Freight Car Friday – Freight Cars of Fort Worth

4 01 2013

Since we’ll be attending all of the World’s Greatest Hobby Shows this year, each show week we’ll feature some freight from the host city. We hope you can join us! Maybe next year we’ll be coming to your home town.

The Dallas – Fort Worth Rail Scene

The cities of Dallas and Fort Worth are about as close together as any two metropolitan areas in the big state of Texas. The region is dominated by two industries – oil and cattle. Both have a long history with the railroads that have called the cities home.

Today Fort Worth is home to both of the major western roads, BNSF and Union Pacific, along with several shortlines. These rails have a long history.


covered hopper

Trainloads of grain for animal feed remain a common sight in the Fort Worth area – many of them on the rails of the old FW&D.

The Fort Worth and Denver Railroad began construction westward out of the city in 1881 as the Fort Worth and Denver City. At the Texas – Colorado border, it connected with the Denver and New Orleans, predecessor of the Colorado and Southern. The C&S would take ownership of the FWD in 1899.

Due to a Texas law requiring all railroads operating within the state to be headquartered there, the FWD retained its separate identity, even after the C&S itself became a wholly owned subsidiary of the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy. The two roads retained their own “independence” until finally merged into Burlington Northern in 1982. (That is why you will see some early BN-painted cars carrying FWD reporting marks.)


Santa Fe

Fort Worth was an important stop on Santa Fe’s North-South routes.

BNSF has roots in Fort Worth from the other side of its family tree as well. The Santa Fe served the city on a north-south mainline connecting the Texas Gulf Coast with Oklahoma and Kansas. Additionally, a branch left the city to the southwest to connect with other trunk lines serving western Texas. While these routes may have received less historical attention than the big Chicago – California mainline, this route was an important traffic funnel for commodities originating or imported through Texas.

Today BNSF maintains its corporate headquarters in Fort Worth. The beautiful modern facility includes executive offices, a dispatching center and storage for the road’s office car fleet.



Railroads like the T&P were an important part of the western story – herding cattle to the railroad created one of the great American icons of all time – the cowboy.

The Texas and Pacific’s mainline bisected the city east – west on its way between New Orleans and El Paso. A line also branched off to the north and then east. Along with connections, this route represented a significant trunk line from California  and the Midwest to the Gulf Coast.

Chartered in 1871 with the intent of reaching San Diego, the railroad never made it past the Texas border. Instead it interchanged with the Southern Pacific for the remainder of the journey west. The railroad also had a long-standing partnership with the Missouri Pacific, dating back to the days Jay Gould controlled both properties. The MP finally absorbed the T&P in 1976. The MoPac, including its former T&P properties,  became part of Union Pacific in 1982.

Monuments to the T&P still abound in Fort Worth. Most prominent is the passenger terminal and office building downtown. Commuter trains call on this station daily, and the offices have become condominiums.



The Katy moved everything it could through Texas, including of course that sweet Texas Tea.

The “Katy” got its start in 1870 and was the first railroad to enter Texas from the North. The railroad continued to grow across almost all of its history. It’s last major project was a line northwest from Fort Worth to Salinas, Kansas following the Rock Island bankruptcy.

The Katy cooperated with many railroads in the region as it moved traffic between the Gulf and Texas cities and the rail gateways at St. Louis and Kansas City Missouri. Perhaps most notable was the Texas Special run in cooperation with the Frisco.

The railroad that started with the purchase of the Union Pacific Railway, Southern Branch became UP property again in 1988. On paper, the MKT was acquired by the Missouri Pacific. Although the MP itself had been merged into the UP in 1982, that MP still existed as an independent company on paper due to outstanding bonds until 1997.

Cotton Belt

The Cotton Belt operated as a railroad within a railroad for much of its life but has a loyal following nonetheless.

The Cotton Belt operated as a railroad within a railroad for much of its life but has a loyal following nonetheless.

The third Union Pacific predecessor in Fort Worth was the Cotton Belt. The St. Louis and Southwestern originated from several shortlines in the Tyler, Texas area in 1891 and built east and north into Arkansas. Eventually the line reached East St. Louis where it could connect with many roads via the Terminal RR and the Alton and Southern (More on these next week!)

The Southern Pacific gained control of the company in 1932 and used it as a major connection for traffic from its own mainline from California including the famous “Blue Streak Merchandise” trains. The Cotton Belt was wholly owned by SP and it’s equipment reflected that, but the two operated separately until 1992. The SSW property was purchased by Union Pacific with the SP merger in 1996.



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5 01 2013


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