The RS&P success story was featured in a 1955 issue of Railway Age.
Chapter 4 – The Fifties and Beyond
Sales Force – The RS&P Traffic Agents
This significant increase in freight traffic throughout the fifties was
largely a result of a strategy instituted in 1948, the same year that Don
Wooten, grandson of H. O. Wooten, became the company’s President. He hired William L. Bailey, a former insurance
sale executive, as Executive Vice President, and Bailey, after assessing the
situation, began expanding the company’s sales force to cities all over the
W. L. Bailey
Up to this time, the company’s traffic agents had consisted of five men —three
in California, one in Texas and one in Pittsburgh —and the railroad’s bridge
traffic was primarily produce moving from west to east, i.e., from California
to the southern markets in Memphis and New Orleans. But Bailey added new sales staff and got them
established in cities all over the country—three in Los Angeles, three in San
Francisco, and one each in such cities as Fresno, Dallas, Pittsburgh, Atlanta,
Birmingham, Jacksonville, Chicago, Memphis, Charlotte, and New York, eighteen
in all. The result was not only a larger
number of shipments, but also a more balanced movement of traffic with as much
moving from east to west as west to east.
Each of these traffic representatives got shippers to use the RS&P in
moving goods to their respective destinations.
Known as general agents, these salesmen all received similar
compensation: their salaries, an annual bonus, and a nice company car. Their
assignments to a particular city were permanent so that they would be completely
familiar with their clients’ special needs.
But they were also encouraged to visit others’ territories as well as
the home base to become familiar with the workings of the railroad
everywhere. They were also encouraged to
become active citizens in their respective communities.
This system of getting business was unusual for short-line railroads, but
it worked well for both the company and the agents and was considered the key
to the railroad’s increased traffic and ongoing economic success.
In addition to expedited shipping, the RS&P also performed extra
services that benefited clients and were good for business. Part of the arrangement with shippers and
receivers was a reporting service that kept them informed of the condition and
movement of all their cars, both full and empty, handled by the RS&P. These timely communications were unusual for
those days and much appreciated by the clients.
The RS&P also offered an inspection service on all tank cars,
whether empty or loaded, and on several occasions this service prevented claims
against the RS&P or the shippers.
into Railcar Leasing and Repair
In 1960 the company began buying and leasing tank cars, initially to
DiGiorgio Wines of California. That
year, it acquired nine tank cars as well as several boxcars, which it also leased
to shippers. Business was good and within
two years, the number had grown to 31 tank cars and 22 boxcars, so a separate
operation, the RS&P Car Company, was created to handle the new business.
Repair, cleaning, and renovation of these cars were done in the old steam
engine repair shop in Roscoe. When the
company switched from steam locomotives to diesel in the late forties and early
fifties, its engine repair needs changed drastically. The old steam engines were in constant need
of repair and overhaul, and the repair shop employed nine men just to service
them. The diesel engines, however,
seldom needed work, so the shop was available for railcar needs, and without
too much trouble the company converted it to a railcar repair facility.
These changes were taking place while other, larger railroads were
downsizing because of overhead costs and changing conditions, and the RS&P
took advantage of others’ cutbacks by hiring several skilled workers that other
companies let go. Within
a short time, the company found that it could not only keep its own railcars in
good working order but could also do repair and maintenance work for other
railroads and car companies, and the operation was expanded and more workers
heat-controlled plastic lining they did for wine cars was also made available
for other purposes. In addition, they
did interior linings for boxcars, pressure tested and steam cleaned tanks, repaired
air brakes and other running gear, painted, and rebuilt wrecked cars. They had a separate air brake room as well as
a shed for sandblasting.
Before long, the
facility was also building custom cars for special needs, and in 1964 they
patented and began producing a kind of flatcar they sold to lumber companies as
fast as they could build them. By 1966
the number of shop workers had increased to 65, and in early 1967 the RS&P
Rail Equipment Company was organized and split off from the RS&P
Railway. W. L. Bailey was President of
the Railway and Ed Stafford the Vice President, but Stafford was made President
of the Rail Equipment Co. and Bailey the Vice President with B. B. “Bear” Slone
the General Manager. So, along with the
RS&P Car Company, there were now three separate companies in the overall
operation with Don Wooten the Chairman of the Board for all three.
