Destination — Pecos, Texas, 1970 and 80s…(or to the set of “The Last Picture Show”) (Part I)

I will finish the Delaware series soon, but I thought it is time to spend a little time out west again.

We will visit Pecos, Texas in the 1970s.  The first part will focus on the operations of the ATSF.  The ATSF ventured south of Carlsbad all the way down to Pecos in the 1970s.

The second part will feature the operations of Pecos Valley Southern (PVS) RR.  The Pecos Valley Southern is still operating 23 miles of track south of Pecos.

Thanks to some great photography from a friend, we will visit both as they operated in the 1970 and 80s.

August 1982.  ATSF station sign, Missouri Pacific RR (MP) mainline from El paso to Dallas on left, then PVS interchange track with MP. Switch stand just visible down track is to ATSF line to Carlsbad. ©B.Smith photo

August 1982. ATSF track to Carlsbad from Pecos. Track to left is other leg of wye.  ©B.Smith photo

Switch where west leg of ATSF wye joins interchange track. Carlsbad would be down track that curves to the left here. ©B.Smith photo

Switch where west leg of ATSF wye joins interchange track to MP whose main track is visible on left, with PVS interchange track to MP visible beyond MP main, where cars are spotted. String of hoppers loaded with gravel visible in the distance on right center. These hoppers were loaded at gravel quarry on PVS and await pick up by MP. More cars off PVS on left await pick up by MP. ©B.Smith photo

Looking other way down ATSF/MP interchange track, ATSF Pecos station sign just visible beyond and to left of switch stand. Signaled MP main on right. All ATSF tracks in Pecos removed in late 80’s. Photographer is standing on east leg of ATSF wye.  ©B.Smith photo

Loaded hopper string on PVS/MP interchange track, MP main track to left. ATSF tracks in Pecos are on far side of MP main track but are not visible. ©B.Smith photo

Looks like images out of the The Last Picture Show, I’d say.

The traffic to Pecos had become pretty light by 1982 when these photos were taken.

Our photographer did catch some action on the ATSF, in 1978.  The ATSF interchanged with the Pecos Valley Southern and Missouri Pacific in Pecos.


June 5, 1978. The only time the photographer caught cars being interchanged between MP and ATSF in Pecos. The car on the very left mostly out of the photo was a DRGW box. The string of cars on the right are on the other side of the MP main line and are the cars PVS left for MP to pick up after the days run. ©B.Smith photo

Just like the Last Picture Show, all good things come to an end.  The ATSF line to Pecos (everything south of Pecos Jct.) was abandoned in September, 1990. The line to Rustler Springs in Texas and all trackage south of Loving, NM was abandoned in 2002.

You can still see where the ATSF wye was in this modern aerial photograph.


The “ghost” of the old ATSF wye in Pecos, Texas.

In a future post, also due to the fine work of B. Smith, I will highlight the Pecos Valley Southern action during the same period.


Roadtrip to 2014, to none other than…Delaware! (Part III)


Delaware Coast Line #4054 at Gravel Hill, DE on January 17, 2014 — Photo by Doug Miller

Let’s venture east out of Georgetown, DE towards Lewes and Frankford.

Georgetown (and to the east)

A customer on the edge of Georgetown is Schangrin Gas.  it supplies propane for heating.  At the bottom of the photo below, you can see two staircases along the spur that can be used to unload LPG tank cars (just below the three trucks lined up in a row).


Further east of Georgetown, the Delaware Coast Line (DCL) serves a large aggregate operation.  Let’s visit the operation at Gravel Hill.

The picture at the very top of the post is DCL #4054 at Gravel Hill.  Gravel Hill Yard is a large Delaware Department of Transportation facility.  The DCL brings in aggregates for DOT projects.



Aerial of Delaware DOT (Gravel Hill Yard) facility. The green dot at top is the location depicted in the photo just above.  The green dot to the right depicts location of below photo.



The DCL heading east encounters next Allen’s Harbeson Processing Facility.  This plant processes poultry for shipment all around the world.


It is not clear if rail shipments are currently taking place, but there is a large spur as indicated by the green dots.  If modelled, this could be an opportunity to spot refrigerator cars.


Nassau and Lewes

At the end of the line is Nassau and Lewes.  This is Atlantic Cement.  It is listed as a customer for the DCL.



