Action on the Kerrville Branch in 1968…(Part 2)

By B. Smith

Let’s resume the SP service on the Kerrville Branch in 1968. Click here to see Part 1.

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Spotting the empties.


The outbound train is dragged down the main between switches so the engine can get to the head end.
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But first the car of beer is spotted at the beer distributor (former Safeway warehouse).
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The engine runs around the outbound train and is soon headed back to San Antonio.

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Coasting now out of town. Two trips a week are made to Kerrville.


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Rio Grande, Micolithic and Northern Railway (A Guest Post)

By Chris Adams (Guest contributor)

Let me introduce myself.  I’m Chris Adams, a 54 year-old retired history teacher living in the Dallas/Fort Worth region of Texas.  I’ve always tried to live with some variety in life-in addition to teaching, I’ve served in the Air Force, dispatched trains for the BNSF, and currently have a “retirement” job as a chainsaw and small engine mechanic.  My personal “toy” is a 1962 Mercury Comet. 

But I’ve always loved trains!  When I found the Rails West site, I felt there might be some kindred spirits out there that pursue the hobby similarly to me. 

I love the deserts, mountains, and railroads of West Texas.  Reading about the Presidio and Northern really caught my interest.  My own modeling concept involves the tiny Rio Grande, Micolithic and Northern Railway.  It existed just to the west of the P&N. 

A map of the real Micolithic—-in my history, it will curve around to the East, connecting at Lobo, and become an alternate SP route.

It was built in the mid-1920’s, connecting the SP’s Sunset Route to some mica mines about six miles to the south (see map).  Before the Twenties ended, the line was defunct, and by 1939, the rails were removed.  The line employed a 25-ton gas switcher. 

In my world, however, the line still exists, and actually built eastward from Micolithic to Lobo, thus creating an alternate route for the SP.  A purpose-built layout is still in the planning stages, as I am currently operating on a somewhat generic layout.  However, I’m creating a theme and experimenting with a roster (see pics).  I’ve recreated the 25-tonner using an old Gilbert/American Flyer industrial loco.  Amazingly, I found a photo of the real loco, and this looks fairly close. 

Courtesy of

I’ve also practiced lettering some rolling stock, like the boxcar shown here.  I’ve also experimented with a more modern theme, with an MP-inspired livery.  In fact, the real Micolithic Line once intended to extend to Van Horn and the T&P, but never made it. 

So these are the beginnings of my new project.  Hopefully I can continue to report on its progress. 

Finally, my last photo here shows about all that’s left of the Micolithic Line.  It’s actually a loading ramp of sorts which trucks drove over, dropping their loads into waiting ore cars below.  This was probably built after rail service ended to the mines, with the mica being trucked up to the SP siding.  But talk about mood and feeling!  This pic shows a hint of just how lonely and barren this corner of Texas actually is!

Hopefully, I’ll make a lot of progress in the near future on re-creating this special corner of West Texas railroad history.

Action on the Kerrville Branch in 1968…(Part 1)

By B. Smith

Let’s go back to 1968 in my time machine and check out SP’s Kerrville branch that ran up from San Antonio 71 miles to the south. Not much time left for the line, traffic has been dwindling.  
In 1969 the principle remaining railroad customers were described as feed and lumber dealers, a peanut producer, a beer distributor, a mohair producer and a small mineral company. Just two years earlier the biggest source of railroad freight was gypsum. Some 220 cars were moved, a combined weight of 16,156 tons. By 1969, this had fallen to zero. The largest remaining product in 1969 was cattle feed, 17 cars, 402 tons. Again just two years earlier, the railroad had moved 133 cars, 3,845 tons.

    The decline is best reflected in the gross numbers:

    YEAR         CARS         TONS

    1967           553         27,091
    1968           459         19,448
    1969             50          1,765

We arrive just as the local arrives.  A fairly big train for this line these days.  Five empties for the small mineral company (not sure yet what mineral), a ATSF covered hopper of feed for the feed dealer, an empty SSW covered hopper to be loaded with peanuts, and a MP insulated box loaded with beer (what brand might it be Chuck?).  Power as usual is an ALCO RS-11.  An empty flat car (lumber for the lumber dealer), an empty covered hopper from the feed dealer, and two loads of the unknown mineral will make up the out bound train.

The crew leaves the empties and caboose on the main and pull down with covered hoppers and load of beer.

Leaving the beer on the main, the two inbound covered hoppers are swapped out with the flat and empty MP car already on the spur.

With the SSW hopper spotted, we’ll wrap up the rest of the job in Part 2 of this series.


