RailsWest News

1. RailsWest is now on Instagram with frequent posts!

Click here to access it.

2. On the new RailsWest blog we just published one of our best posts ever…

One of my favorite posts we have done in a while about a night train. It is all about getting some cattle south to get them out of harms way from a winter storm. Check out the blog post. It reads like a very short story! It has a night train, bunking down in the caboose, tumble weeds, a ghost and much more.

Click here to access it.

RailsWest has a new home! And has for quite a while!

You are always welcome to come back here and check out the classics! BUT, hop on the new RailsWest trains departing for all points West!

We are boarding on tracks #1 and #2 and you are welcome on both trains.

Track #1

RailsWest2 blog — https://railswest2.wordpress.com/

Subscribe to this new site today. Don’t be missing excellent RailsWest content!

Track #2

Follow RailsWest on Instagram!

@rails_west – Look for the bloody nose SP short nose GP-9!

Don’t miss your train, hop on today!

Rails West

Agri-West Supply, a place one can catch up on Wildcats football and more


There’s a place in Carrizo Springs where one can buy some salt licks, feed supplements and tractor parts and implements.  They specialize in International Harvester and have a fair parts supply on hand.  It is also a good place to gossip with Marty and Jane, the proprietors, and catch up on the Wildcats (high school football), wheat and cattle prices and even a little local politics.  Marty restores tractors as a hobby and has just restored a beautiful John Deere tractor he is trying to sell.

To continue to evoke a sense of place (see my recent post on this), I knew the layout needed an agricultural supply dealer.  The kind of place that looks a little beat up, but is a solid part of the local economy and community.  They only occasionally use rail service via the team track to get in salt blocks, mineral supplements and occasional tractor implements.  They have been thinking about bringing in molasses by rail.  Local producers have to drive up to Trinidad or over to Asherton.  (For more on molasses and railroads, see my three-part series.)

As my previous structures, Walthers just happened to offer a perfect kit to meet my needs with very little modification.  I opted for Walthers State Line Farm Supply.


It is a very easy kit to build and it only took a couple of hours.


It assembles very nicely.  I created my own signs.



The building has really nice lines and feels like buildings I have seen across the West. Now, the building has a lot of windows so I put a little effort into creating a very simple interior.




Those are old International Harvester pickup truck advertisements on the walls. I have always liked the look of the old IH pickups.


I sought to do just enough that so that the building would pass for being occupied.

It looks a bit toy-like so you know what we need to do next…


Next post will share the final product.


In Praise of Bakeries, Part II

To conclude my series on bakeries, here is a little information on the structures, rolling stock, vehicles and operations.


Bakeries come in all shapes and sizes, but most of the older ones were pretty substantial brick or cinder block buildings from what I can gather. Here’s a collection of photos demonstrating the variety.


Rainbo Bakery, reportedly in Tuscan, AZ.

Tucson Rainbo Bakery

Older Rainbow Bakery in Tucson, AZ.

Roanoke Rainbo Bakery coutesy Roanoke Public Library

Rainbo Bakery in Roanoke, VA.  Photo courtesy of Roanoke Public Library.


Back of a bakery, location unknown.

Here’s a more modern bakery.

Schwebels Bakery Solon OH Dan Sapochetti

Schwebels Bakery, Solon OH, 2005, photo courtesy of  Dan Sapochetti

Here is a collection of photos of a former Rainbo bakery in Lexington, KY with some cool interior shots in case you were very ambitious and wanted to model a realistic interior.


Frankfurt KY II

Frankfort inside II

Inside of a Rainbo bakery in Kentucky

Lexington inside

Here is a few photos of silos and unloading equipment.


Shick bulk flour system, courtesy of Shick Solutions.

Rail Car Unloading Systems

Detail on a rail car unloading system.

Rail Car Unload Systems, Equipment, Design, Pneumatic Conveying, Bakery, Pasta, Tortilla, Snack Food, Wheat Flour, Soy Flour, Gluten Free, Corn Flour, Semolina

Thomas Rail Car Unloading Systems, Equipment, Design, Pneumatic Conveying, Bakery, Pasta, Tortilla, Snack Food, Wheat Flour, Soy Flour, Gluten Free, Corn Flour, Semolina

In addition to B. Smith’s bakery I shared in the last post, here is a Walthers kit and an interesting model of a bakery.


Everything from just the tanks to suggest a larger structure off layout to an entire structure.

Rolling Stock

Now here is one of my favorite aspects of modelling a bakery operation–really neat rolling stock and vehicles.

Here’s just a couple of examples.

