|A Frisco semaphore signal guards the line from Tulsa to Oklahoma City.
|Frisco 446 West waits for a fresh crew on a siding northeast of Tulsa -- June 1974.
|Train No. 3210 is arriving in Oklahoma City at sundown -- July 1973. The train has just come underneath the AT&SF mainline and is crossing the North Canadian River, little more than a trickle in the summer heat and drought.
The Frisco was like an English composition teacher, taken for granted and unloved, unnoticed by most, but performing an important service that only now, with the passage of many years, takes on proper perspective. Since I once taught composition, I know how the Frisco felt and hereafter present images of the Frisco in Oklahoma from the 1970’s through the early 1980’s – after the Frisco was absorbed by Burlington Northern. Some of these photographs post-date the acquisition, but all involve trains led by Frisco power. A previous post covers the Avard Subdivision in northern Oklahoma, including the years under Frisco control, so this post will concentrate on the Frisco line from Tulsa through Oklahoma City and Lawton, plus the route south of Sapulpa across Lake Texhoma to Texas.
|An eastbound merchandise freight crosses the Verdigris River near the Port of Catoosa in March 1980.
|A westbound freight is crossing the same bridge on the same day.
Below: A pair of SD-45s, led by Frisco 545 East, approach the Verdigris River bridge.
|In June 1982, after the BN acquisition, re-numbered 2115 crosses under Oklahoma State Highway 66 -- originally the famous U.S. 66 -- just west of Sapulpa, Oklahoma.
|I followed this train all the way to Oklahoma City. Here it is passing through Stroud, Oklahoma.
|Same train in Chandler, Oklahoma.
|Same train approaching Jones, Oklahoma.
|Train 537 is approaching Welston, Oklahoma, on its way from Tulsa to Oklahoma City.
|At Sapulpa, Oklahoma, Frisco 415 South (headed to Texas) meets Frisco 835 (headed to Tulsa from Texas) -- February 1977. Tulsa to Sapulpa was CTC and the only section of Frisco double-track in Oklahoma.
|Same 415 South approaches Beggs, Oklahoma, on the Texas line.
|Frisco 437 West (Train 537) approaches Jones, Oklahoma, on its way to Oklahoma City.
|Westbound QLA races through the Cross Timbers as it approaches Oklahoma City -- July 1971.
Tulsa to Oklahoma City and Beyond
In 1971 and 1972, the Tulsa-Oklahoma City line saw about eight trains per day, including the westbound QLA and QSF (Memphis-California transcontinental run-throughs handed to the Santa Fe) and trains 537 and 539. Eastbounds included trains 30 and CTB (another transcontinental run-through), an “extra” that left Oklahoma City in the late afternoon, and 3312, a local that originated there.
There were fewer trains west of Oklahoma City. Four freights ran with regularity -- QLA, QSF, CTB and eastbound 3210. It was not unusual for 3210, a long-distance local, to take a siding to meet at least one of the transcons somewhere between Oklahoma City and Chickasha – where the railroad employed an operator to handle train orders, which he gave to each passing train crew by “hooping” them up on poles.
The Tulsa-Oklahoma City line passed through an area of Oklahoma called the “Cross Timbers” – oak-forested, red-clay and sandstone hill country running north to south from roughly the Kansas border to Forth Worth. The saying was that you “can’t plant cotton with a shotgun” in that country, and to this day the area is highlighted by long stretches of oak trees populated by deer, coyotes, armadillos and wild turkeys. I live in this forest and fairly frequently see bobcats in my back yard. Cougars have been spotted in the woods near Chandler.
|Frisco 707 West is passing a semaphore signal just west of Stroud, Oklahoma.
|Frisco engines are resting in Tulsa's Cherokee Yard -- September 1971.
|A Frisco mixed freight approaches Tulsa's Cherokee Yard -- August 1974.
|The same train enters Cherokee Yard.
|Frisco 415 West, this time on a Tulsa to Oklahoma City train, approaches Spencer, Oklahoma.
Below: The same train is passing several uninterested cows.
Below: The same train rolls through Luther, Oklahoma.
|Train 539 races between Sapulpa and Bristow, Oklahoma -- January 1975.
|In February 1981, after the BN acquisition, Frisco 754 (not yet re-lettered or re-numbered) approaches Luther, Oklahoma, on the Tulsa-Oklahoma City line.
|In February 1975, the same Frisco 754 is leading southbound trailers on the Texas line.
Today, WATCO’s Stillwater Central Railroad operates the Tulsa – Quanah, Texas line, but traffic density is far less than in Frisco days. Only three trains per week run between Oklahoma City and Quanah. In the early 21st century, BNSF ran some of its Tulsa-Oklahoma City trains via the old Frisco route, but poor Stillwater Central track and a general traffic decline due to the 2008-2009 recession caused the reroutes to end.
|Frisco 902 leads Train 539 on the Tulsa-Oklahoma City line. To the right of the lead unit is a train indicator.
|A local freight from Lakeside Junction begins its compass west journey (railroad north) at Frisco's Lake Texhoma bridge -- February 1975.
|Frisco Trailers on the Texas Line south of Sapulpa.
|The same train rolls beside a rock quarry south of Ada, Oklahoma.
|A northbound mixed freight leaves the siding at Weleetka, Oklahoma -- May 1980.
|Frisco 956 North is Approaching Holdenville, Oklahoma, on the Texas line.
|Here is another northbound on the Texas line.
Another Frisco branch line running east from Madill to Durant, then further east into the logging country of southeastern Oklahoma and southwestern Arkansas, also was re-routed. The tracks east of Madill were abandoned, and a new junction, called Lakeside, was created about one mile east of the location of the new bridge. Tracks from Lakeside were then constructed northeast where they tied into the original branch line at the small settlement of Mead.
The Frisco’s Lake Texhoma Bridge was the longest in Oklahoma (still is), approachable only on foot through rugged, forested hills. The best shots are from the southeast in winter when the sun is low in the southern sky. Southbound trains (compass east) present the best images and can be heard for miles before appearing on the bridge. The first time I made the hike in 1975, I took with me two ham sandwiches, a bag of chips and a canteen of water. I was met at the lakeside by a sad black dog, who looked as though he did not belong to anyone and had not eaten in days. His coat was covered with small, open sores; his eyes had a blue cast, as though he might have cataracts. I felt so sorry for him that I gave him one of my sandwiches and a few chips. He stayed with me the rest of the day as I photographed trains, then followed me back to my vehicle. I’ve never seen a more forlorn look on a living creature’s face than when I drove away without him.
|A northbound (compass west) manifest has begun crossing the Lake Texhoma bridge. From this location, I fed the stray dog one of my sandwiches.
|The same train is now across open water. The stray dog is still chewing.
|A southbound manifest (compass east) is leaving the earthen portion of the bridge and crossing the open waters of Lake Texhoma.
|The same train approaches land as two fishermen watch from the water below.
|Frisco 911 North rolls across the Red River bridge.
Now I’m an old man. The Frisco and my youth are gone. I still walk along railroad tracks and throw rocks at anthills. I still feed stray dogs. At least a few things haven’t changed.
|After the BN acquisition, re-numbered 5795 South hauls a loaded grain train into the sunset on its way to Texas.
|The sun sets on the Saint Louis and San Francisco.
To see my other posts, go to waltersrail.com.
To see my photographs on Flickr, go to https://www.flickr.com/photos/jpwalters/.