The history of the Pecos Valley Southern Railway begins on May 29, 1909
when it was chartered by local business interests with intentions of
constructing a route from the town of Pecos (where connections were made
with the Texas & Pacific Railway main line as well as a Santa Fe
branch, which extended southward from its main line at Clovis, New
Mexico) to Presidio along the Rio Grande River and Mexican border. The
railroad would have stretched more than 150 miles and by May 1, 1910 was
completed 40.3 to the small hamlet of Toyahvale. Unfortunately, while
the cost of construction was cheap thanks to the relatively flat, desert-like region of West Texas money
ran out to continue building any further south. For a number of years
proceeding plans continued to be made in pushing the railroad further to
its intended destination but these never materialized.
The hope by the builders of the Pecos Valley Southern was in serving the region's growing agricultural industry that included grain, cotton, cantaloupes, cattle, and corn. This followed new farming techniques after 1900, related to irrigating the dry, dusty soil into practical uses that could grow various types of crops. Prior to the coming of the railroad the farmers between Pecos and Toyahvale had no other method in moving their product to market except by traditional horse and buggy, which proved impractical in the unforgiving heat of the summer months that regularly topped 100 degrees. Power during this early era consisted of two, second-hand 4-4-0 Americans #1-2 (it later added three former Texas & Pacific 4-6-0s, #4-6). Unfortunately, the agricultural interests never developed quite as intended (certainly not enough to maintain a railroad's profitability) and with little other means of traffic available, except for local passengers, abandonment lay in the line's future that was not even 20 years of age.
The road's first saving grace, however, occurred in 1927 thanks to
foresight by the Texas & Pacific which purchased it, seeing promise
in the line as a freight feeder and that the local economy it served
would rebound. The Class I, however, could not have known that the Great Depression
would hit two years later in 1929 and the PVS continued to post annual
deficits. Then, in the mid-1930s another boost came in the way of
lucrative crude oil, which allowed the railroad to regain a level of
profitability. It was further helped by the onset of World War II
seeing several hundred carloads per month serving the newly established
Pecos Army Air Base. Then, after the war ended it was as if the tap was
shutoff and traffic again plummeted. By 1948 the T&P had had
enough of the ebb and flow nature of the PVS and opted to abandon the
And yet again, fate stepped in to save the little shortline. A local gravel company, Trans-Pecos Materials, stepped in and purchased the line in 1952 realizing that shipping its material by rail was far cheaper than truck (at that time the interstate system had yet to reach West Texas). In the late 1940s the company gave up on passenger services, which were only yielding a few thousand dollars of annual gross income (provided by a few motor cars, #10-11). Things remained slow for the Pecos Valley Southern Railway during the early 1950s but later that decade prosperity returned in the way of agriculture and other freight; cotton mills, fertilizer, grain, asphalt, onions, carrots, cabbage, cattle, drilling mud and of course aggregates began to move in prodigious numbers, which continued through the 1960s.
Then came the 1970s, and the PVS slowly saw its more than two dozen shippers disappear, preferring a cheaper alternative that trucks offered thanks to Interstate 10 being built through the area during the early part of that decade (albeit the project did provide the company with significant carloads during construction). The highway system was contemplating how to span the railroad's right-of-way near Belmorhea when it was decided to simply abandon the property south of Saragosa in 1971, which cut the PVS down to 29.3 miles that remains in operation today.
Pecos Valley Southern Locomotive Roster
|GE||70-Ton||7-8||Acquired new: July, 1949 and January 1953. Out of Service.||2|
|EMD||SW900||9||Ex-Lehigh Valley NW1. Purchased new 1938, rebuilt for LV as an SW900 in 1957.||1|
(Thanks to David Lustig's "Pecos Valley Southern: The Loneliest Short Line In Texas" from the July, 1998 issue of
Trains as a primary reference for this article.
While traffic continued to dip through the 1980s it had mostly
stabilized by the 1990s, which is still the case with the railroad;
currently, traffic consists of sand, gravel and barite ore (yielding
between 3,000-4,000 carloads annually). As of August 10, 2012 the PVS
was leased to Watco, which plans to operate the road on a long-term
basis from Capitol Aggregates. Interestingly, the future of the
shortline may be looking up exponentially; just as oil was once a major
traffic source for the road it appears to be so again as Watco has built
several oil-loading facilities along the system.
Related Reading You May Enjoy
Pecos Valley Southern Railway