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By Kevin EuDaly/photos by the author
When a potential merger gets announced, there is almost always a bit of panic among us railroad photographers as we reflect on what we’ve covered on a railroad and what we’ve missed. We become acutely aware that the clock is ticking and begin to look seriously at focusing on a particular road before it’s “too late.”
When my photography started in the mid-1970s, it was “merger mania” everywhere, and even thinking about trying to capture all those predecessors before they became “fallen flags” was an exasperation short-circuit. There was simply no way to keep up with all the railroads scattered across a nation the size of the U.S., especially on a high school minimum-wage budget. Most of us focused on one railroad or a few favorites close to home, shot what we could, and went on with life. Hindsight gives us the luxury of reflecting on the thrills of what we captured or experiencing the agony of realizing what we missed.
ABOVE: June 5, 1980, 5:45pm, Pittsburg Subdivision (Kansas City, Mo., to Pittsburg, Kan.) — Jointed rail is being replaced by welded rail in this view of southbound grain at Red Bridge Road in Kansas City, Mo., behind four EMDs — SD40-2s 673 and 660 with SD40s 606 and 619 in-between. This is the portion of the Pittsburg Subdivision that was built in the late 1920s to eradicate use of trackage rights on Frisco rails between Blue Valley and Grandview, Mo. For the north end of the system, the Pittsburg Subdivision is busy by KCS standards, and easy to chase from Blue Valley (just south of Knoche Yard in Kansas City) to Amoret, Mo.
With full-time jobs, families, and other important activities, a lot of my railfanning was simply catch-as-catch-can, and that was often associated with jobs, most of which involved travel at regular intervals. Because I couldn’t pick my travel destinations, I often simply tacked on an extra day or two for railfanning, or just managed what I could get in after work hours. The result is a widely geographically scattered collection of photographs, many at rather obscure locations.
Consequently, there’s a fairly lengthy list of railroads I just didn’t get much of. Western Pacific comes to mind as one fallen flag I completely missed, at least as far as its traditional routes “out West.” The era of big two-week trips after college and before I was married in the mid-1980s netted decent coverage of some far-flung roads, at least from my Midwestern Kansas City, Mo.-area perspective, but none of the coverage was thorough by any stretch of the imagination.
ABOVE: December 15, 2018, 2:17pm, Greenville Subdivision (Blanchard, La., to Wylie, Texas) — M-SHDA (Shreveport to Dallas) has 83 cars trailing SD70ACes 4136 and 4026, rolling westbound through Floyd, Texas. While not a high-density route, the Greenville Subdivision gets a fair amount of traffic, but unfortunately, the majority of the through traffic runs at night. The remaining lines west of Wylie Yard are a challenge, all with essentially zeros on the train density map. These include the Alliance and Dallas subdivisions, and the White Rock Branch.
Eventually, the merger mania subsided — mainly because we were down to just a few mega-systems — and further mergers became much more difficult from a regulatory point of view. The 1987 failure of the Santa Fe and Southern Pacific merger was the watershed event that seemed to indicate that mergers could no longer be taken for granted. The July 3, 1996, acquisition of Southern Pacific by Union Pacific, and the associated debacle in Houston, was the exclamation point on rhetoric indicating mergers of large systems would henceforth be discouraged and highly scrutinized. The acquisition of Chicago & North Western the year before perhaps put more on UP’s plate than it could successfully manage, but at any rate, the merger scene quieted down, and by 2000, the only sound one could hear on merger applications at the U.S. Surface Transportation Board was crickets chirping in the dark…
Read the rest of this story in the June 2022 issue of Railfan & Railroad. Subscribe Today!
This article first appeared on railfan.com
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