Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Relocation reconnaissance

My recent trip to west Texas gave me the opportunity to explore the remnants of the original alignment for Kansas City, Mexico & Orient's rail line near Lake Nasworthy southwest of San Angelo. Constructed in 1911, the original line took a west-southwesterly course out of town, crossing the Middle Concho River and then following it west. The alignment survived the creation of Lake Nasworthy in 1930, but in the late 1950s, plans for a new reservoir to be located just above Nasworthy called for a significant line relocation.

Completed in 1962 under Santa Fe ownership, the relocated line diverged from the original alignment near MP 722 on the southwest side of San Angelo, skirted the north edge of the new Twin Buttes Reservoir, and re-joined the original alignment just east of Tankersley at MP 733. I had recently discovered that satellite photos on navigation sites such as Google Maps and Yahoo Maps clearly show large sections of the original alignment -- including the concrete supports of the bridge over the Middle Concho just below the Twin Buttes dam -- still visible. So I decided to spend a little time exploring to see what I could discover for myself from the ground.

The switch: The line relocation diverged from the original KCM&O alignment at this location near the intersection of Valley View Blvd. and Knickerbocker Rd. A short section of the original line was left in place as a spur track, which the railroad would sometimes use to store empty cars after they were unloaded at a nearby lumber yard.

The fill: two large sections of elevated track bed -- once connected by a wood trestle -- still remain on the north side of Lake Nasworthy, visible from Red Bluff Rd to the west, and from Gun Club Rd to the east, illustrated here. The Twin Buttes dam -- which necessitated the relocation of the rail line -- is visible in the distant background.

The dock: the land beyond this boat dock on Lake Nasworthy is part of the original KCM&O line southwest of San Angelo. Photographed June 23, 2008.

The trestle: Wooden bridge supports in Lake Nasworthy southwest of San Angelo.

Railroad bridge pilings are still in place among the weeds on the shore of Lake Nasworthy near San Angelo.

A gravel road occupies a short section of the railroad fill which extends out into Lake Nasworthy.

Over 40 years after the original right of way was abandoned, these concrete bridge supports stand tall in the Middle Concho River between Lake Nasworthy and Twin Buttes Reservoir.

Post Script: I called San Angelo "home" from 1979 to 1995 (and I still consider it my hometown even though I no longer have family there). But while living there, only on rare occasions did I go out of my way to explore the area's railroad relics from bygone eras. I was always more interested in spending time along active rail lines where I could see moving trains. It's too bad that I wasn't more interested in the historical side of things when I lived out there. But Fort Worth is just a few hours away, and I still have opportunites to get out there a couple times a year to explore the things I never saw before. There's a lot to see if you know where to look.

Speaking of relocation and realignment, the topics discussed above can be accurately viewed as no small metaphor for my own life at the present time. Some of you know what I'm talking about. Those who don't: stay tuned... you'll find out soon enough.


np: Flatt & Scruggs - "Til the end of the world rolls around"

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Blogger BEK said...

Realignment? Did you go to a chiropractor?

8:48 PM  
Blogger Martin Burwash said...

Good work, Wes. Trying to photograph old right of ways is tough business. Its seems the photos are never quite as obvious as the naked eye. Still, you managed to pull it off nicely. I know of which I speak...I've got hundreds of images of the old GN grade over Stevens Pass that look like just a bunch of brush and trees.

11:46 PM  

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