The Kiamichi Railroad is quite possibly one of the least covered (at least by fans) regionals in the US, considering its size of 227 track miles. In its nearly twenty years of existance, I only know of a single railfan article on the road having been published - Trains Magazine, September 1989. Part of this is certainly explained by its location. The KRR is in deep, rural southern Oklahoma and western Arkansas, near only a few major transportation corridors.
The Kiamichi began life on 22-Jul-1987 with two cast-off Frisco bits purchased from the Burlington Northern. The short segment, running from just north of Antlers, OK, to just south of Paris, TX, is a hunk out of the old Frisco Central Division mainline. This is the same route that the Arkansas & Missouri's mainline was carved from around the same time. However, by the time the A&M and KRR were created, nearly all the track between Wister (on the ex-Rock Island Choctaw line, now the Arkansas-Oklahoma that we'll visit later) and Antlers was abandoned rather sold to any shortline, thus severing it as a through route.
This ex-Central Division mainline crosses the old east-west Frisco Arkinda-Ardmore Subdivision at Hugo, OK. This route between Ardmore on the west and Hope, AR, on the east was built by the Arkansas & Choctaw between 1895 and 1902. It was completed by 1902 as a through route and renamed to the St. Louis, San Francisco and New Orleans Railroad - grandiose goals for a short road in the middle of nowhere. By 1907, the railroad was folded into the Frisco corporate identity. In 1982, the line was cut between Mead and Madill due to the creation of Lake Texoma, forcing the Frisco to use trackage rights to reach Madill and Ardmore. In 1982, the Ardmore-Madill segment was abandoned. Five years later, in 1987, BN sold the remaining Lakeside, OK (where the former Arkinda-Ardmore Sub joined the BN line to cross the lake) to Hope, AR, segment to the newly formed Kiamichi, along with the remaining bits of the north-south Central Division mainline.
The KRR tried to expand in 1990 with the creation of a subsidiary - the Chaparral Railroad, operating the former Santa Fe line from the KRR connection at Paris, TX, down to Farmersville, TX. Viewed as a step towards connecting with Dallas-Fort Worth and eventually the South Orient line to the Texas-Mexico border, the venture never obtained all the pieces necessary and thus never took hold. By late 1994, the Chaparral was abandoned, with the Kiamichi taking over the last significant customer just south of Paris. By the late 1990s, Statesrail had acquired the KRR, and at the beginning of 2002, Statesrail was absorbed into the giant shortline and regional operator RailAmerica. Today the signs of RA are everywhere, with the KRR's distinctive brown and white locomotives becoming rarer, replaced with the ubiquitous grey and red motors of RailAmerica, along with visitors from other RA roads.
The hub of all things Kiamichi is Hugo, being at the crossroads of the system. Hugo contains a small yard and the road's engine facilities, and is probably the busiest section of the road based on what I've heard. The road connects with the BNSF at Lakeside, OK, the UP at both Durant, OK, and Hope, AR, the TO&E (Texas, Oklahoma & Eastern) at Valliant, and the KCS at Ashdown, AR. In addition, there's a large on-line generating station near Fort Towson that receives unit trains of coal off the BNSF Lakeside interchange, complete with run-through power. For those trying to railfan the line, be sure to monitor the Kiamichi's four frequencies - 160.425, 160.920, 161.160, and 161.415, along with the two FRED frequencies - 452.9375 and 457.9375 MHz. FRED blips were the only indication I was getting close to a KRR train.
Having never visited the Kiamichi, I decided I'd stop by for a visit on my to Dallas in early February of 2004. I actually stayed overnight in Denison, TX, and then got up early the next morning to drive to Durant. Durant yielded a whole lot of nothing on the KRR, so off I went eastward towards the railroad's home base at Hugo. Again, not all that much, aside from a single KRR geep sitting way in the back of the engine facility, nearly out of the sight of my camera due to obstructions. (Photo #137) Since that didn't work out so well, I started out of town, but my eye caught on a particularly large depot still in good shape with some equipment lying around. I just had to check it out first.
In an almost Monty Python-esque bit of history (particularly the bit about swamps and castles from Holy Grail), the Frisco's first depot was built at the crossing in Hugo in 1903. It burned to the ground in 1910, so they built another. It, too, burned to the ground in 1914. The third one was built of brick instead of wood, and it stayed up. Today, the depot is apparently renovated as the Frisco Depot Museum. (Photo #138) At one point, there was a tourist train also departing from the depot under the name Hugo Heritage Railroad, but as best I can tell, it's defunct. There's a small collection of railroad equipment behind the depot. One of the most notable items is an old F7A carbody, built as KCS 70A and eventually being converted to a slug by KCS. The slug then found its way to the Kiamichi and became SL1. (Photo #139) Today, it's on static display as property of the Choctaw County Historical Society, the same group that runs the depot museum.