Also enjoy C E Hunt’s recent non-rail blog post… … to learn about a most unusual bar.

Model Railroading as an Art Form

Lance Mindheim wrote an important book a couple of years back entitled, Model Railroading As Art. It is a very thoughtful book I encourage modelers to read.

We can enjoy our work as a standalone piece of art, the same as we would a painting, photo, or sculpture – something we enjoy looking at, whether it’s in motion or not.

Model Railroading As Art by Lance Mindheim

B. Smith’s Eureka Branch

Think about the above photo. B. Smith, and really all of us, have some artist in us to do what we do. From positioning the camera, to including various shrubs or vehicles in the photos to weathering our cars to the lighting, we create a type of art. Lance expands on these elements at significant length in the book.

There is a line in Lance’s book that really jumps out at me.

We do it because we want to evoke specific feelings and moods. In the case of art, we do it not only for the moods that wash over us, but for the feeling of being transported. We look at something and we like the way it makes us feel.

Model Railroading As Art by Lance Mindheim

Picasso once mused–

Yo no pinto lo que veo, pinto lo que siento

(I don’t paint what I see, I paint what I feel.) — Pablo Picasso

We model trains and scenes for a variety of reasons, but partly because how a scene makes us feel. And as Lance points out in the book, the more we do it for ourselves, the more satisfying the experience we have. In other words, we will be happier if we do it to make us happy versus getting “likes” or adulation.

As a writer and artist, I know that is true. My work is better when I strive to make myself happy versus a commission where I am trying to please another. It is great when our work bring others joy, but we should seek to please the “audience of one” that Lance writes about so eloquently.

I appreciate Lance inviting us to embrace our work as art and taking our work to a new level. Inspired by Lance’s book, I will also be sharing posts from time to time on this site that will discuss different sources of inspiration because we often find inspiration from sources we never expected. Some may in fact have little direct connection to railroading, but may in fact inspire something in you to produce more fulfilling work as a model railroader, for in the end, we are artists.

Rest assured there will also continue to be traditional RailsWest posts! We are working on robust posts sharing B. Smith’s Eureka Branch and Kerrville Branch in the near future. The goal is to encourage all of us to take our work to the next level (that makes US happy!)

Carrizozo, NM 1992 — C E Hunt All Rights Reserved

I posted this picture I took in 1992, because it evokes a special feeling. I remember the fading light, the smell of creosote, the wind, the cooling New Mexico evening, etc. Hopefully, you like it too!

Advertisement: Please check out my book (I actually slipped in a little railroad stuff in a book that has little to do with railroads!). Click on it to find out more. $3.99 on Kindle, $10.99 in paperback

Moving forward RailsWest will have a “Family of Brands” — Part 2

In Part 1, I shared the very modest RailsWest family of brands.  In this post, I will share the far more robust family of brands B. Smith features on his layout.

His classic brand is the Limpia Canyon Northern (LCN). He enjoys operating under multiple eras within the LCN short line road name he created many years ago.

LCN logo 7 with n tighter

Under the LCN road name he operates multiple eras/locales–

LCN in Magdalena 1990:
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LCN in Sanderson 1970’s:
LCN in Sanderson early 1960’s:
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LCN in Pecos 1970’s:
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In the last few years, he has welcomed a sentimental favorite of his, the Western Pacific, “to the stage.” This brand focuses on Milpitas, CA:
1970S WP LOGO (2)
He runs two eras in this locale:
WP in Milpitas, CA 1980:
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WP in Milpitas, CA early 70’s:
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Recently, to my delight he added, one of my favorites, the Southern Pacific on the Kerrville, TX Branch to the stage in two eras.
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SP in Kerrville, TX 1970’s:
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SP in Kerrville, TX late 60’s:
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Lastly, he also recently added a Western Pacific scenario in Nevada:
(He’ll share the story of the proto-freelanced Eureka Branch in a future post.)
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WP in Eureka, NV late 1960’s:
Now keeping up with the ACI’s and COTS, inspection dots, etc, is a handful, but what a richness that keeps his operations fresh and full of variety.
We hope you enjoy these many brands as the RailsWest website resumes more robust operations!
–C E Hunt and B Smith

Moving forward RailsWest will have a “Family of Brands”

Both B. Smith and I see our respective layouts as a type of stage that can host many plays, but instead of plays, we host different rail scenarios in terms of eras and roads.

