Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Kansas – 31 March 2012

by Jim on 2013/03/31

Warning: Too Many Pictures

Welcome to Day 2 of Jimbaux’s 2012 Spring Road Trip.  All of these pictures were taken on Saturday 31 March 2012.  Day 1 can be seen here.

From Heavener, Up Rich Mountain, Back to Heavener, Northward Through Pittsburg, To El Rancho Grumpo

Hello, there.  Yes, I will present a ridiculous amount of pictures here.  It’s the only way that I could think to do it.  If I was a resident of these places that I’d visit, then I’d either not photograph this stuff, or not photograph them nearly as often, which is a big reason why I like seeing the work of photographers who visit my own area.

I’ve done a couple of things to address the problem of too many pictures.  The first is that many images are saved at lower quality than I normally would save them, and that’s why some of them look fuzzy.  Another thing I did is not making many of them the maximum 934 pixel width.  Please remember, too, that caption information for each image can be found in the filename, which can be read by holding your cursor over the image.

We will start our morning obviously where we ended the previous evening: Heavener, Oklahoma.  I had stayed in the Green Country Inn, right across the highway from the KCS yard; it’s about the only decent hotel in town, and its existence depends on the presence of the railroad in the town, as it is the hotel that the railroad uses.  Out-of-town crews from Pittsburg, Kansas, where we’ll visit later today, and Shreveport, Louisiana, which we saw yesterday, stay there before working their way home on another train.

I can’t remember what I did for breakfast, but it surely wasn’t the Downtown Cafe, since I had learned the night before when I arrived that it had apparently closed since the last time that I was here, which was June 2008 when I was on my way to North Dakota.  I just forgot to mention yesterday that this was my first time to Rich Mountain in nearly four years, and that prior to that visit, I had come here every fall since the Shadow Warrior, who died 362 days after these pictures were taken, first introduced me to this area in February 2003.  Thank you, Shawn.  Seriously.  I have a debt of gratitude to you.

Anyway, I probably ate breakfast at the Sonic, which is right by the hotel, but now that I think about it, I seem to recall trying a doughnut place in town.

It’s hazy and humid this morning in Heavener.

Given how the previous day’s post ended, it seems that there is always plenty of activity at the mainline fuel racks.

Railroading is a ’round-the-clock affair, which is why even Americans who don’t have special skills and talents (even if they have college degrees) or intellect can still buy big houses, fill them with cheap merchandise, and keep water and electricity constantly flowing into them.  You can thank men like the one seen here for your lifestyle.

I’m not liking all of this haze, but I’m just happy to be here.

Hopefully, the fueler was too.

Chase Time!

A southbound loaded grain train left the yard.  Oh, it is on!  The thing to do here is to chase a southbound train up the Rich Mountain grade, and that’s what we do, but it’s not until we cross into Arkansas that it’s finally clear enough to photograph this train.

Three quarters of an hour after and more than a dozen miles east of the above shot at the fuel racks, we finally have a shot.  I can’t remember if it was The Shadow Warrior or The Arkansas Kid – or both of them – who are responsible for my habit of referring to this shot as “Casey’s Spot,” but, even after a four-year absence from this place, I still call it such.

It’s just like old times, except I’m the only foamer around here, but I somewhat like it that way, which is part of the reason I stopped attending the gatherings, the other reasons being that other activities, people, and desires began competing for my limited resources and attention.

Rich Mountain

Now I realize another reason why the gatherings are in the fall and the winter.  Not only is the weather often better, but so is the lighting.  I’ve become a much better cloudy day shooter in recent years, and you might remember that I had en epiphany about cloudy day photography on my February 2006 trip to this area, but I wasn’t blessed with cloudy skies today.

There wasn’t much that I could do other than set up on the outside of a curve near the crest of the hill, and while waiting for the train, I popped off this rather iconic view of what Rich Mountain means to me and perhaps to a few other people.

Yes, the Rich Mountain Country Store, with the KCS tracks in the foreground!  ‘Twas good to visit Steve again, but I didn’t notice until after I had left the absence of Chase, the wonderful dog that lived there.

