By B. Smith
Fields of cotton covered the land between Balmorhea and Pecos until the 1980’s when rising fuel prices made it too expensive to pump the water for irrigation.
Courtesy of the Texas Transportation Institute: Rand-McNally and Company. Rand-McNally’s Commercial Atlas of America. Chicago: Rand-McNally, 1937.
There were four or five cotton gins located between these two towns then. Cotton bales were shipped out in boxcars (as much as 30 boxcars a day) and the cotton seed was trucked to the cotton seed mill just south of Pecos. In the late 70’s and early 80’s, there was still enough cotton production to keep the cottonseed oil mill going and the PVS would pull a loaded tank car or two of cottonseed oil out of the plant almost daily. Boxcar loads of cottonseed meal left over from the cotton oil production process were also shipped out.
Let’s take a run on the PVS on June 5, 1978, to check out how cotton and other traffic moved on the PVS that particular day.
Here we are at the PVS/MP interchange in Pecos, the MP main line is on the very right running between the signals. We are looking west towards El Paso in this photo. (Note–all photos below are copyrighted by B. Smith)
There is a gondola load of asphalt and two empty tank cars on the left that will be put on the head end of the train. The gondola was a Conrail car. I thought it strange that an Eastern RR car with asphalt would be showing up here in West Texas. This was before the gravel plant served by the PVS installed an asphalt plant. The rest of our train is top center in the photo. The PVS caboose, quite a number of empty open top hoppers for gravel loading, and almost visible at the far end of the train an orange boxcar. Above the almost visible orange boxcar is the PVS open-air engine shed.
Below we are looking south down the main line out of Pecos, the West Texas Cotton Mill Co-op spur and facility are off to the right. We are arriving at the West Texas Cotton Mill Co-Op. The brakeman (the PVS was still using a five-man crew at this time) has just opened the gate to the mill and is walking back to line the switch into the mill. The other brakeman has cut the engine and two empty tank cars off from the train.
Below, tank cars were loaded and weighed here on the scale track. Sometimes the tank cars had to be cleaned before loading. We have pulled the two tank cars to the scale and loading spot in the mill complex, run the engine ahead, switched over to the adjacent track to the scale/loading spot and are leaving the mill and returning to the train on the main line. Next, we will switch the tracks at the old Pecos Army Air Base. –©photo by B. Smith
Leaving empty open top hoppers and caboose on the main line, the engine, load of asphalt and orange 40 ft boxcar cross highway 17, the main road out of Pecos going south. Using the run around track paralleling Stafford Blvd to get the cars ahead of the engine, we then shove the cars onto the team track. We next proceed to the spur on the far side of the building in the center of this photo.
Below we pull another orange 40 ft boxcar and a covered hopper. The covered hopper closest to us was not pulled but respotted to where the covered hopper in the background is located. The orange 40 ft boxcars with LOVX reporting marks are owned by American Colloid, producers of bentonite clay used among other things in oil and gas well drilling. A second covered hopper was pulled from the second pair of spur tracks just to the east of here. The three pulled cars are left on the east side of highway 17 to be picked up later this afternoon when the train returns to Pecos. The engine returns to the empties and caboose on the main line and proceeds south to the gravel quarry.
In the next post, we will explore further south of here, as B. Smith documented the run continuing on to the quarry at Hoban and on to Saragosa. There was still a fair amount of traffic towards the end of the line into the 1970s. We will conclude the series with a post on the rest of the line down to Balmorhea.