Search this site

History of the RS&P 4

Railway Age Cover, August 1955
The RS&P success story was featured in a 1955 issue of Railway Age.

Chapter 4 – The Fifties and Beyond

A National 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 country.   

Don WootenDon Wooten
W. L. "Bill" Bailey
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.

Expansion 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 hired.

The 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.



DiGiorgio Wine Cars
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

The railroad 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, 1984. 

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.  

Afterword

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
Comments