Two of the many wine cars owned by the RS&P.
Sale of the RS&P to Roger Mize
and the Murchison Brothers
In September 1967,
the Wooten family sold its controlling interest in the RS&P to Roger Mize,
President of the Snyder National Bank, and the Murchison Brothers of Dallas—one
of whom, Clint, also owned the Dallas Cowboys football team. The price was reported to be “in excess of $1
million.” No immediate change was made
in personnel or the operation of the company, however, as Don Wooten remained
Chairman of the Board, and W. L. Bailey and Ed Stafford also retained their
positions. Mize was added to the Board
of Directors along with P. K. Lutken, Jr., an associate of the Murchisons.
By the time of the
sale, the Wooten family had owned controlling interest and direction of the
company for three generations. H. O.
Wooten was Vice President from 1912 to 1933 and President from 1933 until his
death in 1947. His son, Sterling Wooten,
succeeded him as President but was killed in a plane crash after serving for
only a year. Then, H. O. Wooten’s
grandson Don succeeded Sterling and, when he did, was one of the youngest
Presidents of a major company in the country.
He served in that position until August 1957, when he became Chairman of
the Board and W. L. Bailey was made the company President.
The RS&P and the Bicentennial
Celebration of 1976
The RS&P celebrated
the nation’s 200th anniversary in a unique and memorable way. It leased three renovated vintage passenger
cars from the Trinity Valley Railroad Club, and the Santa Fe railway
transported them free of charge to and from the Texas Railroad Museum at
Weatherford. Then on Saturday, July 3,
they were used to carry passengers from Roscoe to Inadale and back, and on
Sunday, July 4, they started from Snyder and went to Hermleigh and back. The trains were operated by the regular
RS&P crew, and the sponsoring organizations were the Snyder Chamber of
Commerce and the Roscoe Lions Club and Jaycees.
Tickets were $3,
and the rides were packed with both adults and children, many of whom were
riding in a train for the first time. A
feature event of the rides from both Roscoe and Snyder was an armed train
robbery by outlaws on horseback, who held up the trains with guns blazing (with
blanks), much to the delight of all on board.
End of the Line
continued to thrive throughout the 1970’s.
In 1972, it had 641 freight cars, either owned or leased, and two
modern diesel locomotives, both built in 1970.
The net income for the year was $516,679. In the late seventies, the
RS&P brought in between $1 million and $1.6 million a year before taxes.
However, deregulation of the railroads following the passage of the
Staggers Act in 1980 made it impossible for the company to continue to compete. The major lines began
offering sizable discounts that the RS&P could not match. These changes resulted in significant losses
for the RS&P and, finally, the closing of the railroad. The last regular freight run was made June 13,
Roger Mize, Chairman of the Board, said that in the end it was costing
the company $104 to ship $100 worth of freight.
The railroad lost $850,000 in its last eight months of full operation,
and in the spring of 1983, the decision was made to close it down. In 1984 the line from Roscoe to Snyder was
abandoned and shortly thereafter was picked up and sold. The RS&P Rail Equipment Company was sold
to National Railcar, which later sold out to Eagle Railcar Services, which
still operates in Roscoe.
The only track that remains is the interchange with the Union Pacific
main line and the approximately one and a half miles of industrial track owned
and used by Eagle Railcar Services.
It has now been over a quarter of a century since the Roscoe, Snyder
& Pacific Railway ceased to exist, but it has left an indelible mark on the
history of the area and is still remembered with fondness by all who were
once associated with it. A short line
that remained independent and successful, it hung with the big boys for over 76
years and made its contributions both locally and nationally.
On the local level, it was a major player in the settlement, growth, and prosperity of the Roscoe
and Snyder area and, throughout its history, provided employment to local
workers. Many young people got their
first jobs with the railroad, and many remained to become lifelong
employees. Moreover, the large annual
payroll, in good years and bad, always meant a steady flow of money through the
area, and the company’s officers constituted a class of
citizens who took the lead in community activities.
On the national level, the RS&P contributed to the war
efforts of both World War I and World War II and successfully operated
throughout the depression. And, for over three-quarters of a century, it was
instrumental in the efficient and timely transport of goods and produce between the west
coast and the south. © 2012 Edwin Duncan