Cotton and other traffic on the Pecos Valley Southern in the late 1970s, part II

By B. Smith

(See Part I here.)

The train continued on to the gravel quarry at Hoban.  Hoppers there already were still being loaded and a load of river rock awaited at Saragosa so the GE 70 tonner by itself proceeded by the speeder ventured on south of the quarry to Saragosa.  Only a few trips a year were now being made to Saragosa and just to pick up a single car of river rock each trip.  Within a couple of years the river rock would be loaded at the quarry and the track south of the quarry only used to store 900 plus covered hoppers in 1982/83 ($1 per car per day plus a $100 switching charge both inbound and outbound.  The cars were to be leased to Mexico but Mexico cancelled the lease).  By 1987 the track south of the gravel quarry to Saragosa was out of service.

The picture below shows the entire Saragosa siding by the station and gives some idea as to what the other rail served industries were that were located along that siding.  The station itself is hidden behind the metal building with the roof turbine vents.  The station platform is just visible, as is the single gondola loaded with river rock we are about to pick up.  Balmorhea and the Davis Mountains are in the distance.   (All below photos are copyrighted, B. Smith)

My beautiful picture

That’s the PVS station for Saragosa to the right of the gondola below.  The station was closed by the time of these pictures but in pretty good shape.  It was one of three stations built on the PVS.

My beautiful picture

Below we are heading north having pulled the load of rocks.  Those are the Davis Mountains in the distance.

My beautiful picture

Some businesses were still eeking out an existence in 1978 north of Saragosa.  Most of the tracks here are still in place today (2017) but some rail has been removed at crossings and fences cross the tracks in a number of places.

My beautiful picture

We head north back to the gravel quarry with a lone gon behind the GE 70 tonner.  We are looking south toward the Davis Mountains as a thunderstorm builds up over the flats.  Today this country is dotted with oil wells and oil industry support facilities.

My beautiful picture


Here’s a little side story to give insight into 1970s “laid-back railroading” (See below picture)–

“We had just coupled onto the lone gon of river rock and were heading back north, still on the station siding at Saragosa, when the engineer spotted this metal tub along side the track and decided it would make a great water trough for his livestock.  It traveled back to Pecos where it was off loaded at the engine shed.  Some thirsty cow was glad I guess.”

My beautiful picture
OK, back to our run, once we got back to the quarry we ran around the train of empties with our load of rock and shoved everything across highway 17 against the loaded cars at the quarry.
The caboose and load of rock were set over to another track, followed by the loads, and the empties were spotted for loading.
Our train of loaded hoppers of gravel, load of rock, and caboose then headed north back toward Pecos.
My beautiful picture
The empties pulled from the old air base tracks were added to the head end of the train…

My beautiful picture

…then the two tank cars at the cotton oil mill, now loaded, were pulled…
My beautiful picture
…and added to our train.  It was then the mile or so on to Pecos.
My beautiful picture
At the end of the day, the train was spotted on one of the interchange tracks in Pecos for MP to pick up, the engine and caboose returning to the engine shed.  Below, I’m standing on the MP main to take this photo and MP has delivered more empty hoppers for gravel loading while we were away today on the track just to the left of the MP main.  So this completes a pretty typical day in 1978 on the PVS.
My beautiful picture
We’ll conclude this series soon by sharing other cotton traffic B. Smith documented and what he was able to document around Balmorhea in the 1970s after the line was severed by I-10.
My beautiful picture
“Out in the middle of nowhere, a single car to pick up, light rail, little ballast, just laid back easy going railroading.”–B. Smith



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