On the northern outskirts of Alpine today sits a lonesome, abandoned spur on the currently inactive Texas Pacifico mainline to Presidio.
The old timers called it the “stock track” for presumably it was a livestock shipping point at one time.
It is a double ended siding that has hosted a number of industries over the years. Most only lasted a brief while. Over the years, it has briefly hosted a drilling mud operation, a bentonite shipper, a scrap metal dealer and a humate shipper. As far as B. Smith and I can tell, none of them generated much in the way of rail traffic.
Per B. Smith, “I believe the operation was originally set up to receive drilling mud. At the time the facility in Alpine was built, eight different drilling mud operations had set up recently in Pecos along the Pecos Valley Southern (to the north). The shipping of bentonite was the only operation to really use the railroad. I don’t believe any drilling mud, and for sure no scrap metal, was ever shipped from this siding.
There was a company that wanted to ship humate (a mineral salt of humic acid formed from decomposed prehistoric plant and animal matter, used as a fertilizer), first to a small middle eastern oil country to be used by the leader of that country for some elaborate garden project, when that fell through then to the Philippines. With all but one paper needing to be signed for the Philippine deal to go through, a change in government in the Philippines killed that deal, or so the owner of the humate operation claimed.”
Smith also remembers a covered hopper or two when it hosted a bentonite shipping operation.
He also remembers a number of ATSF open top hoppers being spotted on the siding, but does not remember a regular flow of cars into and out of that track. He remembers some form of the operation, or another company, kept trying into the 1990’s after the South Orient Railway took over from the ATSF. As a South Orient crew member, his notes show spotting an empty or two, and later pulling them out as loads a few times in 1993/94 for a company called Border Mines. On July 14, 1994 he pulled 10 loads out of the siding for Border Mines. All loads went east to San Angelo, not to the Alpine interchange.
The bentonite mining operations in the Big Bend ship by rail when they get a large order, but mostly it is by truck. Bentonite has been loaded into rail cars from time to time in Marathon, TX. The Cowboy Mining Company south of Marathon currently ships 10 to 14 trucks a day. http://www.cowboymining.com/#/welcome/slide-show
This concludes the Alpine series. Hope you found it as fascinating as I did.