Marathon, Texas over the years (and filming locations of two quirky movies–Fandango and Paris, Texas. Part I

Scene from the 1985 classic "Fandango."

Scene from the 1985 classic “Fandango.”

On this blog, I have written and shared a great deal about the Trans-Pecos Region of West Texas.  It is one of my favorite parts of the the United States.  This country provided the scenes for a number of famous films.  Marathon, Texas sits kind of on the eastern edge of the Trans-Pecos Region in a beautiful, desolate setting.  Marathon provided filming venues for Paris, Texas in 1984 and one of my favorites, Fandango, in 1985.  If you haven’t scene Fandango, get it now!

But this blog is mostly about railroad activity in the tiny town of about 400-500 people.

Marathon in 1982 was a pretty busy location.  In fact, the December 1986 issue of Model Railroader had an article on the Southern Pacific’s Valentine Subdivision that featured the industries I will discuss below.  The article also discusses an improbable beer distributor in Marathon in 1986.

Marathon, 1982.  ©photo by B. Smith

Marathon, 1982. ©photo by B. Smith

From B. Smith’s notes–

Looking west in the photo above.  The two tracks to the left were used mainly to store two-bay ACF covered hoppers that were waiting to be loaded at the fluorite loading facility just east of Marathon.  Trucks from Mexico brought the fluorite to Marathon where it was stored in large vertical tanks.  A stub end siding that could hold about six cars was located there.  Judging by the number of empties in the above photo it as a very active siding.  The track on the right had switches at both ends to the main track.  There was another company that loaded fluorite or clay into covered hoppers, open hoppers like those on the left, and box cars.  For the box cars a bobcat front end loader went up that ramp you see by the side of the building and just dumped the material into a pile in each end of the box car.  

Marathon had some vertical tanks east of town and a single switch spur (could only be switched by east bound trains).  Fluorite was trucked up from Mexico and loaded into SP (Southern Pacific) 2-bay cov’d hoppers.  SP for a while kept a good supply of empty 2-bays on a side track in Marathon.”

Another company loaded fluorite from this area.  They used box cars, open top hoppers, and covered hoppers at different times.

In the Fall of 1999, CGW, that’s correct, Chicago Great Western, 50′ box cars, some still with roof walks, were being loaded here.” 

In March of 1991, B. Smith documented the town again–

SP east bound through Marathon, TX.  March 1991 ©photo by B. Smith

SP east bound through Marathon, TX. March 1991 ©photo by B. Smith

DuPont's Flourspar loading facility in March 1991. ©photo by B. Smith

DuPont’s fluorspar loading facility in March 1991. ©photo by B. Smith

SP action near Marathon, TX and fluorspar  loading facility. ©photo by B. Smith

SP action near Marathon, TX and fluorspar loading facility. ©photo by B. Smith

The days of the caboose are nearing an end.  These are probably going to be scrapped. March 1991 ©photo by B. Smith

The days of the caboose are nearing an end. These are probably going to be scrapped as they make there way through Maraton.  March 1991 ©photo by B. Smith

He returns in 2000…

UP now instead of SP trains.  But fluorite or clay is being loaded into CGW 50' boxcars, some still with roof walks! 2000. ©photo by B. Smith

UP now instead of SP trains. But fluorite or clay is being loaded into CGW 50′ boxcars, some still with roof walks! May of 2000. ©photo by B. Smith

Loading fluorspar and clay in Marathon, May 2000.  ©photo by B. Smith

Loading fluorspar and clay in Marathon, May 2000. ©photo by B. Smith

Marathon, TX in May of 2000. ©photo by B. Smith

CGW #10268 in Marathon, TX in May of 2000. ©photo by B. Smith

Here’s some notes from a return visit in 2001.

Feb 16, 2001 — Gone are the two tracks used for storage, as well as the fluorite loading equipment that was here.  Now ground clay (possibly bentonite) was being loaded into UP and DRGW open top hoppers. 

March 27, 2001 — There were twelve HT hoppers, ten of which were DRGW, the other two UP in Marathon.

In my next post, we will continue this “Rail Fandango” and re-visit Marathon in 2008.

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