Inspiration for a Limpia Canyon Northern Customer

By B. Smith

In 1976, the ATSF still had a full-time agent at their depot in Alpine, Texas.  He claimed the boxcar sitting outside the depot one visit (June, 1976) was for the Safeway in town.

My beautiful picture

Alpine, TX ATSF station, June 1976–©photo by B. Smith

I did not see the car being unloaded and do not know how Safeway transported what was in the boxcar to their store.  They must have had a large truck is my guess.  I took a picture of the car by the depot.  I’ve often wondered what was in the car, I can’t imagine one food item going to the store in Alpine.  It must have been many different food items that were loaded into the car at a large Safeway distribution center. And it’s an SP boxcar. Did SP bring it to Alpine and interchange it to the ATSF?  So many questions now I wish I had found answers to.

My beautiful picture

SP box at Alpine, TX ATSF station, June 1976–©photo by B. Smith

I never saw another boxcar here after this one, so this may have been the last railcar shipment to Safeway in Alpine.  The agent job was eliminated in 1978 and the agent transferred to San Angelo.
Interesting that it’s a double door boxcar, one you would expect lumber in, but in 1976, the Foxworth-Galbraith Lumber in Alpine had its own spur off the SP by the SP depot.
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Note: It’s great to have a story like this behind the elements of your layout.  It makes modeling and operations so much more meaningful.
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Alpine, Texas in the late 1970s, Part I

The Trans-Pecos region of Texas just north of Big Bend National Park offered some great rail operations in the 1970s when the Southern Pacific and Santa Fe served the region. Scenic Alpine, TX where the SP and ATSF met was in particular an interesting locale.  B. Smith was there to record some great shots.
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©B. Smith photo

The SP (now UP and Amtrak) depot, seen here in June, 1976.  There’s a box car spotted down the track to the left at Big Bend Wool & Mohair.  It was a regular receiver of rail shipments in the 70’s and 80’s.
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©B. Smith photo

Big Bend Wool and Mohair.
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©B. Smith photo

Short run-around track allowed cars to be spotted by train traveling either direction on main line.  For a brief period in the late 70’s short line box cars were spotted at white building on left to be loaded with lignite that was mined down south.  I don’t think many cars were loaded before operation ceased.  But I do remember six or seven box cars sitting here, 50 footers.  I was lucky a couple of times and saw this siding being switched by a main line freight.  There was another spur to the right of the depot that ran to Foxworth lumber yard that saw occasional rail shipments in the 70’s.
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©B. Smith photo

Big Bend Wool and Mohair with two cars spotted in August, 1977.  Spur track to lumber yard in foreground with switch to another spur that ran west (behind photographer) to a couple of warehouse-like buildings that had long ceased receiving rail shipments.  All these spur tracks have been removed in Alpine.
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©B. Smith photo

Spotted Big Bend Wool and Mohair, Alpine, TX, December, 1978.  Bringing in cattle feed supplement in bags.
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©B. Smith photo

The ATSF depot in Alpine (now Texas Pacifico).   ATSF had an agent here until about 1978! June 1976 photo.
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©B. Smith photo

Dumping ballast near the ATSF depot, July 1977.
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©B. Smith photo

Where the ATSF met the SP to get over Paisano Pass.  The interchange track is on the left between the ATSF track the photographer is standing on and the SP Sunset Route behind the box car.  July 1977 photo.
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©B. Smith photo

ATSF train with box cars going to Mexico.  August, 1977.
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©B. Smith photo

A caboose brings up the rear of the train.
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©B. Smith photo

ATSF has trackage rights for almost 12 miles over the SP to Paisano Pass.
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©B. Smith photo

An SP freight approaches Alpine from Paisano Pass.  December 15, 1978.
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©B. Smith photo

Amtrak Train No. 1, the Sunset Limited west bound departs Alpine, December 15, 1978.
Part II, will focus on an obscure customer north of Alpine.

Reflections on the South Orient, Part II

By B. Smith

(Part II on the South Orient, click here for Part I)

Presidio Depot, early 1990s. –©photo B. Smith

Presidio Depot, early 1990s. –©photo B. Smith

The Presidio depot.  Our train will be inspected by a car inspector from Mexico, any bad order cars will have to be set out.  If our train is shorter than eleven cars we can use the run around track at the bridge.  A longer train requires coordinating with the Mexican railroad who will bring their cars to the bridge first.

International Railroad Bridge at Presidio.  -–©photo B. Smith

International Railroad Bridge at Presidio. -–©photo B. Smith

The gate on the International Railroad Bridge at Presidio.  The cars coming to the South Orient in interchange are on the Mexican side, ready for us to couple into and bring into the United States, as soon as I unlock the gate.  After 9/11, we had to wait for Border Patrol to come and unlock the gate.  Sometimes they could find the key, more than once bolt cutters had to be used when the key couldn’t be located.

On the Mexican side. –©photo B. Smith

On the Mexican side. –©photo B. Smith

The gate is open, I’m on the Mexican side, the International Boundary Marker is on the very left of the photo, time to couple into our interchange. We take the cars back to the Presidio depot where everything is inspected by Border Patrol, US Customs, and Dept. of Agriculture (for bugs).  I call the SP dispatcher from the depot to let him know we are coming and will be at Paisano Jct. in about three hours.

 –©photo B. Smith

A few miles north of Presidio crossing the longest bridge on the South Orient.–©photo B. Smith

A few miles north of Presidio we cross the longest bridge on the South Orient.  It spans Antonito Creek.  A couple of times I saw water from bank to bank when summer thunderstorms upstream dumped a few inches of rain.

 –©photo B. Smith

Short train heading north. –©photo B. Smith

A short train heading north to Paisano Jct.  The track inspector was riding the train this day, I was driving his hi-rail following behind.

Waiting on SP traffic at Paisano Jct. -–©photo B. Smith

Hard to tell by looking at the locomotives, but waiting on SP traffic at Paisano Jct. -–©photo B. Smith

At Paisano Jct. we often had to wait on SP traffic even though we were getting short on time.  It takes less than 30 minutes to get to Alpine from here.  A SP westbound passes with NS power.

(Editor’s note:  This concludes the reflections series, but I anticipate a post on typical South Orient traffic in the near future.)

A seventies slug in Carlsbad…(Photo of the week)

Here is a picture of an F7B in Carlsbad, New Mexico in 1978.

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F7B slug in Carlsbad, 1978 ©B Smith photo

On a “slug” unit, the prime movers have been removed and replaced with heavy weight, such as blocks of cement.   Just the traction motors remain and they get power from another locomotive.  They increase the tractive capacity of the accompanying locomotive.

These slugs would have passed thorough Roswell prior to the 1990s.  F units slugs were no longer used by the 1990s.