Farmrail is an employee-owned shortline railroad operation which
includes both the Farmrail system (which stretches east/west between
Weatherford and Erick, Oklahoma and north-south roughly between Custer
City and Elmer) as well as the Grainbelt Railroad, which operates
between a connection with the BNSF Railway at Enid, south to Frederick.
With trackage rights Farmrail reaches as far south as Quanah, Texas.
While the shortline predominantly hauls traffic based in agriculture it
has connections with two Class Is
(BNSF and Union Pacific) and three shortlines which gives the railroad
an added advantage. The history of the shortline dates back to the
early 1980s when the state of Oklahoma purchased redundant trackage from
Burlington Northern and the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railway (the Santa Fe) which was threatened to be abandoned.
Except for a few units, Farmrail's entire fleet of locomotives are either GP9s or GP10s (mostly "Paducah rebuilds" by the Illinois Central Gulf). Here, GP9s #316 (named "Pawnee") and #280 (named "Arapaho") both of which are former Milwaukee Road units perform switching work at a local grain elevator near Bessie, Oklahoma during the spring of 2004.
Interestingly, for a small railroad whose traffic has always been
predominantly based in low-income agriculture, the Farmrail Corporation
has remained a valuable and important shortline for the region it serves
for more than 30 years now. It still operates all of the original
lines the state purchased, beginning in 1981 (the history of which date
back to BN predecessor St. Louis-San Francisco Railway, the then
delinquent Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific, and of course the Santa Fe).
This original 1981 segment stretched 82 miles between Weatherford and
Erick, and was originally part of the Rock Island system (it was
actually the Rock's original main line between Tucumcari, New Mexico and
Memphis, Tennessee). The state of Oklahoma purchased this trackage
from the Rock's liquidators to keep it from being abandoned.
At this point Farmrail Corporation, an employee-owned holding company
was created to operate this trackage and had interchange connections to
both Burlington Northern and Santa Fe at Clinton, Oklahoma. In 1987 the railroad further expanded when the state purchased from the Santa Fe its trackage between Westhorn, Clinton, and Elmer (part of the Class
I's secondary route between southern Kansas and central Texas), a total
of 89 miles. This gave Farmrail a system covering 169 miles which it
still operates today.
The previous train as seen in the above photo is now at Cordell, Oklahoma with its train. Note the old siding rails, which still remain in the pavement at this grade crossing.
In 1992 the shortline again expanded when Oklahoma purchased from
Burlington Northern its former St. Louis-San Francisco Railway (Frisco)
line between Enid and Frederick, a distance of 176 miles (this trackage
was along the Frisco's western edge of its system). In doing so a
separate railroad was created, the Grainbelt Corporation (a subsidiary
of Farmrail) to operate the line. Today, the railroad's have numerous
interchange connections with Union Pacific and BNSF Railway at Enid in
the north to shortlines Stillwater Central Railroad; Wichita, Tillman
& Jackson Railway; and
Hollis & Eastern Railroad in the south. Farmrail also has an
additional connection to BNSF via trackage rights at Quanah, Texas.
Including both shortlines the Farmrail Corporation operates
some 349 miles of track with traffic based in wheat, gypsum, animal
feed, aggregates, fertilizers, farm machinery, oilfield equipment, and
petroleum. Additionally, the railroad also attempts to help potential
new customers locate suitable land along its lines and also provides Class Is, or other railroads, with car storage space if needed. Finally, the railroad also operates an excursion train which takes passengers up to the Quartz Mountain Resort known as the Quartz Mountain Flyer.
Farmail GP10s #8253 and #8267 pull a string of coal hoppers eastbound near Stafford, Oklahoma during the early spring of 2004.
This lesser known excursion train
operates some very nice equipment and is reasonably priced at less than
$20 per person (they also offer available charters).
However, if you are interested in riding please be sure to book
ahead as Farmrail only provides a handful of these excursions between
July and November. For more information about the Farmrail system please click here to visit the railroad's official website. Listed above is current roster of Farmrail and Grainbelt (note
that some of its units are named), almost all of which are early Geep models like GP7s and GP9s.