Tuesday, December 7, 2010

[Side Stories] The Disappearing Railroads of Hearne

This post was updated on March 16, 2012, originally named "Hearne: Strippin' The Tracks". Minimal edits were made.
Rebranded as a "Side Stories" on May 8, 2013. No other edits were made, except the promise of more "Hearne stories" was removed.

One of the fascinating things about Hearne in my lifetime is the way they outright got rid of several rails (I knew there used to be more when I was younger!)

Naturally, it was a railroad town, long since the glory days that ended long ago, when Southern Pacific loaded and unloaded cargo. Today trains stop here, but I'm sure that they get more graffiti plastered on them on Hearne than any cargo exchange. So what's changed, even long after 1990 and even the Union Pacific acquisition of SP?

Well, for one thing: it still has a lot of tracks, almost 12 in the downtown area. As you can see in these 2010 and 1995 images (which you can click for full resolution!), you can see that in the heart of downtown, there are so many tracks, there are no at-grade crossings.





But they did remove a lot of tracks between them in the late 1990s or early 2000s. The white part (in 2010) is where tracks were removed:





The most obvious part is the bridge you go over when you enter Hearne from the south. A railroad goes under it. If you kept following this track, becomes the "MoPac Highway" railroad in Austin. But prior to the early 2000s, it was a true triangle with the tracks leading into the distance (I recall it did look pretty neat). Look at the difference between these. One of the "arms" from the "MoPac Highway railroad" is completely gone. You can't go southeast anymore. This could be from the way the trains function nowadays, after all, there is Valley Junction to the west...




...and there's probably this change in Downtown Bryan as well. Here, you can see the 2003 and 2010 pictures.




The railroad splits from a single track further south, but it's the railroad that skews northeast that goes to Hearne.

Finally, Google Earth spies an interesting railyard that seems to have literally gone to junk.




Wow, they had a turntable! My six-year-old self would've loved to see to that...too bad it was never visible from Highway 6.