By B. Smith
My last trip, and as far as I know, the last trip of a Texas Pacifico train south of Alpine, Texas was June 7, 2012, to dump some ballast on a washout just south of the siding at Casa Piedra. (Editor’s note — Due to the lack of traffic and the burning of the bridge over the Rio Grande there has not been a need. Efforts are underway to rebuild the bridge.)
The day before I had taken the train over the 11.9 miles of UP track the Texas Pacifico has trackage rights across and tied down under the Hwy 90 overpass just south of UP’s Paisano Pass, highest point on the old SP Sunset Limited line between Los Angeles and New Orleans.
Even though the Texas Pacifico line south of Paisano Pass to Presidio Texas had not seen a train in a number of years, the agreement between the Texas Dept. of Transportation, owners of the railroad, and Groupo Mexico, operators who leased the operating rights over the railroad, required the line all the way to Presidio be maintained in serviceable condition.
In addition to myself, the crew today consisted of a student engineer who had considerable experience as a conductor with another railroad but had just hired on with Texas Pacifico, and a new hire conductor who had no previous railroad experience. Before leaving Alpine I briefed them to get food and drinks in Alpine as there would be no convenience stores or places to eat the rest of the day as we were going way beyond the beyond. I had to provide a map to the conductor as he would be driving his car, the Red Dragon, and the roads do not follow the track. The Red Dragon was a low slung red Camero that dragged its bottom on driveway ramps off paved streets, not the sort of vehicle suited for the unpaved roads that existed beyond Plata, where he was to meet us and join us on the train.
It is scenic country not far from Big Bend Ranch State Park.
Casa Piedras is now a ghost town in lonesome country. Probably pretty much always has been.
Hopefully, traffic will once again be restored to this lonesome, beautiful corner of Texas.