Having struck out again in Hugo, on east I went in hopes that somewhere on the eastern half of the system, I'd wander across a train. I was also running on limited time, since later that evening, I needed to be in the DFW area and thus couldn't go too far out. Fortunately, fate panned out well when around Valliant I started picking up occasional radio traffic. I stalled for a few minutes, stopping to shoot TO&E D-19, which was sitting inside Weyerhaeuser's huge pulp and paper mill. (Photo #140) Sure enough, by the time I was done, a Kiamichi was in town, though you wouldn't know it from the looks of the power - three GP40s, none in KRR paint. The lead motor was Missouri & Northern Arkansas 4014, followed by sister M&NA 4013, and finished off with Indiana & Ohio 4031. (Photo #141) Following the line east, I managed to catch it a couple more times before reaching Fort Towsen. (Photos #142-144)
Near Fort Towsen, the line passes across two of what have to be some of the most spectacular features on the Kiamichi system. The first is a plate girder bridge over Raymond Gary Lake, literally just east of the Fort Towsen city limits. The bridge is very easily seen and photographed from US 70. (Photo #145) A few miles west at Sawyer, OK, both the railway and highway launch onto spectacular bridges that pass over the railroad's namesake river. A few hundred yards upstream is the massive dam that impounds the Kiamichi River to create Hugo Lake. Kindly, the Corps of Engineers has created a small park and rest area on the west side, along with stairs down to the river for fishermen. This makes a very convenient place to park, walk down to the river, and grab a shot like #146.
No sooner was the inbound mixed across the Hugo diamond (Photo #147) and headed into the yard than I heard some chatter on the radio asking if the coal train was about ready to come out. Coal train? Sure, I'd seen the power plant back near Fort Towsen, but the real question was - is this an empty coming out of the plant, or a load coming over from BNSF and headed towards the plant? Fortunately there was a yard employee waiting to throw the switch for the westbound crew at the east end of the Hugo yard. I stopped and asked about the coal train, and after a few minutes of disbelief someone would drive all the way from Colorado to photograph trains in Hugo, he let me know that they were loaded and would be coming through the yard eastbound shortly.
The eastbound coal load, led by new BNSF AC4400CW 5636, appeared right on queue. Staking out a spot I'd seen earlier, I had positioned myself at the Fifth Street crossing in east Hugo. (Photo #148) It was cloudy, but there was hope - an occasional ray of sun would break through the dreary grey skies. That didn't quite come true here until just after 5636 had passed my planned shots, though. Still, not to waste the opportunity, I jumped back in the car and shot out to the next rural grade crossing just east of the US 70 crossing. While I was waiting, I noticed a catbird sitting on a signal cabinet a few feet away. It might for one of my favorite "artsy" shots that I just found while out 'fanning. (Photo #149) A minute or two later, the big 7FDL prime mover scared the bird, but I did get my first sunlit shot of the day. (Photo #150)
Wanting to again capture the Kiamichi River bridge but this time from a new angle, I headed down a small gravel road at the west end of the bridge. It doesn't come out right at the bridge, but two hundred or so yards away. Fortunately, the train was DPU-equipped, and the rear unit was facing backwards, allowing for an "emerging from the bridge" shot from entirely the wrong direction of train. (Photo #151) With the plant just beyond the bridge, this would also be my last shot opportunity of the day as far as moving trains went. After that, it was down to Paris, TX, to check out the southern leg of the KRR. Not a thing was moving, but I did find another old KRR unit - GP38 3811 (Photo #152). From there, it was on into Dallas for work that night.
Moving along to the DFW metroplex... The Dallas/Fort Worth area has two significant shortlines of mention - the Fort Worth & Western (FWWR) and the Dallas, Garland & Northeastern (another RailAmerica line). I know very little about the DGNO, other than that one of their yards with engine facilities is located just east of I-35E and north of Belt Line Road in Carrollton, TX. I've been there several times and usually managed to find some interesting stuff sitting around to photograph. Other than that, it's definitely on the list of roads I need to revisit. The other road, the FWWR, however, I have spent some time around.
The FWWR runs from essentially Carrollton, TX, down through Fort Worth to Ricker, TX, where it joins the BNSF. The FWWR uses trackage rights over the BNSF to get to San Angelo Junction, where the former South Orient line (the route FWWR uses from Ft. Worth to Ricker) once again breaks off and heads southwest towards Mexico. This section of the line southwest from San Angelo Jct. is now operated by Texas-Pacifico. In addition, there are three major branches. The first one is from Cresson to Cleburne, where it connects with the BNSF, and the other connected branch runs from Dublin out to Gorman. There is a third, disconnected branch, reached via trackage rights, from near Tower 55 down towards the Carter Industrial Park, near Everman. Their main yard and shops are located just to the west of I-35W in northern Fort Worth. Get off on exit 54B and turn north at your first opportunity. You'll run right into the FWWR yards. For finding trains, you'll want to tune in to 160.215 MHz and 160.785 MHz for operations around Fort Worth and 160.440 MHz for traffic down the Dublin Subdivision.
In addition to the regular FWWR freight jobs, a regular passenger train plies part of the line from Grapevine, TX, down to the Fort Worth stockyards. It was known as the Tarantula train while I was there, but now it's apparently the Grapevine Vintage Railroad. I've followed the line several times and usually come up with a train. I've included an all-photo chapter next with coverage of the FWWR, in addition to a couple shots from the DGNO and the Blacklands Railroad.
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This work is copyright 2006 by Nathan D. Holmes
(email@example.com), but licensed under a
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All photographs in this trip report were taken with a Canon EOS 10D using either a Canon 28-105mm USM or a Canon 75-300mm f4-5.3 IS/USM.