Well, I’m all set up for a not-so-inspiring shot, and, wait, what’s this sound behind me?  Oh, damn!  Here comes a northbound train that my southbound is going to meet, and it looks like it’s getting here just a few seconds soon enough to jack my shot!

I guess that wasn’t so bad.  I mean, it is a photograph of a meet on Rich Mountain.  Let’s see what else we can do while we are here.

How’s that?  Here’s the DPU pusher.

I chased this thing further south to Acorn, then realized that a new radio tower jacks the shot, then set up for a wider shot at the crossing, only to get jacked by some motorist who insisted on hurrying up to wait at the crossing.

Fooey!  I’ve had enough of this, and I’ve gone south enough on a northbound trip as it is.  It was time to turn around and head back northward.  I can’t arrive too late at El Ranch Grumpo, but I can’t arrive it Pittsburg too early either.

The Mountain Itself

Now that we don’t have any trains to chase, we can stop to see the mountain itself, and we take the drive up the steep and windy road to the top of the mountain.  Once we get to the top of the mountain, there is a much less steep and windy road along its crest.

Trees on the top of the mountain are very short because of the wind and the fact that water can’t stay atop the mountain for very long.

I really wanted to photograph the road down the mountain, but it is winding, narrow, and steep, and stopping on it to take a photo is just asking for big trouble.  About all that I could do was get a shot in the straight parts near the bottom, and you can see the railroad crossing where we were earlier, with the country store hidden behind the trees at the left side of the road.

Going down that road, it’s best to put your vehicle in first gear.


I stop at Page, the location of a break in the Rich Mountain grade and therefore the location of the only siding on the hill, where I find our northbound empty grain train.

This is one of those places that looks better under clouds, and you can get the sky entirely out of the shot, as you see above, but that didn’t stop me from doing this:

While here, I need to get a few shots of the creek.

If you’re not impressed, please forgive my fascination with this scene, as I am from the deltaic plains of southern Louisiana, where all rocks and stones are imports.  Naturally cascading water over rocks, even relatively placidly, will probably always fascinate me.

I want to stay, but I am compelled to leave.

Heavener Again

Yes, it’s a cycle.  I’m back in Heanver on my way north, and now that the sun is really up, I’m going to get some more shots before proceeding northward.

Here’s the shop and the local and-or yard power again.

Let’s go around to the other end of the yard to see what’s happening there.

I guess that’s the same grain train that we saw earlier.

Hey, check out the former Chicago & Northwestern unit still in CNW paint working as the pusher on this coal train!

And check out this northbound H-train with the two grey SD70MACs – my favorite of the wide-nose units on the KCS roster – with a switcher in the Heritage paint scheme tucked in behind it.

You’ll see a similar scene later on today.

The View From Atop The Hill

I think that I introduced The Shadow Warrior to the Heavener Runestone State park when The Mid-City Marine and I came here in February 2007.

You’ve already seen that tank and that pasture from where those mobile homes are.

Here’s the yard and the Green Country Inn.

I recall that Shawn had not been to the top of the hill before, and I remember well the three of us taking pictures from up there that day in February 2007.  It’s still hard to believe that he’s gone, and it’s humbling.

Here’s a view of the diesel tanks.

I really love the view from up here, but everything including life is temporary, and it’s time to get down so that we can head north.

Can We Leave Town Already?

First, we take a look at the yard office.

I was quite fat – for my own standards – when I made this trip, and this self-portrait in a storefront shows it.

I hadn’t noticed until after I processed this picture that the vase is giving me the bird.  Nice.

Los Heaveñeros

There is a substantial population of Hispanics in Heavener, and judging by the signs, I guess they are mostly Mexican.

There are probably some of you who will look at the sign and think that it says something about Hispanic culture, but take a step back and realize that it’s just about human culture in general; it’s just a beer advertisement, no more stupid and no less stupid than the beer advertisements that you are accustomed to seeing in English, and, language aside, no different either.

Okay, now we’re really getting out of town.  I probably had lunch at Braum’s in Poteau.  Yes, I guess at least in that regard, I’m as predictable as I am pathetic.  Oh, well.


For those of you who need to take a break in the middle of this very long post, now would be a good time to walk away from the computer and pull the clothes out of the washer and put them into the dryer, make a salad, or do something like that.  Don’t forget to come back, though!

