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.
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.
Big Bend Wool and Mohair.
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.
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.
Spotted Big Bend Wool and Mohair, Alpine, TX, December, 1978. Bringing in cattle feed supplement in bags.
The ATSF depot in Alpine (now Texas Pacifico). ATSF had an agent here until about 1978! June 1976 photo.
Dumping ballast near the ATSF depot, July 1977.
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.
ATSF train with box cars going to Mexico. August, 1977.
A caboose brings up the rear of the train.
ATSF has trackage rights for almost 12 miles over the SP to Paisano Pass.
An SP freight approaches Alpine from Paisano Pass. December 15, 1978.
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.
By B. Smith
My last trip, and as far as I know, the last trip of a Texas Pacifico train south of Alpine, Texas was June 7, 2012, to dump some ballast on a washout just south of the siding at Casa Piedra. (Editor’s note — Due to the lack of traffic and the burning of the bridge over the Rio Grande there has not been a need. Efforts are underway to rebuild the bridge.)
The day before I had taken the train over the 11.9 miles of UP track the Texas Pacifico has trackage rights across and tied down under the Hwy 90 overpass just south of UP’s Paisano Pass, highest point on the old SP Sunset Limited line between Los Angeles and New Orleans.
Even though the Texas Pacifico line south of Paisano Pass to Presidio Texas had not seen a train in a number of years, the agreement between the Texas Dept. of Transportation, owners of the railroad, and Groupo Mexico, operators who leased the operating rights over the railroad, required the line all the way to Presidio be maintained in serviceable condition.
In addition to myself, the crew today consisted of a student engineer who had considerable experience as a conductor with another railroad but had just hired on with Texas Pacifico, and a new hire conductor who had no previous railroad experience. Before leaving Alpine I briefed them to get food and drinks in Alpine as there would be no convenience stores or places to eat the rest of the day as we were going way beyond the beyond. I had to provide a map to the conductor as he would be driving his car, the Red Dragon, and the roads do not follow the track. The Red Dragon was a low slung red Camero that dragged its bottom on driveway ramps off paved streets, not the sort of vehicle suited for the unpaved roads that existed beyond Plata, where he was to meet us and join us on the train.
It is scenic country not far from Big Bend Ranch State Park.
Casa Piedras is now a ghost town in lonesome country. Probably pretty much always has been.
Hopefully, traffic will once again be restored to this lonesome, beautiful corner of Texas.