T. Greuter photo

MP 72199 courtesy of Tim Greuter

Milw airslide 97049 at Bensenville on 4-23-89 Michael Spoor

MILW #97049 at Bensenville, IL, April 23 1989. Photo courtesy of Michael Spoor and RRPictureArchives.NET

Both Tangent and Athearn make excellent covered hoppers for serving bakeries.

Milw airslide 97245 at Bensenville on 4-23-89 Michael Spoor

Tangent has just come out with this excellent model.


For years, Athearn has produced this nice model of the GATC 2600–

ATH87618 c


For modellers of modern operations, BLMA recently announced what looks like will be very nice addition.  I’d be excited about this car if I modelled modern operations.

I’ve seen some nice painted models of this car as well if you want to get creative.  Here’s the real car–


Here’s the model–

Bob Rivard

Model of Quaker Oats car. The decals are available from Daniel Kohlberg.


Here’s a small sampling of the vehicles one could model–

8300709247_9cfb8d1764_z rainbo_frtlnr01 rainbo-bread-10-83-louisville-kysunbeam-bread-1-3-90-nashville-tn

Stanley Houghton photos above are copyrighted and are for non-commercial use only.  They are courtesy of Hanks Truck Pictures.  This site is an excellent source of trucking related photos for modelling older truck operations.



View of the silos that once stood in Roswell, NM. Must have been a busy week, normally only 1 to 2 cars of flour was spotted. You can see the pneumatic tube heading towards the bakery on the right hand side of photo. It was high to prevent interfering with vehicle traffic, 1993.– ©C. Hunt photo

Operations are normally pretty simple.   The car is spotted over the unloading area and the flour is pneumatically produced to the silos.  With multiple cars or bays, re-spotting may be necessary if the unloading facility has a device that requires the car to be in one spot.  Some bakeries may have flexible hosing that would provide some flexibility.

CYCA Photo 3

One method used to unload bulk commodities.

The bakery in Roswell featured in Part I, would normally receive 1 to 2 cars per week.  It was a small but very steady source of traffic.

If only I could figure out how to imitate the smell of baking bread…




Reflections on the South Orient, Part I

By B. Smith

Starting in 1992, the South Orient Railroad was the southern portion of the old Kansas City, Mexico, and Orient Railroad.  It had been Arthur Stilwell’s attempt to link the center of the United States to the closest Pacific port, Topolobampo in Mexico.  The KCM&O only got as far as Alpine, Texas in the early 1900’s.  The Santa Fe acquired the line in 1928 and extended it from Alpine, Texas to Presidio, Texas where it met the Mexican railroad on a bridge over the Rio Grande.  Beginning in late 1992 I was the conductor for the South Orient in Alpine.  My engineer and I handled the South Orient trains from Alpine to Presidio, and from Alpine east to various meeting points with the South Orient train coming west out of San Angelo, Texas.

South Orient #204 at the depot in Alpine, TX. --©photo B. Smith

The South Orient depot in Alpine, Texas, my home terminal.. –©photo B. Smith

Almost immediately out of Alpine heading to Presidio the South Orient had 11.9 miles of trackage rights over the Southern Pacific (now UP) to get to Paisano pass, highest point on the Sunset Route between Los Angeles and New Orleans.  Here we are approaching the east switch at Paisano siding.  The signal is actually a flashing red, proceed at restricted speed, as the junction where the South Orient tracks leave the SP is just around the curve.

--©photo B. Smith

Approaching siding. –©photo B. Smith

Looking back after our train has left SP rails, a SP freight passes Paisano Jct heading east.

--©photo B. Smith

Meeting an SP freight. –©photo B. Smith

It is about 60 miles to Presidio from Paisano Jct. though West Texas scenery.

--©photo B. Smith

Heading towards Presidio, Texas. –©photo B. Smith

South of Casa Piedra (To see a recent post on Casa Piedra, click here.), the track runs though part of Big Bend Ranch State Park along Antonito Creek.  I saw a number of mountain lions in this part  of the run over the years.  (Editor’s note–At 311,000 acres, Big Bend Ranch State Park is Texas’ largest and certainly one of the most beautiful and remote state parks in the state system.  It is very close to Big Bend National Park.

--©photo B. Smith

Running through Big Bend Ranch State Park. –©photo B. Smith

In Part II, we will see a lot of South Orient rail action including seeing traffic across the international bridge at Presidio.

Train orders, Dayton, Texas May, 1980. (Old school freight operations!)

