Trains.com

Choctaw Route of Rock Island

6444 views
20 replies
1 rating 2 rating 3 rating 4 rating 5 rating
  • Member since
    July 2004
  • 455 posts
Choctaw Route of Rock Island
Posted by aricat on Tuesday, November 18, 2014 1:44 PM

Would either the SP or the ATSF have gained anything by acquiring the Choctaw route of the Rock Island? I believe they might have. It does follow the route of Interstate 40 from Amarillo to Memphis and would have given both railroads better acess to the Southeast.  The Choctaw route should have been the most valuable line on the RI. Another example of short sightedness.

  • Member since
    September 2003
  • 16,636 posts
Posted by Overmod on Tuesday, November 18, 2014 2:10 PM

aricat
The Choctaw route should have been the most valuable line on the RI. Another example of short sightedness.

But it is still valuable, partially abandoned, as a potential route for high-speed rail.  Perhaps more so than if it were still in use as a freight line...

  • Member since
    December 2006
  • 1,438 posts
Posted by diningcar on Tuesday, November 18, 2014 2:58 PM

This was thoroughly studied by Santa Fe, I was on the team,; we flew over it by helicopter in addition to on the ground examination. The RI had let it deteriorate completely which was an indicator of its value. There were few significant customers with revenue potential. TOFC and COFC were also examined for potential including communication with Santa Fe's clients in that business. It was determined that, at that time, it would not have been prudent to buy it. Today, with the BNSF merger it is probably not seen as a mistake but the correct decision.    

  • Member since
    June 2003
  • From: South Central,Ks
  • 6,800 posts
Posted by samfp1943 on Tuesday, November 18, 2014 3:31 PM

aricat

Would either the SP or the ATSF have gained anything by acquiring the Choctaw route of the Rock Island? I believe they might have. It does follow the route of Interstate 40 from Amarillo to Memphis and would have given both railroads better acess to the Southeast.  The Choctaw route should have been the most valuable line on the RI. Another example of short sightedness.

 

Before the end of the Rock's Passenger Service, I had a chance to ride it from Memphis to Little Rock. The original passenger service had deteriorated, like much of the Rock's plant; the ride was in an RDC car, and I recall it was a very rough ride. The 135, or so,miles to Little Rock took 'forever'.  Before the Rock disappeared, the SSW/SP was using part of the trackage from Pine Bluff to Memphis( from about the Forrest City(Ar.)area.    

 The whole line from Memphis to El Reno Oklahoma, and I thnk on to Albuquerque was know as the Choctaw Line ( The named train on that line was The Coctaw Rocket.)  I seem to recall it wasone of thefirst diesel powered passenger trains to serve Memphis(?).

 The Rock Island in Oklahoma, I think went to the Union Pacific on the Rock's bankruptcy.   It was originally part of a line called the Choctaw Oklahoma and Gulf,  now it is the Arkansas and Oklahoma RR ( AOK).. Found this link to te history of that past of the line @ http://www.aokrr.com/6.html

 

 


 

  • Member since
    April 2002
  • From: Northern Florida
  • 1,429 posts
Posted by SALfan on Tuesday, November 18, 2014 6:49 PM

I lived not too far from this line the 7+ years we lived in Arkansas, and traveled the highway that runs beside it occasionally while traveling for work.  This started a couple of years after RI went out of business.  Always wished SF had bought the line; it would have been nice to see it being used, especially by warbonnets.

  • Member since
    July 2008
  • 104 posts
Posted by sandiego on Tuesday, November 18, 2014 7:16 PM

This was one of those routes that look great on a timetable map or in the Rand McNally Railroad Atlas—a straight direct route from Memphis to Tucumcari via Oklahoma City. In reality, it was anything but straight, especially in Arkansas and eastern Oklahoma. It also had a convoluted route through Little Rock. West of Oklahoma City it went through no man's land with minimal population, and the farther west one went the sparser it got. The far west end had some healthy grades also. As a through route it was a real dud.

I drove east on I-40 from Santa Rosa to Little Rock in 2012 and followed much of the route; I could see why it was largely abandoned. Some segments were retained for local use by various short lines.

Far too many railroad lines looked good on a map but were actually be hill-and-dale cowpaths with an abundance of curves and grades. The RI line from St. Louis to Kansas City also fell into this catagory, and went through sparsely populated country besides.

Kurt Hayek  

  • Member since
    December 2009
  • 1,751 posts
Posted by dakotafred on Tuesday, November 18, 2014 8:12 PM

sandiego

Far too many railroad lines looked good on a map but were actually be hill-and-dale cowpaths with an abundance of curves and grades. The RI line from St. Louis to Kansas City also fell into this catagory, and went through sparsely populated country besides.

