Friday, April 30, 2010

Today's Train of Thought- The Ozarks Become the Smokies; April 30 2010

Despite being out of business for 40 years, there remains a certain brand-loyalty to locomotives manufactured by ALCO. Not surprisingly, a good number of the railroads that still use ALCO locomotives are in New York state, not far from the site of ALCO's Schenectady, NY headquarters. However, there are ALCO holdouts as far away as Arizona or even Argentina.

One such holdout is the Arkansas & Missouri railroad, operating 140 miles of former St. Louis-San Francisco ('Frisco') trackage from Ft. Smith, AR through the Ozarks and to a BNSF interchange in the Southwestern corner of Missouri. The line was completed by the Frisco in 1882 and stayed in company hands through the Burlington Northern's 1980 acquisition of the SLSF. In 1986, Burlington Northern decided to lease the line to Tony Hannold's Arkansas & Missouri Railroad. Almost immediately, the A&M cobbled together a roster of ALCO C420s from railroads like the Delaware & Hudson, Indiana Hi Rail and British Columbia Rail, along with smaller ALCO end-cab and road-switchers brought in from Hannold's other shortline operations on the Delmarva Peninsula. The A&M interchanges with the Kansas City Southern and Pioneer Railcorp's Ft. Smith Railroad in Ft Smith, AR; the Union Pacific in Van Bueren, AR and the BNSF in Monnet, MO.

The A&M purchased the line outright from BNSF in 2001 and upgraded the line over the next few years with continuous welded rail. Besides freight and switching, the A&M also offers seasonal excursions on their line between Springdale and Ft. Smith, AR with passenger cars provided by Boston Mountain chapter of the NRHS. Films like Biloxi Blues and Forces of Nature have been filmed along the A&M as well.

Of course, the A&M's bread and butter is freight- primarily grain and feed as well as scrap metal, plastics, food products and lumber. Above, we see A&M C420 #60 (former D&H 413, nee Lehigh Valley 413) on the northern end of the railroad at Butterfield, MO on April 15, 2010. contributor Dane Carlisle caught the quartet of C420s doing what an ALCO does best as they throttle up getting ready to deliver a cut of cars to the nearby grain elevator. A quarter century of the hard-pulling, sure-footed ALCOs still working away in the Ozarks. What's not to love?

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