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ABILENE & SOUTHERN

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ABILENE & SOUTHERN RAILWAY
A Texas & Pacific Subsidiary
by
Jay Glenewinkel

 

Colonel Morgan Jones
Colonel Morgan Jones played a major role in the promotion, development and construction of over 800 miles of rail lines in the North Central and Panhandle regions of Texas.

Morgan Jones was born in Wales, England in1839. By the age of nineteen, he was working as part of a construction crew for the Cambrian Railway in South Wales. Jones soon became unsatisfied with the limited oppurtunities his position held, and migrated to the United States, arriving in New York in 1866.

Upon arriving in New York, Jones met General Grenville Dodge, a chief engineer for the Union Pacific Railroad. Construction of the Eastern section of the new transcontinental railroad was underway, and Morgan was offered a job by General Dodge with the Union Pacific as foreman on one of the construction crews. It was during this time that Morgan Jones and Grenville Dodge would become life long friends.

A little over three years after Jones arrived in the United States, he witnessed the driving of the golden spike at Promintory, Utah. It was the skills he learned working for the Union Pacific that would benefit him substantially for the remainder of his railroad building career.

After leaving the Union Pacific, Morgan went on to work on yet another transcontinental railroad in the Southern half of the United States, under John C. Freemont. Jones had recieved a contract from Freemont to build a line from Texarkana to Jefferson, Texas. It wasn't very long, and the Southern Transcontinental Railroad soon failed. However, Morgan managed to keep his crew together and would move on to other projects.

In 1871, the Southern Transcontinetal Railroad was acquired by the newly formed Texas and Pacific Railroad Company. General Greenville Dodge became Chief Engineer of the T&P and awarded Jones a new contract. (See Notes 1) Overcoming considerable odds, including the financial panic of 1873, rails were laid and the Texas and Pacific reached Dallas, Texas in 1874. After this project, Jones took a short break from railroad construction to pursue other ventures.

A couple years later, Morgan returned to Texas and constructed the final stretch of the T&P from Eagle Ford to Fort Worth, Texas. This 16 miles stretxh of track was built in only a few short weeks, and gained him the reputation as one of the most resepcted railroad builders in Texas. Had Jones not completed this section of line by the end of the 1876 session of the Texas Legislature, the Texas and Pacific would have had its Texas charter revoked. It was by this heroic effort from Jones, that kept the Texas and Pacific alive.

Jones would continue to construct numerous rail lines in Texas, including portions of what are now a part of the Burlington Northern Santa Fe. On February 8, 1906, the City of Abilene, Texas chartered the Abilene & Northern Railway and offered Morgan Jones a $40,000 bonus if the line from Stamford to Abilene was built in a timely manner. Facing unseasonable weather and heavy rains, witht he help of his nephew, Percy Jones, they managed to compete the project in time. Jones would then go on to begin construction on the shortline he called "The Best Little Railroad I Ever Built"- The Abilene & Southern Railway Company.

 

The Abilene & Southern
While Morgan Jones was working on the Abilene & Northern, efforts began on the planning of building a line South of Abilene through Winters on to Ballinger, Texas. On May 22, 1907, residents of Abilene, Winters and Ballinger met with the builders of the Abilene and Northern to encourage them to build aline South from Abilene.

The financial panic of 1907 prevented the Colorado & Southern from backing the proposal, so it was up to Morgan Jones and Grenville Dodge to use their own personal finances to complete the A&N line. The C&S later, finally purchased the A&N and considered extending through Abilene through Southwest, Texas to Uvalde to connect with the Southern Pacific. (See Notes 2) ΚΚΚΚ In mid-1908, Morgan Jones met with the citizens of Abilene and proposed to construct a line south to Ballinger, to connect with the Gulf Coast and Santa Fe Railway. In the proposal, Jones included establishing shops and offices in Abilene, if the community would raise the neccessary funding to secure the new railroad. Morgans' proposal was accepted in September 1908, but problems arose in obtaining the $40,000 needed for start up. However, Jones was willing to use his own money to build the line if the communities of Abilene, Winters and Ballinger would provide the right-of-way, land for depots and shops, and come up with a significant cash bonus for his efforts. While these negotiations were taking place, Percy Jones (Morgans' Nephew) was out with survey crews to determine the route for the A&S. In October 1908, contracts were signed and right-of-way was secured soon thereafter.

For a short time, there was some confusion on the name of the railroad. Folks in Ballinger called it the "Ballinger and Abilene Railroad" while people in Abilene named it the "Abilene & Southern". But after a few short months of delay in obtaining additional finances for construction, the first rail was laid for the "ABILENE & SOUTHERN RAILWAY" along 2nd Street on January 6, 1909. Oddly enough, construction had begun on the new line eight days before the line was officially incorporated on January 13, 1909. Offices and Headquarters were to be in Abilene as well as the new permanent home for Morgan Jones.

On January 9, 1909, the first 2 locomotives arrived for the A&S. Engine #10 was a 4-4-0 Type and Engine #11 was a 2-6-0 Type built by Baldwin in the late 1800s. These two locomotives, along with some other rail equipment were used to assist in building of the line from Abilene southward. Grading crews worked worked diligently about 1 mile ahead f the track gang. A second grading crew worked northward from Ballinger and met up with the first crew just south of Winters.