Good post -- exactly why a lot of these lines were abandoned or mothballed in the first place, and why they would make poor candidates for restored freight service, let alone high-speed passenger rail.

  • Member since
    September 2011
  • 5,236 posts
Posted by MidlandMike on Tuesday, November 18, 2014 8:55 PM

SP had their own Cotton Belt route to Memphis.  Diningcar pointed out that ATSF took a close look, but passed.  I wonder if they were already looking at the Frisco as a better link to the Memphis gateway.  

Still I would have liked to have seen the states rail-banked the line for future development in the I-40 corridor. 

  • Member since
    March 2003
  • From: Central Iowa
  • 5,824 posts
Posted by jeffhergert on Wednesday, November 19, 2014 7:24 AM

The RI poured a lot of money into the Memphis-Tucumcari/Amarillo route after the 1975 bankruptcy. (Jan.1977 industry magazine article mentions this line. http://www.rits.org/www/histories/TurningCorner/TurningCorner.html ) It seems the intention was to improve the line to sell it off.   

Discussions on some RI groups, by people who lived in that area, said the ATSF was interested.  Even with the rehabilation work previously done, the line had again started to fall apart again.  They approached the states affected to see if there would be state financial aid available to upgrade the line.  Arkansas made it clear (because of heavy lobbying by the railroads already serving the state) that there would be no aid provided.

One of the RI magazines (I don't remember if it was the defunct RITS publication or Remember the Rock mag.) has an article on the running of ATSF inspection trains over the line.

Jeff

ps. The link goes to the RITS site.  The main article, as of today, is still available but some of the associated links (like to a map) no longer are. With the collapse of RITS I don't know how long the site will be available.   

  • Member since
    September 2002
  • From: ShelbyTwp., Michigan
  • 1,087 posts
Posted by SD60MAC9500 on Wednesday, June 9, 2021 9:33 PM
 

Looking through my PC's PDF files today I came across my BNSF subdivision map. If the Chcotaw Route had been absorbed into the ATSF. It would make a viable alternative to what BNSF has today via Avard, OK. I'm sure some of the grades in the Ozarks are comparable to what BNSF currently has on both its Thayer Sub's in Arkansas, and Missouri. Memphis now is a major palyer in the IM network. Interline traffic between the Southeast and the West Coast would benefit from a shorter routing. Such a BNSF route would give UP a run for its money as they currently have the best Memphis-LA route.

 
Rahhhhhhhhh!!!!
  • Member since
    December 2006
  • 1,438 posts
Posted by diningcar on Thursday, June 10, 2021 7:56 AM

Santa Fe seriously considered acquiring it but after inspection it was deemed too expensive to rehab after considering the revenue potential. 

  • Member since
    July 2016
  • 1,235 posts
Posted by Backshop on Thursday, June 10, 2021 8:16 AM

Another thing to remember is that the South of today is not the same as the South of 40+ years ago.  There were none of auto manufacturing or other big industrial users that there are today.  Containers were also in their infancy.

  • Member since
    September 2014
  • 244 posts
Posted by LANDON ROWELL on Thursday, June 10, 2021 6:59 PM

One reason Santa Fe passed was the poor condition of the line and the lack of state funding for Rehabilation. But what if RI had put it up for sale immediately after its mid-1970s rehab work. It would have been in better condition. Santa Fe did not  have its own line to Memphis. SP's route was much longer, all the way down to San Antonio. SP may also have been interested in order to keep Santa Fe out.

RI could have used the sale money to fix up other routes. If this and a few other underperforming RI routes had been sold, perhaps a core could have survived long enough to merge with someone, as happened to the truncated Milwaukee.

  • Member since
    May 2004
  • From: Valparaiso, In
  • 5,611 posts
Posted by MP173 on Friday, June 11, 2021 10:13 AM

So easy to look at decisions thru a 40 year rear view mirror.  

Yes, the line looks like a straight line across the OK, Ar landscape, but we have heard of the issues with the line.  Also, the economic structure of the area, based on Memphis' growth has changed dramatically.

BTW...when did Memphis become the distribution hub?  I know FedEx had quite a bit to do with it.

Looking back, BN allocated their $$$ on Frisco which gave them an outlet for all that PRB coal and a bench of management personnel which would serve them well.  Yes, the ATSF BN merger gave access to all those import (and export) containers and a straight line route would have been more efficient...but who knew that in 1975?

Santa Fe was exploring several merger options at the time (as were other railroads).  Perhaps their biggest mistake was not pulling the trigger on MoPac.  Oh my, what a railroad that was.

