Santa Feís Southern Division Houston District
1970 - 1973
Article and photography by Ralph R. Back
Santa Feís Western Lines Southern Division mainline handled all freight
and passenger traffic between Cleburne, Texas and the Houston - Galveston
area. This division was divided into four main districts to handle
the traffic: the First District covered Cleburne to Temple, the Second
District covered Temple to Bellville, the Third District covered Bellville
to Galveston, while the Houston District covered Houston to Alvin
the junction with the Third District.
The Houston District timetable from
Southern Division Timetable No. 12 In Effect Sunday, June 11, 1972.
ATSF trackage on the Houston District actually began at T&NO
Junction at the south end of Houston Belt & Terminal Railwayís
(HB&T) New South Yard and continued south through Pearland and
on to Alvin where it joined the Third District. The Houston District
carried all freight and passenger traffic in and out of the Houston
area. Excluding the HB&T trackage, the Houston District covered
only about 20 miles.
ATSF F7 266L is just departing the
HB&T New South Yard passing T&NO Jct. and entering the ATSF
trackage of the Houston District. The track going off to the left
enters the SP line to Rosenberg Tower 17.
During the early 1970s, the Southern Division was one of the last
strongholds for Santa Feís F-unit fleet. The majority of freight
traffic was handled by solid lash-ups of 200 and 281 class F7s and
F9s in the standard blue/yellow freight livery. Occasionally, GP7s
and GP9s were seen in lashups with the Fs. The Southern Division
also hosted a daily Houston-Chicago passenger train the Texas Chief,
train numbers 15 and 16, which was powered by red/silver Warbonnet
F-units. Second generation power was also seen here: GP20s, GP38s,
U25Bs, U33Cs, U23Bs, SD45s, SD24s, SD26s and RSD15s.
ATSF freight power was serviced by the HB&T at its Milby Street
facility which was located about one mile southeast of Houstonís
Union Station. The HB&T provided terminal and switching services
in the Houston area for the Santa Fe, BN, and Rock Island. Units
from the BN and Rock Island were also serviced here. The HB&T
rostered a fleet of SW9s, SW1200s, SW1000s, and SW1500s.
ATSF 344L is sitting at the HB&T
Milby St. facility. HB&T services the ATSF freight power here.
A turntable is available for turning one locomotive at a time.
THE TEXAS CHIEF
The Texas Chief operated over the Southern Division during daylight
hours. Departure time from Houstonís Union Station for eastward
#16 was 7:20 a.m. The departure time for eastward #16 changed in
June, 1972 to 12:20 p.m. Upon its arrival at Houston, the westward
train #15 backed into Union Station. The train and power remained
at Union Station becoming eastward train #16 the next day. The arrival
time for westward #15 was 8:30 p.m. until June, 1972 when the arrival
time was changed to 6:45 p.m.
ATSF #16 is just departing Houston
Union Station at 7:20 a.m.
To arrive and depart Houstonís Union Station the Texas Chief, traveled
over HB&T trackage between Southern Pacificís T&NO junction
(at the south end of HB&Tís New South Yard) and Union Station
for a distance of about 5 miles. By Santa Feís Southern Division
timetables for this period train #15 was westward and #16 was eastward,
and this trackage was part of the Houston District where Santa Fe
trains were governed by HB&T timetables, rules, and regulations.
The Texas Chief did not go to Alvin as the trackage from T&NO
Junction to Alvin and from Alvin to Rosenberg was freight only which
was the Santa Fe mainline in and out of Houston and south Texas.
Instead the Texas Chief used Southern Pacific trackage between SPís
T&NO Junction and SPís Tower 17 in Rosenberg, and joined the
Santa Fe Third District at Rosenberg.
Amtrak #16 with ATSF F7 313L has
its head light on and is ready to depart Houston Union Station.
MOTIVE POWER ASSIGNMENT
Significant changes occurred in the Santa Fe motive power assigned
to the Texas Chief. Prior to Amtrak, power assignment for the Texas
Chief was usually four 325 class F7s in ABBA, ABAB, or ABBB lashups.
After Amtrak took over on May 1, 1971, the power assignment was
changed to 300 class F3s and F7s in the same lashups. The 300 class
was leased to Amtrak and consisted of the remaining members of the
original 300 class along with 16 class F3s and 37 class F7s renumbered
into the 300 class. The 325 class was assigned to freight service,
and the 300 class was assigned to Amtrak service. The 300 class
was assigned exclusively until May 1972 when ex-Union Pacific E-units
were placed in service on the Texas Chief. The assignment of the
UP Es lasted only about four months.
Amtrak #16 with ex-UP E-units is
at Houston Union Station waiting for itís 12:20 p.m. departure.
The return of F-unit assignment to the Texas Chief brought one
new change, the yellow-bonnet paint scheme. The Santa Fe painted
two of the 300 class F7s (304L and 315L) in this new scheme. The
315L was assigned exclusively to the Texas Chief and could be found
frequently as the lead unit. In July 1973 the new Amtrak SDP40Fs
were delivered and assigned to the Texas Chief thus ending the Santa
Fe Warbonnet era on the Texas Chief passenger trains.
Amtrak #16 with ATSF 315L at Houston
Union Station awaits itís 12:20 p.m. departure time.