Monday, April 11, 2011

Today's Train of Thought- Tilting at Texas-Sized Windmills, April 11, 2011

Today's train of thought (featuring renewable energy, no less) comes to us from West Texas courtesy of eclectic blogger Whiskey, Texas and highlights a rather unusual source of traffic for the often-overlooked Texas Pacifico

The railroad- owned by Mexican copper mining corporation Grupo Mexico [BMV: GMEXICOB] runs some 375 miles from an interchange with the Ft. Worth and Western and BNSF in San Angelo Jct, TX past an interchange with the Union Pacific at Alpine, TX and on through to the Mexican border at Presidio, TX. Texas Pacifico is supposed to interchange with the privatized Mexican carrier (and parent company) FerroMex at the Presidio/Ojinga broder crossing, but the bridge across the Rio Grande was heavily damaged by fire on the Texas side in 2008.

The line originally started out as the Kansas City, Mexico & Orient and work on the line between Wichita, KS and Alpine, TX got underway in 1900. After multiple bankruptcies, the KCM&O was acquired by the Santa Fe in 1928, who in turn completed the line between Alpine and Presidio a few years later. On the Mexican side, difficult terrain and nationalization saw to it that the line from the Mexican border town of Ojinga on through Chihuahua and the port of Los Mochis wasn't completed until 1961.

On the American side, Santa Fe sold the line to a group of Dallas-based investors and the Texas Department of Transportation in 1992, leading to the creation of the South Orient Railroad. In 2005, TXDOT reached a lease and operating agreement with Grupo Mexico and Texas Pacifico to operate the line. So even though the Texas Pacifico is operated by Mexican concerns, it remains cut off from Mexico itself for the time being.
Instead, Texas Pacifico has been pivotal in delivering tower assemblies for a windmill farm outside of Ft. Stockton, TX that opened up in late 2008. Here, Whiskey caught one such high and wide move making its way west from San Angelo Jct in December 2007 with former UP/Chicago & Northwestern (now CIT Financial) GP38-2 #403 in charge of the 5 unit 7,000 foot train. The train is seen above crossing the Concho River trestle in San Angelo, TX, moving at a maximum of 10 MPH according to Whiskey. Here, the unit train is seen leaning into a curve near Harriett, TX that same day. The train would tie down outside of Barnhart for the night. The locomotives are GP38-2s loaned from either CIT Financial or FerroMex- with all the CIT ones still sporting Chicago & Northwestern's yellow with green trim paint scheme.

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