Northwestern Arkansas

Now is the part of the trip in which we really don’t mess around.  I really don’t remember anything after Poteau.  All I remember is that while driving, I did this:

I had to stop in Fayetteville to get fuel, and just in the brief time I was there, I saw plenty of young people on scooters.  So, I had to get a shot.

Heh, Chic-Fil-A, a few months before it became the center of a media-fomented outrage, and for good reason.

There’s some prosperity – or “development” – to this place, it seems.

I stopped in Springdale, and, yes, I did see and even photograph ALCos, but the lighting was terrible, and I had no time to jack around.  So, here is the headquarters of the Arkansas & Missouri Railroad.

Going through Springdale brought back some memories.

Obligatory Missouri Picture

Although not in the title of this post, I did go through southwestern Missouri to get from Heavener to Kansas, as is my custom.  The below image is otherwise not worth presenting, but it shows that I did take one DSLR picture in Missouri on the way north in addition to the cell-phone snap while driving that you might have seen.

Yes, that’s a southbound loaded KCS coal train through Joplin.

If you want more Missouri pictures, you’re out of luck for today, but there will be some more on the return southward.

Kansas, Pittsburg, That Is

It was my first time in Kansas since the roundhouse at Pittsburg, seen here in some of my June 2007 photos, had been demolished.

That’s the shortline train at the left, with the big units being DPUs that are added here to southbound trains and removed from northbound trains.

There’s a train moving in the foreground, doing some switching, and it appears to be a southbound.  Let’s head south to seek the head end.

Yes, we’re at the location of the former KCS passenger station, which, according to retired KCS marketing man and current Kansas City Southern Historical Society member Gerald Hook, was razed within weeks after the last passenger train ran here in late 1969, due to Kansas’s “onerous” tax laws, which at one time had prompted KCS to seek a routing that avoided the state of Kansas entirely.

Anyway, this is train QKCNL – Quality (high priority), Kansas City to Nuevo Laredo – stopped here to do some switching, I think to add DPUs.

Do you see the slab where the passenger depot once was?  That also looks like the remains of a passenger platform.  Check out some really old pictures of the area here.

I told you that you’d see a Heritage switcher tucked in behind grey SD70MACs again today!

Yeah, I didn’t like that truck trailer parked right there, so close to the track.

Damn, how many more pictures of the head end of this train at this location do we need?

Apparently, we need enough to get some locals walking by in the shot.

Well, that’s different.

Well, This Is Better

I should not have waited until I heard that the train was ready to depart before getting in position for my overhead departure shot.  What you see here required this then-fat boy to sprint up an overpass to the point of hyperventilation.

I hope that you like the results.  The below shot is perhaps my shot of the day.

Yes, sir, I like it, plenty.  Highly satisfied with the above image, I prepared to leave town, but I wanted to get one last shot of this train so that we could learn something about it.

This Photo Is For Educational Purposes Only

You are in no way expected to derive any pleasure from looking at the below photo, which I took near the hospital on the southern side of town.

I present this image only to show you that the DPU separates the carload parts of the train from the intermodal part, in this case, eleven wells, their destinations a mystery to me, but probably either Rosenberg or somewhere in Mexico, perhaps Nuevo Laredo.

The Home Stretch To El Rancho Grumpo

My photographic goals of the day now met, it’s time to set course for El Rancho Grumpo, where I’d be spending the night in anticipation of foaming with The Grumpster the next morning.

Now, things started to feel plainsy, as the roads were mostly along section lines, the skies were wide and blue, the air was cool and dry; ’twas an enjoyable drive indeed, I must say.

Yes, Toto, we are in Kansas now.

I did make a few brief stops for impromptu photography, the first being here at a plainsy cemetery at Lone Elm.

Here in Garnett is a southward view of what is now a bicycle trail but was once Santa Fe’s line from Kansas City to Tulsa.

I’m getting hungry, and I also don’t want to make the Grumpster wait, but since he’s a foamer, he understands the need to get shots before dark.  As I told you, I really love a Great Plains sky.

I guess there was some late-afternoon witch burning taking place to the west here.