My “brands” are simple–


Above is my original. And below is my new Presidio & Northern Railway Logos–


Or the “family” brand below —

P&N (2)

My scenarios are for now pretty simple, 1974 or 1969, and both set in Presidio, Texas. Click here to learn more.


Now, B. Smith has a much richer family of brands. In the next post I will share his many brands with representative photos of the various scenarios. You won’t want to miss it.

Consider signing up for future posts so you will be notified when a fresh post is available.

¡Vaya con Dios!




Black Widow on the Kerrville Branch and a hot beer car, 1967 — Conclusion

By B. Smith

(Click here to see Part 1)

After getting the beer distributor squared away, the crew could now focus on the “less-hot” part of the consist.  A couple of loads of Kerrvillium are pulled so the empty gons can be spotted on the empty track.

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The crew can now move on down to the cattle pens to pull the empties from the molasses spot and the team track.
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The L&N box for the team track and the covered hopper of feed are spotted and 431 gets out of town with two loads and three empties.
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Time to head back. All in all, a good days work!
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The Presidio and Northern Railway

¡Bienvenidos Amigos!

I’ve gotten a few questions on what’s going on with my RailsWest layout. Well, the short answer is “not much” on the actual layout.  However, a lot of thinking has been going on.  Over the last year or so, I have been fleshing out the identify of the primary short line on the layout.  It was as some of you recall, The Carson County Railway.  Over time, that started to seem not very evocative.  A new identity began to emerge as I more closely studied West Texas.  I settled on Presidio, Texas as the primary location (roughly), somewhat proto-free lanced, using Presidio as an inspiration and something to evoke, rather than a precise model of that location.

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The history of the line will be something to the effect that the ATSF wanted out of all or a portion of its South Orient line beginning in the 1960s.  The envisioned international traffic levels never fully materialized. In the mid-1960s, local business people worked with ATSF and SP to acquire an interest in the line and operate it as the Presidio and Northern Railway (P&N) from Alpine, Texas to the border at Presidio.  ATSF would retain overhead rights and SP gained overhead rights in case there was interest in more international traffic as the Mexican railroad line south of the border was more fully completed and improved.

Shortly thereafter, the P&N also acquired the Pecos Valley Southern which had punched through the mountains to the northwest of Alpine to complete the line from Pecos to Alpine.  As a result, the P&N has robust interchange with the MP (and some with ATSF) in Pecos and with the SP and ATSF in Alpine. P&N over the years has built more online traffic and the international traffic has had a bit of a bump up.

I will seek to primarily model 1974 but may backdate to the late 1960s on occasion.  Most locomotives will be the Alcos of the P&N–it is an all Alco line).  However, ATSF and SP power will make appearances from time to time, either in run throughs, leases or pooled power.  ATSF and SP retain an ownership interest in the railroad.


Primary road power are C420s.



Here is #34 right out of the paint shop.  There are a couple of HH660s located in Presidio and Pecos to handle switching and local runs. The P&N loves to borrow SP RS-11s whenever they can, so they make occasional appearances. Jaime Garcia, Head Mechanic of the P&N, likes it as long as its an Alco.  P&N management once considered acquiring a GP-7 from the SP and Jaime shut that down immediately.

Presidio is an interesting locale to model.


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The scenery possibilities are intriguing.


More to come from Presidio in the future.  My modelling has slowed a bit as I take on more writing and art, but I just want you all to know that the RailsWest layout is still coming down the line (just slowly).

¡Espero verte pronto!

           To learn about my writing click the C E Hunt logo…>>     

Black Widow on the Kerrville Branch and a hot beer car, 1967 — Part 1

By B. Smith

It’s 1967 and Texas and New Orleans GP-9 #431 arrives in Kerrville with its train, a load of beer in a GN insulated box car, some empty gons for loading of Kerrvillium, a 40’ L&N box for the team track and a SP covered hopper of feed.
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The beer is a hot car, the new beer distributor located in the former Safeway Warehouse wants it NOW so it’s available in stores for the the first AFL-NFL World Championship Game on Sunday (now known as Super Bowl I), so the crew spots it first, but must first pull an empty.
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With the empty pulled, the precious load of beer can now be spotted. Local Packers and Chiefs fans will now be better able to enjoy the big game!
Part II to come…
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(Note: I will try to resume occasional posts to the RailsWest series. Particularly when B. Smith shares items from his great layout. My writing and writer’s site ( is keeping me pretty busy.  Check it out and follow me on it.  Lot’s of neat photography along with my writing and art. (I sneak in a little rail stuff occasionally.)  You can also follow me on my twitter account.
Presentation1 (2)  Here is my “art logo.”