Santa Fe Railway trains on the Transcon
Along with my own pictures, I've include photographs taken by Jack Delano. In March 1943, the Office of War Information gave Jack an assignment that any railfan of that time or even today would die for. The assignment was to ride Santa Fe freight trains from Chicago all the way to Los Angeles and photograph how the railroad worked. Jack took over 1,000 pictures during that trip and these are available on the Library of Congress website. Most of the pictures are black and white, however there are a few color pictures such as the one above that he took in Kansas City. They are not copyrighted since Jack was working for the government. His pictures are not included on my photo CDs. I've also integrated some pictures from my October 2006 trip. Some pages may have a link to Santa Fe Hot 27.
One interesting feature as you drive across the Transcon is that the trains will change. It takes about 24 hours for the hot piggyback trains to go from Barstow to Clovis. So some trains you will see at either Barstow or Clovis, you won't see on the Gallup Sub as these trains are scheduled through there in the middle of the night. Look at my sample regional timetable. This page is very wide. It is from 1995 and covers eastbound scheduled trains between Barstow and Belen, NM. If you want more information on Santa Fe freight trains, I have two books available for sale.
Here is a little history on the lines I will be covering. In 1857, Lt. Edward Fitzgerald Beale surveyed a wagon road along the 35th parallel from New Mexico across Arizona and into California. In 1866, the Atlantic and Pacific Railroad based in Springfield, Missouri, obtained a Congressional charter to build from St Louis, across Indian Territory, to Albuquerque, then along the 35th parallel following the Beale survey to Needles, CA. Congress wanted the project completed by July 4, 1878. However, the railroad ran into financial trouble and by 1872, had completed only 361 miles to Vinita, Indian Territory (present day Oklahoma). In 1880, the Santa Fe Railroad entered into a partnership with the St. Louis and San Francisco Railway and purchased one-half of the A&P stock. Using the A&P charter, both the SL&SF and the AT&SF shared equally in the expenses of constructing the tracks from Albuquerque to the Colorado River.
In December 1879 the Atlantic and Pacific Railroad sent Lewis Kingman to plan a route across Arizona from the Little Colorado River to the Colorado River. In February 1880 Kingman returned to Albuquerque to begin planning the actual route west. Grading began on April 8, 1880 and track laying in July. The construction crew had around 4,000 men and 2,000 mules and work advanced at about two miles per day. The railroad finally connected with the Southern Pacific south of Needles on July 12, 1883.
To the east, the Panhandle and Santa Fe Railroad connected with the Pecos Valley Railroad at Texico, NM in 1899. The Pecos Valley Railroad line from Texico down through Roswell was acquired by the Santa Fe in 1901. In 1902, survey work began on the future line from Texico to Belen. The new route would have lower grades than the route over Raton Pass. Track laying from Clovis to Vaughn began in 1906 and was completed in 1907. The Belen Cutoff from Texico through Clovis to Dalies, NM began full operations on July 1, 1908. The Belen Cutoff shortened the distance from Chicago to Belen by only six miles, however it decreased the average grade from 158 feet per mile through Raton Pass to 66 feet per mile. On the west end, the Santa Fe installed a 24 lever mechanical interlocking at Dallies, NM in 1908. Most of the freight traffic shifted off Raton to the Belen Cutoff in 1909. Traffic on the Transon increased when the Santa fe completed a new line between Texico and Lubbock in 1914.
The next major change was the addition of automatic block signals and the double track project from San Bernardino, CA to Belen. I don't have more details on the signal installation between Belen and Arizona, but know most of it was done around the 1913 time frame. Under the original design, there are several areas where the new second track separates from the original line to access easier grades for uphill trains. You can still see these segments between Rio Puerco, NM and Suwanee, between Baca and Thoreau, west of the Contennental Divide to Perea, in Kingman Canyon, and in California Bagdad to Klondike plus Cajon to Summit. There were two places where one track bridged over the other. The one in California is just south of Victorville at Frost. The other which was west of Ash Fork was abandoned when the Crookton Cutoff was completed in 1960. For trains to be aligned properly to take advantage of these track segments, the railroad operated left hand from Belen to Pineveta (the flyover west of Ash Fork), the right hand to Frost, and then left hand into San Bernardino.
In 1944, a second track was added from Texico through Clovis to Melrose and from Vaughn east to Joffre, then CTC was installed between Melrose and Belen. The line east of Belen was under the New Mexico Division and the dispatchers were in Clovis until they moved to Albuquerque in 1989. The line west of Belen was under the Albuquerque Division and the dispatchers were in Winslow until 1990. The installation of CTC from Belen to West Defiance was completed in 1984.
Unit trains were added to the mix of traffic on the Transcon in 1962 when a coal train began operating between the McKinley mine and the Cholla power plant at Joseph City. Another unit coal train began operating across most of the Transcon between the York Canyon mine and Kaiser Steel in 1967. The Kaiser train ended around 1983, however, more unit coal trains were added when the Coranado and Springerville power plants came online in eastern Arizona and new mines were opened at Lee Ranch and Segundo in western New Mexico. In 2004, the Coronado plant began using some coal from the Powder River Basin. This put unit coal trains on the line from Amarillo to Belen. The returning empties used to go over Raton Pass until the end of 2006.
As traffic continued to increase, the Santa Fe began adding a second track to the line between Belen and Melrose. The section between Scholle and Mountainair received a second main track in 1980, Belen to Bodega in the early 90s, Evanola to Largo in 1995, Carnero to Pedernal in 1996, Melrose to Cantara and Taiban to Fort Sumner in 1998. By September of 1999 the major double track project was complete except three short sections of single track: The six miles through the narrow Abo Canyon between Scholle and Sais, nine miles from the fill over the Union Pacific west of Vaughn to Carnero (this include one siding at Tejon) and the Pecos River Bridge west of Fort Sumner. The Abo Canyon double track project was completed in 2010.
Fifty years ago on the First District (between Belen and Gallup), there were train order offices at Dalies, Laguna, Grants, and Thoreau. Steam engines could take water at Dalies, Marmon, Grants, North Chaves eastbound, South Chaves westbound, and Wingate.
For those modeling the Santa Fe in the late 60s, the library contains a series of pages with detailed freight train consists. The trains featured on those pages were observed at Winslow and Barstow. For modern photographers I've assembled a schedule of sorts of the trains I've observed recently (2011) between Amarillo and Flagstaff. As a reference, I've added timetables from the Clovis and Gallup Subdivisions.