SP freight at Dayton, TX May 1980.  Note engineer snagging the orders.  --©photo by C. E. Hunt

SP freight at Dayton, TX May 1980. Note engineer snagging the orders. –©photo by C. E. Hunt

Before automation, train orders were used to determine which train had the right of way at any point along the line. They also passed along important information about unusual speed limits, track work, etc.

One day in May of 1980 as a 17-year old armed with my manual Minolta, I was in Dayton, Texas to capture a train order sequence.

Dayton Texas station May 1980 door

The station from which the employees put out the train orders had seen way better days. –©photo by C. E. Hunt

I noticed a bustle of activity as I heard a train horn in the distance.

A woman came out of the station to put out a train order for the approaching SP freight.--©photo by C. E. Hunt

A woman came out of the station to put out a train order for the approaching SP freight.–©photo by C. E. Hunt

I was thrilled to be able to capture this moment as the train approached.

Train approaches.  Order is in place.--©photo by C. E. Hunt

Train approaches. Order is in place. Note a second employee getting ready for something else. –©photo by C. E. Hunt

SP freight Dayton TX May 1980 III

The locomotive crew snatches the orders! Note the second woman approaching the the train order stand again.  –©photo by C. E. Hunt

Then the process was repeated.

The orders for the caboose are put on the stand.  Both station employees are now visible.--©photo by C. E. Hunt

The orders for the caboose are put on the stand. Both station employees are now visible.–©photo by C. E. Hunt

Here comes the caboose!

See the conductor reaching for the orders?  --©photo by C. E. Hunt

See the conductor reaching for the orders? –©photo by C. E. Hunt

Big-time, old school, freight railroading using train orders.

Technology has replaced all of this process, but I am glad I was able to capture the “old school” way in 1980.

A rail-friendly brewery that produces some fine beers

I have written a number of posts concerning the nexus of beer and railroads.  See this post (first of a four part series among others beer-related posts on the blog).  This post is about another brewery that makes good use of rail transport in the production and shipping of its product–Sierra Nevada brewing Company in Chico, CA.

Sierra Nevada’s private rail spur in Chico, CA allows malt to be delivered by train to their dock only two miles away from the brewery. Sierra Nevada ships approximately 70% of its finished product to the East coast via rail which is 50% cleaner than over-the-road truck travel.

Overview of brewery in Chico and rail-served malt unloading facility (lower green dot).

Overview of brewery in Chico and rail-served malt unloading facility (lower green dot).

Close-up of malt unloading facility.

Close-up of malt unloading facility.

Here’s to Sierra Nevada Brewing for producing a fine product and using environmentally friendly rail transport!


Golden Age of Beer

You may have noticed that I write about beer from time to time.  I am not an alcoholic and certainly don’t condone excessive consumption, but I do enjoy a cold brew or two.  I am particularly interested in the interface between the rail industry and beer production as some of my earlier posts explored–see here for just one of them.

Coors Brewery in Golden Colorado.

Coors Brewery in Golden Colorado.

There has been a close relationship between the two industries.  At one time, a large percentage of beer was shipped by rail.  While rail is used less for delivery throughout the nation, the raw materials are often brought in by rail to the larger breweries and some medium sized breweries as well.

Miller Brewery in Irwindale, California.

Miller Brewery in Irwindale, California.

Covered hoppers bringing in ingrediants at the Shiner brewery in Shiner, TX in 2011.  --photo by C Hunt

Covered hoppers bringing in ingredients at the Shiner brewery in Shiner, TX in 2011. –photo by C Hunt

I am making this rail link only to give me an excuse to write about what I really want to share, advertisements from the golden age of brewing in the United States.  The brewing companies really knew how to make great ads that were often fun, sometimes used subtle sex-appeal or resonated with the desire of men to be outdoors (or at least see themselves that way).

Below is a collection of some of my favorites.  (If your thinking this isn’t very rail oriented, remember my tag line, “AND A RIDICULOUS AMOUNT OF OTHER STUFF.”)

What a manly ambiance PBR evoked!

What a manly ambiance PBR evoked with this one!

Old school, but nice!

Old school, but nice!

That's an attractive bunch of folks.  Drinking Ballantine apparently enhances your looks.

That’s an attractive bunch of folks. Drinking Ballantine apparently enhances your looks.

More manliness.  Makes me want to grab a Hamm's and warm up at the fire too.

More manliness. Makes me want to grab a Hamm’s and warm up at the fire too.  I can almost smell the fish on the fire!

The National Beer of Baltimore!  Ninety percent of Natty Bo's sales are in the Balitimore area even today.

