Rail Memories, Part II

Last post I shared some vignettes where I have done a little modelling to capture poignant rail memories.  This post I will share additional photos I took when I was a teenager of other scenes that evoke special memories that I may seek to at least partially evoke through modelling in the future (somehow).

Frito Lay Plant in Houston c. 1978-80

BN Hopper at Frito-Lay on Griggs Rpad in Houston July 1978 --©photo by C. E. Hunt

BN Hopper at Frito-Lay on Griggs Road in Houston July 1978. (Love the old tank car too) –©photo by C. E. Hunt

I loved riding by the Frito-Lay plant in the late 1970s.  There was almost always a tank car and a covered hopper, and it was frequently switched out.  The covered hoppers were almost BN or predecessor roads.  CB&Q and a variety of NP cars (green and gray) were common.

NP at Frito-Lay Jan 1979--©photo by C. E. Hunt

NP at Frito-Lay Jan 1979–©photo by C. E. Hunt

Wish I had taken many more photos there!

Cabooses!

Caboose on MP freight near Houston, August 1979. --©photo by C. E. Hunt

Caboose on MP freight near Houston, August 1979. –©photo by C. E. Hunt

I loved when cabooses trailed the train.  It was a nice closing to the experience of seeing a freight train.  It gave you closure as a rail fan.  It was a consolation prize of the train ending and gave the closing a human touch–especially as a kid, when a rail employee would wave to you.  It was as though the entire train was saying good bye.

Rock Island caboose in Houston in August of 1979 --©photo by C. E. Hunt

Rock Island caboose in Houston in August of 1979 –©photo by C. E. Hunt

BN caboose in Houston in May of 1980. --©photo by C. E. Hunt

BN caboose in Houston in May of 1980. –©photo by C. E. Hunt

Almost mythical, lonesome branch lines

Prescott and Northwestern at Tokio ARK on the way to the gypsum mine Aug 1978

Prescott and Northwestern at Tokio, ARK on the way to the gypsum mine August 1978 –©photo by C. E. Hunt

There were special places across the landscape that had a mythical quality where you dream of seeing trains but never did.  One such place was near my Uncle Arnold and Aunt Molly’s farm in Arkansas.  Near their farm was a lonesome line that went off to a very small gypsum mine.  I did a post on this mine last year.  I finally found some of the photos I was looking for for that post, but I never found the picture of the Gypsum mine I took.

Prescott and Northwestern, Prescott, AR, August 1979 --©photo by C. E. Hunt

Prescott and Northwestern, Prescott, AR, August 1979 –©photo by C. E. Hunt

PNW in Prescott, AR--©photo by C. E. Hunt

PNW in Prescott, AR–©photo by C. E. Hunt

PNW Caboose in Prescott, AR, 1979--©photo by C. E. Hunt

PNW Caboose in Prescott, AR, 1979–©photo by C. E. Hunt

For many summers I hoped to catch the little train winding its way through the woods and over the hills to the mine.  I only captured it in my imagination.

The Southern Pacific

SP on Griggs Road, August 1978--©photo by C. E. Hunt

SP on Griggs Road, August 1978–©photo by C. E. Hunt

I grew up near a Southern Pacific line.   The line saw a lot of locals and an occasional long freight,  I vividly recall one highlight that took place at night. I remember a Southern (not Southern Pacific) caboose slowly trailing a long freight headed east.  I still remember being able to look inside because it was illuminated.  Funny how certain memories stick with you.  When I would go to bed at night and hear diesel horns from that direction, I would sometimes imagine what kind of train was passing on the line.

Also RS11#2926 on Griggs Road in July of 1978. --©photo by C. E. Hunt

Also RS11#2926 on Griggs Road in July of 1978. –©photo by C. E. Hunt

SP switcher servicing-warehouses on Griggs Road in January of 1979.  --©photo by C. E. Hunt

SP switcher servicing-warehouses on Griggs Road in January of 1979. –©photo by C. E. Hunt

Those were the days.  I have more to share in Part III.

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.