That was good.  I stopped at the Subway in Ottawa to get some badly-needed food, texting Grumpy the whole time.

El Rancho Grumpo

Damn, that nilla has a nice house!  It was late when I got there, but I got to see the house, talk to Grumpy and The Sarge, and then crash in the nice guest bedroom.

Do you see my DeLorme Kansas map on the bed next the old camera and the 70-200mm/f2.8 lens?  I had better get some sleep.  The next morning, it would be early to rise to get trackside on the Transcon.

Wow, are you still reading this?  You made it this far through without giving up?  We’re done!  However, we have even more pictures tomorrow.  That’s what foaming on Toto’s Transcon with Grumpy will do.  Stay tuned, as there’s more to tomorrow than just the Transcon; you’ll see a few surprises.


{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Herbert Gamache March 31, 2013 at 07:07

This pictures presentation is excellent. I very much enjoyed looking through it. You must have spent a great deal of time on this subject.

Years ago (in the 1960’s) I took a KCS train from Kansas City to Mena.

Thank you


2 Tom Beckett April 16, 2013 at 16:47

I liked the set, as always. There’s an amazing amount of variety on the south end, or at least south of here, that we don’t see much on the Heavener Sub. Hardly ever see those end cab switchers. The SD70MAC’s, all the time, though the TFM painted units are dwindling. I also liked the Santa Fe overpass near Garnett. I continue to be amazed at how many rail lines crossed that area. You’d never know it to look now. ATSF, SLSF, MKT, to name some of the ones that are largely gone. There was once a lot of lead mining in the area, and coal mining to a lesser extent, which explains it. Now it’s mostly piles of tailings-ride through Picher OK some time, you’ll see. Something you should stop and see if you’re in the area and have a little time is Big Brutus, an electric shovel that was used to clear off overburden from coal seams. It’s near West Mineral, off K-102. Worth the visit for anyone interested in large industrial equipment.

The Bobby Hopper Tunnel!!! That stretch of I 540 always reminds me of the PA Turnpike Northeast Extension, around the Lehigh Tunnel. That stretch of highway was opened in 1998 from what is now exit 29 up to exit 60. Prior to that, you had to get off at x29 and take US 71, which was a real challenge-lot of up and down along with tight curves. My first trip was pulling a 53 foot trailer to Rogers at night in the rain. Lots of fun. Old 71 is now almost deserted, and has deteriorated a bit, with the pavement cracking, and in some places, the roadbed subsiding. It’s a pretty ride though!!

Fayetteville is a college town, U of A, hence the large number of young people. It’s a thriving place, and if you’re looking for some night life, Dickson Street is the place to go. Don’t know where you stopped for gas, but Springdale is usually better than Fayetteville. The Pilot in Springdale often has the cheapest gas in the area, right off I 540 x72.

The A&M, aside from running excursions, also has an interesting freight operation. The yard is north of the shop, just off Randall Wobbe Rd. There’s a crossing at the south end that where you can see the action, though parking is an issue. The road trains and locals are made up here. The Monett Turn to the BNSF at Monett MO is presently a day train, usually getting out around 0800, and gets 3-6 Alcos. There’s also a local that works down into Springdale and Fayetteville during the day, as well as an afternoon job that goes to Rogers.

Anyway, welcome to my corner of the world. Some time when you have time, you’ll have to stop by.


3 Ken Dehart February 24, 2015 at 11:02

Jimbaux – I stumbled across your pictures, while looking at photos of Heavener, OK…”My Hometown”. I was born in Poteau and grew up in Heavener until I moved on at the age of 20. I lived just a hop away from “The Shop”, KCS’s Diesel Garage, while me and my friends wandered our way all around the yard, as we grew. I love seeing all the pictures of your journeys through and around Heavener, as they bring me Home. KCS Lines are a part of my love and my life. If you ever get back through there, as an interesting tidbit, ask the locals about the “Oil Branch” – A Man Made Rock Creek of sorts, which begins near the shop’s oil changing pond, and travels & turns all the way through town. Fun times during heavy rains as a kid, floating down the old oil branch. Anyways, just my Two Cents….Keep up the good work and Godspeed. ~Ken D.


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