The National Beer of Baltimore! Ninety percent of Natty Bo’s sales are in the Baltimore area even today.

Notice the high heels.  Subtle, but very effective.

Notice the heels. Subtle, but effective.

Here's a Texas beauty wanting to hand you an ice cold Shiner.  As they say, "Nothing is finer than an ice cold Shiner!"

Here’s a Texas beauty wanting to hand you an ice cold Shiner. As they say, “Nothing is finer than an ice cold Shiner!”

If only you drank Genny's beer, you'd have a sweetheart waiting to give you a beer.

If only you drank Genny’s beer, you’d have a sweetheart waiting to give you one.

Great ads…I may just have to go find a cold one myself.

Moving cars …(without a locomotive) — Part II

In this post, we will look at a few businesses in West Texas on the Texas Pacifico Railroad that need to move cars without the help of a locomotive.  (The October edition of Trains Magazine has a nice article on the Texas Pacifico by Fred W, Frailey.)

Miles, Texas


Small cable system at Miles, Texas about 2009.

The first is a small cable moving system at Miles, TX.  During wheat season these tracks would be full of covered hoppers for loading and a track mobile is used to shuffle them around.  During non-wheat season, an occasional car of corn is unloaded here, which is probably why this one car is spotted here, although it is under the loading chute and not over the unloading trough.  The blurred objects in the photo above are birds flying off.  See cable attached to car.  The cable was used to position each bay over the unloading gate.  (It could be used to position under chute as well.)

Reverse angle.  Note cable.

Reverse angle. Note cable.

Rankin, Texas

Now we will visit an industry that had a much larger version of similar technology in Rankin, Texas also on the Texas Pacifico Railroad.

Badger Mining in Rankin, Texas about 2007.

Badger Mining in Rankin, Texas, 2008.

Badger Mining in Rankin, Texas received covered hoppers of frac sand for many years.  It used a cable system to aid in the unloading of the cars.  (Badger Mining relocated to San Angelo a few years ago.  This facility is now operated by Halliburton.)


The rope is used to pull the steel cable back here so the steel cable can be hooked to loaded cars.


Empty cars after being pulled down for unloading.  The cars were not uncoupled but moved together.  Nine or ten cars could be moved, this was all the siding could fit.


Power unit is shown under shelter.


The roller lifted the steel cable over the unloading trough cover.


Two pulleys were required, one by the cable reel and this one.


The electric winch and rope on the right were used to pull the steel cable back down to the left.  You can see the first pulley here just above the steel cable reel.


The motor on the left, the transmission to the cable reel, and the fuel tank.

When Haliburton took over the operation, things changed.  The cable system was abandoned.


Cable system deactivated. Note loading grates underneath and to the left of the Union Pacific hopper.

Note cable system is now deactivated.


This is how the cars are now moved at the Rankin plant.

Fort Stockton, Texas

The last company we will visit in this post is Texsand in Fort Stockton. Texsand also receives frac sand.

Like many frac sand dealers who have had to rush to meet demand, Texsand is challenged in having to transfer a great deal of sand from train to truck with minimum supporting infrastructure.  Initially, Texsand used a front-end loader to move cars.  That proved problematic fairly quickly.


Damage from using front end loader.

After this, they acquired a track mobile.

Trackmobile at Texsand in Fort Stockton. Texas about 2010.

Trackmobile at Texsand in Fort Stockton. Texas about 2010.

The track mobile was a good solution until the volume exceeded what it could handle.  At that point, the railroad began to switch the operation.  Fortunately, they use mobile conveyors to transfer the sand, so locomotives are only required to move large cuts of cars.


Conveyor at Big Lake, TX.

Conveyors are common place in the sand business in West Texas.  Today, at Ft Stockton, McCamey, Big Lake (above), Barnhart, and San Angelo, rather than move the cars to a unloading spot over a hole, mobile conveyors move from car to car and transfer the car contents to trucks.  Since there are different grades of sand, cars are not always unloaded in order, and the railroad has to switch out the empties from the loads.

In the next post, we will visit how shippers along B. Smith’s LCN RR, tackle these challenges.


Until then, I will leave you with a couple of goodies (little modelling opportunities) I caught in Rankin near Badger Mining July of 2008…

Derail at Badger Mining.

An open derail at Badger Mining, 2008.  Note orange paint to denote derail.

I did a three part series on derails earlier this year.

Simple, almost appealing graffiti.

Simple, almost appealing graffiti.

This was on the side of an ATSF hopper in Rankin.  Pretty easy to replicate.

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.