Ed

  • Member since
    March 2016
  • From: Burbank IL (near Clearing)
  • 12,420 posts
Posted by CSSHEGEWISCH on Friday, June 11, 2021 10:16 AM

As it eventually turned out, a fair number of RI's routes survived and are now part of UP:  Minneapolis-Kansas City by way of C&NW, Kansas City-Tucumcari by way of SSW, Kansas-City-Texas by way of MKT.  Chicago-Omaha operates as IAIS.  About the only notable routes missing are Omaha-Colorado and Memphis-Tucumcari.

The daily commute is part of everyday life but I get two rides a day out of it. Paul
  • Member since
    December 2006
  • 1,438 posts
Posted by diningcar on Friday, June 11, 2021 10:35 AM

Santa Fe was going to connect at Amarillo, of course, and had no motive to rehab on to Tucumcari. The inspection by Santa Fe's best rehab personel found more than rail and tie problems; drainage and bridge issues also factored into Santa Fe's decision.

  • Member since
    September 2002
  • From: ShelbyTwp., Michigan
  • 1,087 posts
Posted by SD60MAC9500 on Friday, June 11, 2021 11:10 AM
 

diningcar

Santa Fe was going to connect at Amarillo, of course, and had no motive to rehab on to Tucumcari. The inspection by Santa Fe's best rehab personel found more than rail and tie problems; drainage and bridge issues also factored into Santa Fe's decision.

 

Diningcar Didn't BNSF realign? Or use some of the old CRI&P RoW in Amarillo?

 
 
 
 
 
Rahhhhhhhhh!!!!
  • Member since
    December 2006
  • 1,438 posts
Posted by diningcar on Friday, June 11, 2021 11:20 AM

I have no info about what may have been minor changes at Amarillo, of which there were several after merger with BN. 

  • Member since
    September 2002
  • From: ShelbyTwp., Michigan
  • 1,087 posts
Posted by SD60MAC9500 on Friday, June 11, 2021 11:32 AM
 

MP173

So easy to look at decisions thru a 40 year rear view mirror.  

Yes, the line looks like a straight line across the OK, Ar landscape, but we have heard of the issues with the line.  Also, the economic structure of the area, based on Memphis' growth has changed dramatically.

BTW...when did Memphis become the distribution hub?  I know FedEx had quite a bit to do with it.

Looking back, BN allocated their $$$ on Frisco which gave them an outlet for all that PRB coal and a bench of management personnel which would serve them well.  Yes, the ATSF BN merger gave access to all those import (and export) containers and a straight line route would have been more efficient...but who knew that in 1975?

Santa Fe was exploring several merger options at the time (as were other railroads).  Perhaps their biggest mistake was not pulling the trigger on MoPac.  Oh my, what a railroad that was.

Ed

 

I more than agree with the missed merger opportunity with MoPac.

You're right about looking back. Perhaps I should have said too bad railbanking didn't exist before 1983.

 
Rahhhhhhhhh!!!!
  • Member since
    September 2014
  • 244 posts
Posted by LANDON ROWELL on Friday, June 11, 2021 6:07 PM

I don't know that RI's Omaha-Denver and STL-KC were ever real competitive. I think the most useful "missing" route is Chicago-KC. UP can run some intermodal and automotive trains on BNSF but everything else has to go through STL or Nevada, IA.

Here are a couple of fun tangents:

If RI had survived by selling some routes to upgrade others, they likely would have merged with someone eventually. What route(s) should have been sold and who might the remaining sysem have merged with?

BNSF has stopped maintaining Raton Pass and the states and Amtrak are funding maintenance. If perchance Santa Fe had purchased the Choctaw and BNSF would allow it, the Chief could run via Oklahoma City. The down side is a longer trip, poorer hours in Arizona, and less connections in California. The up side is a direct connection with the Heartland Flyer. If Chicago times remain unchanged, KC-OKC would be overnight, making for a convenient KC-Ft Worth connection.

  • Member since
    March 2008
  • 36 posts
Posted by OWTX on Friday, June 11, 2021 9:12 PM

The alternative for the Santa Fe was somebody else footing the construction bill. Laugh

Frisco invested $4 million into the Avard line to keep the ATSF traffic, while The Corps of Engineers had paid for cuts and fills during Keystone Reservoir construction. Add a longstanding business relationship, plus access to St Louis and Birmingham....

Amarillo to Memphis via Avard is about 100 miles longer than the Choctaw Route. Unless Frisco managment went and did something dumb, like refuse to move the ATSF through gateway from Floydada to Avard, I'd doubt ATSF were ever going to shift that traffic to the Rock.

Here is an interesting Oklahoma rail website with some good articles on the Rock's failings and another on the Frisco's move to the Avard sub.  

 

 

Join our Community!

Our community is FREE to join. To participate you must either login or register for an account.

Search the Community

Newsletter Sign-Up

By signing up you may also receive occasional reader surveys and special offers from Trains magazine.Please view our privacy policy