Simple pleasure of watching a grain train go by and playing detective…

Happy New Year to all!

In the last few days, a friend of mine caught a number of grain trains in Kansas and Nebraska.  He shared these great pictures.  Follow along as we “sleuth out” the original owners of these covered hoppers.  (All of these photos were taken by R. Houtwed.)

Now Northwestern Oklahoma RR, but was originally marked for the Chicago and Northwestern Railway.

Now Northwestern Oklahoma RR, but was originally marked for the Chicago and Northwestern Railway.

Former Rock Island.  The Rock went bankrupt in 1980, but hear is a clear reminder of a once great railroad.

Former Rock Island. The Rock went bankrupt in 1980, but here is a clear reminder of a once great railroad.

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Formerly owned by “Growth Nonstock Co-op.” Feels like something is missing!

Formerly owned by the Bunge Corporation.

Formerly owned by the Bunge Corporation.

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Former Union Equity. These were originally very attractive bold yellow cars with Emerald green writing.

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Formerly Ralston Jefferson. Tangent recently did a nice HO-scale replica of these cars.

Very nice specimen of a former Far-Post Elevator hopper.

Very nice specimen of a former Far-Post Coop hopper.

One of my favorites, a former Denver and Rio Grande Western RR covered hopper with "ghost" writing.

One of my favorites, a former Denver and Rio Grande Western RR covered hopper with “ghost” writing.

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Former Farmers Marketing Association car.

Lastly, a mystery car…

Can you tell us who the original owner of these car was?

Can you tell us who the original owner of this car was?

The next time you see a grain train pass, see if you can identify the original owner of the patched cars.

Have a great 2015!

The “mystery mine” (or memories of a special place)

 

P & NW RR. in Tokio, Arkansas taken November 4, 1974 by Ken Ziegenbein

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 fromstorage to rail cars. Photo by Ernie Deane, courtesy of the Arkansas History Commission.

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.   

 

Prescott AR March 28, 1980

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 (green dots) at Highland, AR.

Remains of mine today (green dots) at Highland, AR.

Ghosts of a wye that once existed just south of the mine.

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.

 

Chow for cows!

New Mexico has approximately 150 dairies, with the largest average herd size (2088) in the nation. New Mexico is currently ranked 9th in the nation for milk production and 5th in the nation for cheese production.

The dairy industry was really beginning to take off in Roswell in the early 1990s (and before).  Many covered hoppers of feed were being delivered just south of Roswell at a siding which is featured on my layout.

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The siding along the top represents the area where  about 6 covered hoppers were typically spotted.  It will be an important source of traffic on the layout.

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The siding was (and still is) along Hwy 285, just south of Roswell. The siding is still periodically used to bring in feed. Note the auger (white) which is used to transfer the grain to truck to be transported to area dairies.

I remember cuts of about a half dozen covered hoppers frequently spotted here.  This feed and mostly locally grown alfalfa would feed the emerging dairy herds in the area.  It was an important source of ATSF traffic around Roswell in the 1990s.  It is far larger now.  There are now a number of large feed operations between Roswell and Carlsbad.

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I took this photo in 1994. Six cars were spotted at this time.

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Common road names included C&NW (pictured here), ATSF, BN, MP and MKT as well as private companies.