This is Atlantic Cement from the air.  It looks like rail cars are unloaded to the left from time to time.

At the end of the line in Lewes is one last shipper, SPI Pharma.  It is a pharmaceutical company.  However, to get to the end of the line, the DCL has to cross a very interesting bridge.  The location of the bridge is depicted below with a green dot (to the left).  The green dot to the right shows the location of SPI Pharma.  The blue-green area at the top of the photo is Delaware Bay.


The bridge is a hand-cranked swing bridge.  The DCL crews have to get out and manually open and close the bridge!

DCLR 4054 Lewes DE Aug 13 2013 Bruce Aldred

DCLR #4054 Lewes DE August 13, 2013 –photo by Bruce Aldred

Here are a couple of videos showing the operation.

2012 video

2013 video

You have to love this, in 2014!  It is great!


Above is an aerial photo of SPI Pharma.  Three tank cars and a covered hopper are spotted along the top of the picture.  It is next to beautiful Henlopen State Park.


Tanks cars spotted at SPI Parma in Lewes, October 2013 –photo by C. Hunt

Lewes is a great town. It has a very rich history and a very active historical society–The Lewes Historical Society.  Lewes is being considered for inclusion as a part of the National Park Service’s First State Monument.  Among many other historic stories to be shared there, it is the equivalent of Jamestown for the Dutch colonists.  The establishment of this Dutch settlement had profound impacts along the eastern shore of what would become the United States.


The last stop for our sampling of rail-served businesses in Delaware is the Mountaire mill in Frankford.  Frankford is south of Lewes on the Norfolk Southern.  I like this mill because it is an interesting structure and there is a historic structure nearby,




Again, some selective downsizing would be in order, but it could generate a lot of covered hopper action on a layout.

This concludes the portion of the series on shippers.  Next time, we will look at some rolling stock that would typically service some of the businesses we have visited.

Roadtrip to 2014, to none other than…Delaware! (Part II)


Perdue Poultry, Bridgeville, DE, May 17, 2014 –photo by C. Hunt


Let’s venture a bit farther south down to Bridgeville, DE.  There is a large mill that Perdue uses to supply poultry producers.  It is a bit large for a small layout, but could be selectively reduced.


Aerial of Perdue Poultry in Bridgeville.

There are three spurs here and would support a lot of operations.  A reduced version could just feature one or two spurs.


Warehouse across the tracks–photo by C. Hunt

The facility is larger than it appears in the aerial.  There are warehouses on the other side of the track.


Even further south is the town of Seaford on the Nanticoke River and along the National Park Service’s Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail.  Seaford is host to another poultry feed supplier–Venture Milling.


Venture Milling in Seaford, DE, February 2014.–photo by C. Hunt

The Norfolk Southern is servicing the other side of the mill on the same day the above picture was taken.


Norfolk Southern servicing Venture Milling, February 2014 –photo by C. Hunt


Venture Milling in Seaford, DE. Note Nanticoke River and swing bridge.

An interesting, but fairly large facility which would likely require selective downsizing if modelled.

Seaford also has interesting museum and offers great kayaking along the National Historic Trail.


Our last destination in this post is Milford, DE.  Again another agriculture-related customer.


Growmark FS in Milford, DE.

Growmark FS supplies a wide variety of products to farmers including includes seed, plant nutrients, lime, and crop protection materials. In the above photo you see three covered hoppers spotted.


Aerial of Growmark FS in Milford, DE.  Growmark FS is the business to the right of the rail spur.

An interesting feature of this business is that the spur appears to actually serve the next door neighbor as well–United States Cold Storage.


United States Cold Storage in Milford, DE.

It is unclear whether the spur is currently used by United States Cold Storage, but it gives the modeller the opportunity to bring in refrigerator cars and insulated box cars.  The Company’s website does boast of having “Norfolk Southern Railroad service with 4 rail doors.”


Doors (green dots) at United States Cold Storage that could receive rail shipments.


Before we leave the western side of the Delaware, I wanted to briefly mention one business in Dover, Kraft Foods.


Kraft Foods in Dover, DE.


Kraft complex in Dover. Almost all of this is Kraft.

Located in Dover, the 117-acre site employs approximately 535 employees.  It is like a little city.  It manufactures food and beverage products such as; Stove Top stuffing mix, Jell-O desserts, Dream Whip whipped topping mix, and Kool-Aid, Country Time, Crystal Light soft drink mixes.   Kool-Aid was only recently added to the line in Dover.  Previously, it had been produced in Mexico.  It is encouraging to see production come back to the United States.


