By B. Smith
Wheat season is coming to an end here in the Magdalena area, but the LCN is still busy loading covered hoppers with it. Here’s what we find down the spur to the elevator today.
Seven empty covered hoppers awaiting loading with wheat, two empty box cars at the grocery distributor, an empty ATSF beer car at the beer distributor, three empty covered hoppers for the feed plant, a BN hi-cube at the printing plant, and what’s this, a load of beer awaiting spotting all by itself there. Must have had two loads of beer on the last inbound train from the interchange and the beer distributor can only handle one car at a time. That load of beer is going to make for a long day for the crew. I can just see the engine way down at the elevator.
Here’s the locomotive the LCN has been using to load the wheat cars.
You might wonder why a GP-38 is being used here instead of a smaller unit. Well, when the seven cars of wheat are loaded, the GP-38 hauls them to the SP interchange, picking up more wheat loads from other elevators along the way. Magdalena is the end of the line, so the wheat train starts here. On the return trip empties will be distributed to the other elevators and seven empties, all the run around track at this elevator can hold, will end up here. The loading scheme here at the elevator has changed since the interstate highway was finished. The spur track that used to extend beyond the elevator was truncated so that now only one car can be loaded at a time, the end of the spur is just beyond the rear of the engine here! At the time the highway was being planned this elevator shipped only four or five cars a season so it was decided by the highway planners the expense of a highway overpass over the spur was not justified. Last year however, this elevator was purchased by the owners of a very active elevator further down the line who needed additional elevator space. Wheat trucks coming from the west stop here and unload instead of continuing on to San Angelo so this elevator is busier than it has been in years.
The view from near the engine at the start of the shift.
The seven covered hoppers on the left will be loaded with wheat, as each car is loaded it is shoved down the center track which today also holds that load of beer. The covered hoppers on the right are empty and await loading by West Texas Feeds who load a car or two every month.
The wheat car loading has been going on for a couple of hours now. The cars loaded so far are on the middle track and the engine has coupled on to the next covered hopper to be loaded and is moving it to the elevator. The conductor rides the car after making the cut.
The last bay of this car has just finished being loaded, a sample of the wheat will be collected and sent off for analysis, the hatch cover will be closed, seals applied and recorded, and the car will be moved down the loaded track against the other loads.
In part II, we will see how the crew deals with the pesky loaded beer car clogging up the works…