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Day in North America - December 28, 2005

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Day in North America: December 28, 2005

Tracing the T&P through North Texas
Text and photos by Wes Carr

My goal for Day in North America 2005 was to capture a series of three images which tied together the historical and modern eras of Union Pacific's former T&P (Texas & Pacific) rail lines in north Texas. My day, which began with a shot of a stack train in the former T&P town of Weatherford, was a trip back in time from the present-day UP to the Missouri Pacific (T&P's longtime parent) to the T&P itself.

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1) Located about 30 miles west of Fort Worth, the north Texas town of Weatherford gained rail service in 1880 when the Texas & Pacific Railroad built west through town, its sights set on the Pacific coast. Now part of the Union Pacific Baird Subdivision, the former T&P route through Weatherford sees 20 to 30 trains a day, many of them high priority intermodal trains moving between California and the Dallas-Fort Worth or Memphis areas.
  eastbound stacks at Weatherford, TX
In the wake of the Christmas holidays, rail traffic through Weatherford on the morning of December 28, 2005 was a little on the quiet side. But there was nothing quiet about eastbound ITIMN, blasting past the town's old T&P depot at 9:13 a.m.

2) Twenty-three years after UP's acquisition of the Missouri Pacific, and nearly thirty years after MP assumed full control of the T&P, it's still possible to trace the heritage of UP's former T&P lines in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Certain railway bridges, for example, still display "T&P Rwy" signs. And evidence abounds on the company's rolling stock. Pay close attention to a passing train or examine idle cars on an industrial spur; MP buzzsaw and eagle logos can be seen daily throughout north Texas on the sides of boxcars, hoppers, and gondolas.

  MP Screaming Eagle - Roanoke, TX

Such was the case on December 28, 2005 in Roanoke, a burgeoning community located along the UP Choctaw Subdivision between Fort Worth and Denton. Texas & Pacific constructed the southern portion of the Choctaw in 1880 to complete a secondary main line from Texarkana to Fort Worth via Paris and Sherman. 125 years later in Roanoke, memories remain: a MoPac "Screaming Eagle" logo adorns the side of a covered hopper awaiting unloading at Texas Lehigh Cement. The eagle may be sun-bleached and faded, but it's still visible, reminding me that before there was a Union Pacific in north Texas, there was a Missouri Pacific; and before there was a MoPac, there was a T&P.

3) Thirty years after the death of a railroad, nearly all traces of its existence have been erased, expunged, eradicated. A few, however, always seem to remain, and not always in the likeliest of places. On December 28, 2005, I visited the city of Dallas and located a surviving relic of the Texas & Pacific -- a massive, mural advertisement on the side of a brick building amidst trendy nightclubs and loft apartments on the edge of the downtown area.

T&P mural - Dallas, TX

Complete with the T&P diamond emblem, the ad proudly endorses the combined T&P/MP's service from Dallas to St. Louis in 23 hours, a rate of speed which seems laughably slow in the era of hourly non-stop airline service and 70 mph speed limits on Interstate highways. Even today's Amtrak Texas Eagle, a train not generally known its rapid rate of speed, is scheduled to make the trip between the two cities in a third less time. But the ad remains, recalling a more dignified era of travel when customer service and passenger comfort were just as important as speed.

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A modern-day stack train passing an aging depot; a fallen flag logo on the side of a rusty freight car; a fading ad from a railroad 30 years gone, flanked by a Saab convertible and a Ford F-150 pickup. These three images remind me of the possibility of traveling from the present to the past and back again -- all in a single day in North America.

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