Close up of the larger facility. The green dots show all the rail lines servicing the plant. Fifteen freight cars are spotted at the plant in this recent aerial. More could be inside the plant. The plant has its own means of shifting cars about the plant.

Probably way too big to model but interesting nonetheless.  Also, since Kool-Aid was important to me as a child, it is neat to know it is once again made in the United States.  (Just as an aside–think about how much less waste there was with Kool-Aid–no plastic bottles, etc.)

Next post and map

Part III of this post will feature rail-served businesses in Lewes, Millsboro, and Frankford.  To give you a geographic orientation, here is a map.  With the exception of Dover, DE which is north of Harrington, the map shows the locations of the businesses on this post and Lewes (next post).  Millsboro and Frankford are too far south to appear on this map.  Until next time…


Roadtrip to 2014, to none other than…Delaware! (Part I)


Mountaire Farms, adjacent to the State Fair grounds, is the only customer located in Harrington terminal, as seen being worked by high-hood GP38-2 5240 on H43 in December 2012. — photo © Scott Harris.  For a great collection of shots around the area, see

In this post and the next two, I will give you a feel for some of the operations you can model in Delaware.  The above photo is one of my favorite businesses I will share.  It is attractive, interesting and small enough to model.  It also reflects a very typical southern Delaware industry–poultry production.  Mountaire Farms is an agricultural food processing company with more than 6,000 employees in Delaware, Maryland and North Carolina. Facilities of this sort supply poultry producers across southern Delaware.


Aerial view of Mountaire facility in Harrington.


Facility in 2013 after covered hoppers have been spotted.

If you notice in the above aerial, across the tracks from Montaire is a propane supplier.  it too is a potential business to model.


Suburban Propane could periodically receive propane in long tank cars.  Part III of the series will provide examples.

Let’s run a little south of Harrington to find another agricultural related shipper.


Willard Agri-Services in Greenwood, Delaware is a liquid fertilizer dealer.  Most rail-delivered products would likely come in by tank car, but there appears to be a place to unload covered hoppers as well.

A little further south, but still in Greenwood, is Railing and Building Products.


This business would typically receive shipments by flat car.  See yellow center-beam fat spotted there in this recent photo.  Occasional box cars could also appear.

Here is a map to orient you to the terrain we have covered thus far.  The green dots roughly reflect the location of the three businesses.


More businesses to come in Parts II and III including one of the more unusual rail-served facilities in the country.


Road trip further west! — petroglyphs, pistachios and gypsum? (Part II)

Little hungry after connecting with thousands of years of history?  Let’s go get some pistachios.

Eagle Ranch Pistachio Groves is a great place to visit on the north side of Alamogordo.  They sell some wonderfully tasty bags of flavored pistachios.


Pistachio trees next to the visitor center at Eagle Ranch.

Unfortunately, Pistachios can only be grown in a few places in the world.  They are a member of the family Anacardiaceae which contains such widely known plants as the cashew, mango and, oddly enough, poison oak.

The history of pistachio cultivation in the US is rather interesting.  From the Eagle Ranch website:–

It is a deciduous tree, requiring approximately 1,000 hours of temperature at or below 45° F. in order to grow normally after its winter dormancy. Pistachio nut trees, generally, are suited for areas where summers are long, hot and dry, and the winters are moderately cold. A native desert tree, it does not tolerate high humidity in the growing season. 

The trees are dormant from December through February and begin to bloom with the arrival of warmer weather in late March. The male pollinates the female via the April winds, and the shell of the nut is fully developed by mid-May. Before June ends, the seed inside the shell has begun its rapid expansion and by the first of August, the seed has filled the shell. The nuts, splitting at the seams, are usually ready to be harvested the first week of September.

Pistacia vera L. probably originated in Central Asia where large stands of wild trees are found in areas known today as Iran, Turkey and Afghanistan. The first commercial plantings in these countries were most likely started from seeds collected from the best wild trees. The tree was introduced into Mediterranean Europe at about the beginning of the Christian era. The climate in the Tularosa Basin is almost identical to the pistachio producing areas of Iran and Turkey. The altitude of both areas is identical.

