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.

Virtual Railfanning (or… A virtual roadtrip to Brownfield, Texas)

Though limited to the date that cameras gathered on the ground and aerial images, one can “railfan” throughout the world (especially the US) courtesy the various mapping websites such as Google and Bing maps.

One day, I decided to go back and visit Brownwood, Texas, which was the subject of one of my Photo of the week posts (March 2, 2014).  (Brownfield was once along the ATSF.   Today, Brownfield is serviced by the West Texas and Lubbock Railway.)


Brownfield Cotton Compress, 1992.

Here is the same place circa, 2014.


Brownfield Cotton Compress, circa 2014.

From my virtual visit, I can see a lot has changed.  I am not sure if the company is still rail served.  There is still a spur.  It is possible.  The West Texas and Lubbock Railway’s website lists the primary commodities hauled as fertilizer, construction aggregates, grain, cotton, chemicals, peanuts and plastics.


Brownfield Cotton Compress, circa 2014. Green dots shows the location of the box cars photographed in 1992 (March  2, 2014 post).

From our virtual roaming around town, there is a fair amount of other rail business.


West Texas Guar Processing

The aerial shows a number of covered hoppers spotted at West Texas Guar.  I had alluded in a past blog that I would do a post on this industry.  Unfortunately, the company is apparently in bankruptcy and the future of this traffic is uncertain.  Guar is an extremely drought resistant bean that has utility particularly in the oilfield for fracking purposes.


Spenko Solutions Oilfield Products

Spenko Solutions is another business utilizing rail service in 2014.  It offers a number of product useful in the oilfield including frac sand and fluids.

Agriliance Company in Brownfield was being serviced by the West Texas and Lubbock Railway during the day that the on-the-ground images were captured.



Agriliance Company in Brownfield, TX

Agriliance distributes and markets crop nutrients, crop protection products and seed.

There is more to see and other rail served business in Brownfield you can visit online.  Again, railfanning this way only gives you a snapshot of rail activity in a locale.  Businesses that look busy, may by out of business later.  Or, dormant business may spring to life with rail activity only various times of the year.  A great deal can be learned from virtual ralifanning in the placement of track and businesses even if you model an earlier era.  Many of the buildings and most the track arrangement is still similar in Roswell now as it was in the early 1990s  I am studying online modern resources such as these as I lay the track.

Hope you enjoyed the virtual trip to Brownfield, Texas.  With its reasonable size traffic of agricultural and oilfield related commodities, it would be an interesting site to model.  You could have a wide variety of covered hoppers, box cars and tank cars.  I also like the simplicity of the scenery.  You wouldn’t have to have a lot of complex tree and grass scenery features so that would allow you to more easily evoke the essence of the area.