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Wrong Way Rock Train?

April 8, 2010

SSW GP40 7960 leads a hopper train westward, just west of Englewood Yard, on March 30, 1986

Just another photograph of a Southern Pacific westbound loaded aggregate train, taken from the Waco Street overpass on March 30, 1986.

Westbound? Loaded? Hold on a second! The train is going the wrong way! (I can’t believe I didn’t notice this when I saw the train.)

Loaded rock trains originate in Central Texas, Beckman being the primary origin symbol (BM). The loads travel eastward to Houston. Empties return westbound to Beckman.

Yet this westbound train is clearly loaded.

I looked at the high-resolution scan of the slide for clues to answer the question. The hoppers appear to be loaded with sand, not rock.

I suspect the trainset, upon being relieved of its Central Texas rock at Galena Park, was loaded up with sand. The Galena Park cement plant is on the Houston Ship Channel, so the sand may have come in via barge from Mexico. It was transferred to the empty aggregate cars for delivery to a concrete plant, probably in the Austin / San Antonio area.

That’s the best explanation I can come up with. If you have additional information, please share it in comments.

Notice the trainset of identical hoppers. They are SP H-100-42 class hopper cars. (H-100-42 refers to a hopper, 100 ton capacity, 42′ long)

The SP received 250 of these cars, SP 481150-481399, from Ortner in 1981. The cars are very distinctive in that they have a “porch” at each end. The longer frame allows the weight of the car to be spread out over a greater area, reducing the impact on the track structure.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. November 15, 2010 10:36 am

    either way a bunch or ortner hoppers makes a nive photo. Thanks for posting the pic as I will be weather about 23 of themsoon.


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