR (MP) mainline from El paso to Dallas on left, then PVS interchange track with MP. Switch stand just visible down track is to ATSF line to Carlsbad. ©B.Smith photo


August 1982. ATSF track to Carlsbad from Pecos. Track to left is other leg of wye. ©B.Smith photo


Switch where west leg of ATSF wye joins interchange track. Carlsbad would be down track that curves to the left here. ©B.Smith photo


Switch where west leg of ATSF wye joins interchange track to MP whose main track is visible on left, with PVS interchange track to MP visible beyond MP main, where cars are spotted. String of hoppers loaded with gravel visible in the distance on right center. These hoppers were loaded at gravel quarry on PVS and await pick up by MP. More cars off PVS on left await pick up by MP. ©B.Smith photo


Looking other way down ATSF/MP interchange track, ATSF Pecos station sign just visible beyond and to left of switch stand. Signaled MP main on right. Photographer is standing on east leg of ATSF wye. ©B.Smith photo


Loaded hopper string on PVS/MP interchange track, MP main track to left. ATSF tracks in Pecos are on far side of MP main track but are not visible. ©B.Smith photo

Looks like images out of the The Last Picture Show, I’d say.   I almost found myself looking for Sonny’s black pick-up in the background.  Of course, any aficionado of that great movie knows it was mostly filmed in Larry McMurtry’s hometown of Archer City, Texas (which is a long ways from Pecos).  It is truly a work of art if you haven’t seen it.  It evokes the “quiet desperation” of humanity like few films do.  McMurtry was the author of the novel upon which the film, very ably directed by Peter Bogdanovich, was based.  I highly recommend a number of McMurtry novels including some of his lesser known works, such as Some Can Whistle and All my Friends Are Going to Be Strangers.

Back to trains…

Obviously, the ATSF traffic to Pecos had become pretty light by 1982 when the above photos were taken.

Our photographer did catch a little action on the ATSF in Pecos in 1978.  The ATSF interchanged with the Pecos Valley Southern and Missouri Pacific in Pecos.


June 5, 1978. The only time the photographer caught cars being interchanged between MP and ATSF in Pecos. The car on the very left mostly out of the photo was a DRGW box. The string of cars on the right are on the other side of the MP main line and are the cars PVS left for MP to pick up after the days run. ©B.Smith photo

Just like the Last Picture Show, all good things come to an end.  The ATSF line to Pecos (everything south of Pecos Jct.) was abandoned in September, 1990. The line to Rustler Springs in Texas and all trackage south of Loving, NM was abandoned in 2002.

You can still see where the ATSF wye was in this modern aerial photograph.


In part II, also due to the fine work of B. Smith, I will highlight the Pecos Valley Southern action during roughly the same period.

Until then.

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