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TXU - Martin Lake Line

Oak Hill the Southwest Railfan - TXU Martin Lake TXU E25B 3304

TXU Martin Lake Line

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One of Texas more obscure and unique operations can be found in the Martin Lake region of east Texas. Martin Lake is located south of Longview near the small town of Tatum, and is the home of Texas Utilities' (TXU) Martin Lake generating station, which is served by one of TXUs electric railroads. The electrically-powered line runs west from Martin Lake to a lignite loader at Oak Hill, and east from Martin Lake to lignite mines in the Beckville area and to a connection with BNSFs Longview Sub at Martin Lake Jct, south of Tatum.

Until recently, the Martin Lake plant burned only locally mined lignite, hauled to the plant in short trains (20 to 25 cars), powered by one of TXUs electric E25Bs. In 1999, Martin Lake began receiving trainloads of powder river coal from BNSF. BNSF delivers the trains to KCS at Kansas City; they are delivered back to BNSF at Shreveport, La, and they operate (with BNSF crews via trackage rights) over the UP from Shreveport back to BNSF trackage at Tenaha. BNSF diesels run through all the way to the plant on these trains, and also on the occasional unit rock trains it operates to Martin Lake from Cliffstone, Texas. Prior to burning lignite in its generators, TXU uses the rocks hauled by BNSFs rock trains to help purify the lignite in its scrubbing machines.

TXU's rare electric E25B locomotives have powered the plant's trains for many years, but in 1999, TXU received some additional motive power in the form of three ex-NdeM E60Cs. The E60s had sat dormant for several years south of the border after Mexico scrapped its ambitious electrification project. TXU also operates some GE U23B diesels which it uses to power trainloads of ash away from the power plant. Reports indicate that some former Burlington Northern C30-7s have also recently arrived on the property.

TXUs Martin Lake line is located entirely within TXU property, with no public grade crossings. However, there are numerous locations where one can watch and photograph the trains when they pass over county roads and highways on bridges, and additional locations where county roads pass over the tracks on bridges. Your best bet for finding the good spots is to get a good backroads map, such as "Roads of Texas " (Shearer Publishing), or check one of the map websites such as Mapquest.com. Curiously, the Roads of Texas atlas does not display the line west of Martin Lake to Oak Hill, but this line does appear on the Mapquest site. You just have to zoom in quite a bit to get Mapquest to show the tracks. If you plan to visit the line, allow yourself some extra time to get your bearings and find some suitable locations. I have no official word from TXU concerning their operations at Martin Lake, but the unofficial word is that the line operates continuously (24 hours a day) except when the tracks must be shut down for maintenance. During both of my visits there in 1999 (September and November), there were lulls of several hours between train movements. Usually, when an empty hopper train goes into one of the lignite loaders, it will emerge loaded within 30 to 45 minutes. But loaded trains arriving at the Martin Lake plant disappear for several hours at a time. If youre not sure of where a train is, your best bet is to stake out a spot and wait for something to show up. Sooner or later, something will come along. The line east of the plant sees more traffic, since the BNSF trains and ash trains use this line. Texas Ranch Road (Farm-to-market) 3231 on the east shore of Martin Lake features an overpass which affords a good view (albeit one slightly obscured by catenary) of the tracks in both directions.

TXUs Martin Lake line is well worth a visit. Its certainly one of Texas more unique and obscure railroad operations, and its only a couple hours drive from the D-FW area.

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

  Oak Hill, Texas This sign welcomes visitors to TXU's Oak Hill lignite loading facility, at the west end of the Martin Lake line. Photographed on September 7, 1999.
  TXU 3304 Oak Hill TXU E25B 3304 leads a loaded lignite train out of the loader at Oak Hill, Texas on September 7, 1999.
  TXU 3304 East of Oak Hill, TXU 3304 leads an eastbound lignite train toward TXU's Martin Lake power plant on September 7, 1999.
  TXU E60 EA033 Ex-NdeM E60C EA033 shoves an eastbound empty lignite train near Beckville, Texas, east of the Martin Lake plant on September 7, 1999.
  TXU E60 EA033 at Oak Hill E60C EA033 shoves a westbound empty lignite train toward the loading facility at Oak Hill, Texas on November 2, 1999.
  TXU E60 EA033 at Oak Hill Ex-NdeM E60C EA033 leads an eastbound train out of the lignite loading facility at Oak Hill on November 2, 1999.
  Sunset at Martin Lake The setting sun provides a sillhouette view of the Martin Lake generating station on September 7, 1999.

To check out my page on TXUs Monticello line, click here.

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