P & NW RR. in Tokio, Arkansas taken November 4, 1974 by Ken Ziegenbein
When I was a teenager growing up in the heart of Houston, Texas, Arkansas was my summer refuge. I’d go visit my Uncle Arnold and Aunt Mollie on their farm near Nashville, AR, not far from Tokio, AR (locally pronounced “Toe-kee”). I enjoyed hanging around my uncle and aunt and my cousins. I particularly enjoyed following Uncle Arnold around the farm–working the chicken houses, checking on the cattle and chopping some wood as fall approached. He was such a fine man from whom I learned much. Well anyway, near their house–off in the woods–was a mysterious rail line seemingly going off to nowhere. I had never seen a train on it. In about 1978, I finally got my mom to take me to explore it.
It turned out to be the Prescott and Northwestern RR. At the time, the railroad was owned by Potlatch Lumber and mostly served a lumber mill in Prescott, AR. We followed the line until it stopped in a village called Highland. I ventured through the woods and discovered at the end of the line some kind of small mining operation. (Prescott is pronounced locally “Press-cut”)
Gypsum mine at Highland, 1961. Belts moved the gypsum from storage to rail cars. Photo by Ernie Deane, courtesy of the Arkansas History Commission.
The image of this lonely, abandoned mine in the middle of nowhere haunted me. I longed to see it in action. The P&NW connection to the Missouri Pacific was about 31 miles away. I fantasized about seeing the tiny P&NW locomotives pulling a string of hoppers through the forests and farms to get to Highland.
P&NW RR at Prescott AR., March 28, 1980. Photo courtesy by RailPictures.net ©Sid Vaught
It turned out that the mine wasn’t abandoned, it was dormant. The mine ceased production a couple of years later, in 1980. Somehow, though, this mine fascinated me and stayed a special place in my mind for years. Back in Houston, I often wondered if the P&NW had resumed service to the mine.
Recently, I found myself thinking about that mine again. Sadly, it has practically disappeared. The line from Prescott to Highland was pulled up in 1994.
Remains of mine today (green dots) at Highland, AR.
Ghost of a wye that once existed just south of the mine.
Happily, the P&NW is still around though it mostly services a Firestone roofing plant in Prescott now.
See this link for a video of the P&NW in 2012. Since 2010, the line has been owned and operated by the Pinsly Railroad Company.
I know this post has little to do with the ATSF in Roswell, but the concept of “special places” is universal for likely all of us.
Note: I have slides of my experience with the P&NW RR in the late 1970’s and I may post them in the future if I have them digitized.