Although the pistachio was first introduced into California by the US Department of Agriculture about 1904, very little interest was generated until the 1950’s. Since that time, pistachios have become a significant farm commodity in California.

Plantings have also been made in Arizona, New Mexico and Texas in those areas that meet the climate criteria. The tree flourishes and bears well in well-drained soils, but its root system will not tolerate prolonged wet conditions. It seems more tolerant to alkaline and saline conditions than most other commercial trees. The vigor and productive life of the tree is extremely long lasting. In the mid-East, there are trees on record of having productivity of several hundred years.


The Eagle Ranch Pistachio Grove (also known as “Heart of the Desert”) has a very nice visitor center in Alamogordo.

The company offers pistachios in a number of wonderful flavors inspired by the cuisine of New Mexico–Green Chile, Red Chile, Garlic and Green Chile and just plain roasted and salted.  All of them are great.  They also sell wines from the Heart of the Desert vineyards and a number of other great New Mexico treats.

In the mountains to the east of Alamogordo, high-quality apples and cherries are also grown.

Another site I used to enjoy checking out was the Alamogordo sawmill.  It operated from 1899 to 2007.  Many times I spotted mostly Southern Pacific and Cotton Belt 50-foot boxcars spotted at the sawmill.  The logs came from the nearby Sacramento Mountains.   A rail line once existed that would haul logs to the mill.  Relics of the logging rail line can still be seen in Lincoln National Forest to the east.


Dusty, old spur heading up to the former Alamogordo sawmill.


Closer view of former sawmill,  Note lumber kiln to the right.


Typical of the 50-foot SP and Cotton Belt boxcars I saw spotted at the sawmill in the early 1990.

Next stop and final leg of the road trip will take us to the Gypsum sands to the west also known as White Sands.

Roadtrip to Zozo (part III)

All right, we checked out some of the great architecture (March 16) and some of the eats (March 17) in Zozo.  We also peeked behind the Yucca Bar and Grill to find a large SP locomotive idling.  What now?  What else?  Let’s head to Oscura!

Where’s Oscura?  (Oscura means dark in Spanish.)  Oscura is a wide spot in the road a bit west of Carrizozo.  An interesting feature near Oscura is an abandoned airfield.  Per a neat website entitled, “Abandoned & Little-Known Airfields,” the Oscura Army Airfield was (or is) one of several airfields within the White Sands Proving Grounds.  The date of construction and purpose is unknown, but the author of the site believes it was likely constructed at some time between 1947 and 1962.

Per the site, “The earliest depiction of Oscura AAF which has been located is the 1962 USGS topo map.”


This 1966 map depicted  Oscura AAF as having a single 4,000′ paved runway. See website for more maps and images.

Aerial images still depict the airfield.  As you can see below from this modern aerial image, the airfield is about 5 miles west of the highway.  It is on the other side of the Lava flow, I discussed in my February 18, 2014 post entitled, “Lava anyone?


Green dot indicates the airfield just on the other side of the lava flow (black area).  Red dot depicts Oscura.

Oscura close

Close up of airfield.

I just know you are asking yourself, “This is really cool stuff, but what about trains?” So let’s get to some of the images I captured on some beautiful days in this beautiful area in the early 1990s

West of Carrizozo near Oscura, I caught some great action along this beautiful, but very isolated stretch of the SP main.line.


SSW (Cotton Belt) 8042 led a freight in the fading light west of Zozo.

Here’s some action earlier in the day.


Earlier in the day, I caught this SP freight heading west just out of Zozo. Note Rio Grande locomotive behind the lead unit.

The line featured semaphore signalling in the early 1990s!


On another day, I caught this SP container train heading west. Note the old-style semaphore.

I know you want to see some 1990 freight cars too, right?


C&NW and BN cars heading west behind the SSW locomotive pictured above.

Let me close out this post with some action from the Northeast and Canada.


Same train contained Maine Central (Lamoille Valley RR), Bangor and Aroostook and Ontario Northland cars.

Not to be a fuddy duddy because I enjoy seeing trains today, but watching trains was better in the 1990s.  There was very little graffiti, and the freight cars often featured logos advertising the railroads.

This is the end of this series of posts.  We had a good roadtrip–cool architecture, great food, some railfanning and a bonus of a little aviation history.  I hope you enjoyed the roadtrip to Zozo!