Despite heavy rains, the Abilene & Southern crews worked in haste. By July 1909, track construction had reached Winters, Texas. On July 22, 1909, a large crowd was on hand to witness the first official train into Winters. By September 1909, construction of the Abilene & Southern had been completed. The first train from Abilene to Ballinger operated on September 10, 1909.

After Morgan Jones completed the line to Ballinger, he explored other possibilities. Percy Jones headed northwest with a survey crew in June 1910. The same grading crew that worked on the section from Ballinger northward, began work in Anson northwest to Hamlin. Under the direction of Colonel Morgan Jones, tracks were laid and construction of the line between Anson and Hamlin was completed on September 30, 1910.

Passing siding, depots, and stations were constructed throughout the entire A&S system. Abilene & Southern trains shared track with the Wichita Valley Railroad between Abilene northward to Anson. Primary commodities shipped on the A&S were grain, cotton and other agricultural products. The Abilene & Southern extension to Hamlin was the very last line Morgan would ever build. Colonel Morgan Jones died in 1926.

In 1918, the United States Railroad Administration took over complete control of the Abilene and Southern. Every department of operations was transfered over to the Wichita Valley Railroad, with the headquarters and shops being closed and moved to the WV in Stamford. The Texas & Pacific handled all of the local business for both the A&S and the WV.

In 1927, the Texas & Pacific purchased controlling interest of the Abilene & Southern. However, the T&P operated the A&S as a successful and independent carrier well into the modern era.

In 1937, the Texas & Pacific filed an application with the Interstate Commerce Commision (ICC) to abandon the 17.4 mile stretch of track between Anson and Hamlin. On February 8, 1937 the application was approved and the tracks were removed.

In 1969, the Missouri Pacific took over operations of the Texas & Pacific, but continued to run regular service between Abilene and Ballinger. Grain and Cotton remained the most significant commodities shipped on this line.

In 1972, the Missouri Pacific abandoned the 16 miles of line between Winters and Ballinger. The rails on this portion of the line were removed.

In 1989, Union Pacific sold the rights of the line between Abilene and Winters. All properties including right-of-way, ties, rails and buildings to the Abilene and Southern Railway properties Inc. in Winters, Texas. The depot in Winters was torn down and all rails were removed.

Today, only 7 miles of the original 76 mile Abilene & Southern remains in service. Union Pacific operates this line as an industrial spur. The Southwest Switching Service operates about 6 miles between Abilene and the Pride Oil Refinery. All other shortlines built by Colonel Morgan Jones have been removed.


Texas & Pacific and the Abilene Southern

Note: These images are copyrighted and may not be copied or reproduced without the express consent of the copyright holder.

 



 




Abilene & Southern Engine 10, pulls the very first train into Winters, Texas in 1910
Photo Courtesy Z.I. Hale Museum, Winters, TX..used with permission






A&S Engine #18 is at the Abilene Roundhouse preparing for a trip to Ballinger, TX, 1914
Photo courtesy Walter Robbins collection, Abilene Christian University..used with permission







A&S Engine #20 makes a stop for water in Winters, Texas in the 1920s.
Photo courtesy Joe Dale Morris Collection..used with permission








Colonel Morgan Jones (right) Poses with crew next to A&S engine 14 in Ballinger, TX
Photo Courtesy Morgan C. Jones Family Collection...used with permission






A&S Engine 17 is at the South end of Abilene Yard in the 1920s
Photo Courtesy R.H Carlson Collection..used with permission






A&S 2-8-2 #20 waits for service in the south yards in Abilene, Texas
Photo courtesy DeGolyer Library, Southern Methodist Univ. Dallas, TX used with permission









Mo-Pac GP38 #2008 switches out cars on the Abilene & Southern SUB in 1977
Photo courtesy Joe Dale Morris Collection.. used with permission

 

 


Resources:
Institute of Texan Culture

Winters Texas Museum

Journal of Texas Shortlines

Personal Resources

For more Detailed Information on the Abilene & Southern or Colonel Morgan Jones, I Highly Reccomend the Journal of Texas Shortlines Magazine.

 

Notes:
1. General Grenville Dodge was instrumental in constructing numerous major rail lines in Texas. By 1908, Dodge was in charge of the forces that built the Texas & Pacific, International & Great Northern and the Colorado & Southern through Texas.

2. The Colorado & Southern never did build the line from Abilene to Uvalde. The Gulf Coast & Santa Fe (Santa Fe) did build a line from Fort Worth through Ballinger to Presidio, Texas on the Texas Mexico border. This line remains in service as the South Orient Railway.


A personal note from the author:
My Great Grandfather and Great Grandmother were residents on a large, prosperous farm in Winters, Texas. Though only a child at the time, my Great Grandmother, Vida Meek was alive and around in Winters, Texas during this period of time. My Great Great Grandfather, Mr. Tinkle, was among the head of the community leaders that rallied to have the A&S line built through Winters. He was among one of the very first people to own a motorized car in Winters, and at times would rent out his services to Mr. Morgan Jones. In addition, a few other relatives actually assisted in the grading and construction of the line between Winters and Ballinger. In a round about way, I have direct blood ties to the Abilene & Southern. Even today, I have a cousin who is employed with the Union Pacific in Abilene. This is the reason this story is so personal to me.

 
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