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Growing up in New Orleans, LA I had very little first-hand exposure to the Santa Fe. For me the Santa Fe was an exotic railroad, almost mythical, that I only saw in books, magazines, and videos. As I got older I would plan extensive trips to see the Santa Fe at various locations. Often these trips included time at a Santa Fe Modelers Organization convention. For many years, the Santa Fe did live up to its reputation of excellence for me.
At some point I discovered Silsbee, TX. This town could actually be driven to from New Orleans in a single day. Traveling through the south Louisiana swamp and west Louisiana pines that melded with the east Texas pine forest yielded Silsbee! This town was a little Santa Fe oasis that was within reach.
Silsbee was a small-yet-busy terminal with a locomotive facility and a small yard. From Silsbee, the railroad radiated out in all directions: Westward to Conroe, TX and connection with the rest of the Santa Fe, Northward to Longview, Texas, Southward to Beaumont, TX and...most importantly...Eastward to DeRidder, Louisiana. Yes, the Santa Fe did have rails in Louisiana. Not plentiful and seldom photographed, Santa Fe trains entering Louisiana to serve Boise Cascade were launched from Silsbee.
Steve Patterson has enjoyed a diverse career with the Santa Fe which landed him in this forgotten corner of the Santa Fe empire around 1969. He supervised 44 open agencies on ATSF’s Southern Division (everything south of Cleburne). During his tenure the Santa Fe began to close little-used or redundant agencies. I was forwarded some of his images from the area and reached out to him with a request to host some of them here. Mr. Patterson graciously agreed and shared the images on the above slideshow!
This piece of railroad is relevant here as I have penned the entire Silsbee network into my proto-freelanced Texas & Great Northern Railroad. It is a wonderful fit!
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