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South Orient: The final years

South Orient logo BANNER SO 105

South Orient Railroad: The final years: 1995 - 2001

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With the establishment of the CenTex Rail Link and the lease expiration of its six ex-DRGW high-nose GP9s in 1994, the stage was set for 1995 to be a colorful and interesting year for the South Orient Railroad.

In January 1995, South Orient took delivery of a group of ex-CNW GP7s from Omintrax. The locomotives were painted in a navy blue and white scheme, with two inverted "V"'s on the nose of each unit, similar to Missouri Pacific's final paint scheme. The only similarity between these units and the ex-DGRW GP9s was the inclusion of the South Orient logo (U.S. and Mexican flags surrounded by a circle of track) on the cab sides. The logos were actually plastic decals applied to the metal surface of the locomotive cabs, and the quality of their application is suspect as several of them have since disappeared.

With the establishment of the CenTex Rail Link, and South Orient's and CenTex's policy of allowing their locomotives to circulate freely among both railroads, operations on both lines became quite colorful and remained so until the CTEX locomotives left the property. Since that time, South Orient's blue and white locomotives have been common fixtures on trains operating in west and central Texas. Until 1999, when South Orient sold its Dublin Subdivision (the CenTex line) to Ft Worth & Western, the blue and white units frequently ventured as far northeast as BN's North Yard in Ft Worth to perform interchange work. SO sold its original six Omnitrax GP7s, the 101 through the 106, to Ft Worth & Western at the same time of the Dublin Subdivision line sale, and these units remain active in the D-FW metroplex, based out of Ft Worth & Western's Hodge Yard in north Ft Worth. The 107, 108, and 109 remain on South Orient property.

During the late 1990s and 2000, South Orient suffered declining traffic volumes and sought permission to abandon its line west of San Angelo. The STB denied the request, and in 2001, SO sold the line to the Texas Department of Transportation for $ 9.5 million. The line's new operator is Texas Pacifico Transportation (reporting marks TXPF), a division of Mexico's Ferromex. TXPF continues to operate former South Orient GP7s 107, 108, and 109, and has added a handful of Ferromex GP38-2s to its roster. Click here for a photo of Ferromex locomotives on the former South Orient line at Ballinger, TX .

Following is a series of photographs illustrating the final years (1995-2001) of South Orient's operations in central and west Texas.

Please click on any of the following pictures to see a larger image:

  South Orient 105 South Orient GP7 105 was at South Orient's San Angelo Yard on January 31, 1995.
  South Orient Stencil - Locomotive 106 Omnitrax applied stencils containing rebuilding information to the sides of all the ex-CNW locomotives it delivered to South Orient. This one appeared on the side of South Orient 106.
  South Orient logo South Orient's logo adorns the cab of a locomotive at Dublin, Texas.
  South Orient in 
Cowtown South Orient 101 leads three other geeps down the "Racetrack" north of downtown Ft. Worth with a grain train that has just been picked up from BNSF. Date: December 23, 1995.
  Dublin, TX South Orient 105 and 104 lead a westbound train through Dublin, Texas as the 101 switches cars on a spur on April 20, 1995.
  South Orient Bluebonnets South Orient 105 and 104 lead an eastbound train past a field of bluebonnets -- the Texas state flower -- near Ballinger, Texas on April 20, 1995.
  South Orient - Rowena Pellet Mill South Orient 105 and 104 lead an eastbound train past the Rowena Pellet Mill, east of the small town of Rowena, Texas, on April 20, 1995.
  South Orient wildflowers The spring of 1995 produced a spectacular crop of wildflowers in west-central Texas. Here, South Orient 105 and 104 lead an eastbound past a patch of flowers growing on the shoulder of U.S. Highway 67 between Miles and Rowena.
  West of Miles South Orient 106 leads a westbound train west of Miles, Texas on October 6, 1998.
  Miles, Texas South Orient GP7 105 leads an eastbound train at Miles, Texas on April 20, 1995.
  South Orient at Red Creek This eastbound South Orient train is only a few miles into its 148-mile San Angelo to Dublin trip at it crosses Red Creek east of San Angelo on April 20, 1995.
  South Orient - Alpine, Texas Arguably the most scenic region through which South Orient trains operated was SO's 11 miles of trackage rights over the UP (former SP) Valentine Subdivision between Alpine and Paisano. This segment of trackage carried South Orient trains up a 1% grade to an elevation of 5074 feet at the summit of Paisano Pass, the highest railroad elevation in Texas. In this shot, four South Orient geeps lead a westbound train out of Alpine Texas in January 1997.
  East of Paisano, Texas Four South Orient GP7s (101 / 109 / 107 / 102) lead a heavy westbound freight west of Alpine on UP's Valentine Sub toward the summit of Paisano Pass in January 1997.
  South Orient - Paisano, Texas A westbound South Orient train has just crested the summit of Paisano Pass in far west Texas. Now back on its own trackage, the train rolls downgrade toward the border town of Presidio as two eastbound UP trains ( a stack train on UP's Paisano siding, plus a loaded coal train behind it on the main) can resume their respective journeys toward Alpine and Sanderson. Date of photo: January 28, 1997.
  International Bridge - Presidio, Texas Ever wonder what the international bridge at Presidio looks like? Here it is, photographed in late May 1995. Several residents of the nearby town of Ojinaga, Mexico have ventured out onto the bridge to do some fishing in the Rio Grande.

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