has been said that in 1950, 95% of the towns served by railroads in Iowa had a
stockyard. On the 84 mile Howard Branch in Kansas, there were 13 stations; all
had stockyards maintained by the railroad. Two of those did not rate a depot.
The Santa Fe designed standard stockyard plans that can be obtained from the System
Standards book or the stock car book listed in the resources.
the branch lines, these pens were where cattle would be assembled before shipping
to market, or, if in a feeding area, where cattle would arrive before being transferred
to fields for fattening. The Flint Hills region of Kansas was a popular place
to fatten cattle. Very few cattle shipments were of indigenous cattle.
were several types of pens in stockyards. Holding pens were large fenced areas
where stock from one shipper could be brought to await shipment. There could be
several thousand head in one holding pen. The smaller pens were used to segregate
individual car or shipper loads while being fed in route. Hog pens were usually
roofed as swine are sensitive to sunlight and heat. Many sheep pens were also
roofed. At major feeding stations, pens often had concrete floors to expedite
cleaning and control disease.
On the Santa Fe, stockyards
were measured in terms of car capacity and pens. For instance, Utopia, KS, had
a 14 car capacity stockyard with 7 pens, and a pump. There was no depot here.
This means that the stockyard could hold the number of cattle required to fill
14 cars (around 650), and that there were 7 pens available to allow cattle of
various kinds or from various shippers to be segregated. The pump was for watering
the cattle. Other amenities one might find at other locals included weight scales,
electric lights, sheep shearing, hay and feed barns, and special unloading chutes.
Either the railroad or the shipper could be called
upon to provide feed for the animals. The Santa Fe regularly shipped hay in the
largest boxcars available. In the early 70s, 86' auto parts cars were occasionally
used for hay shipments. Sand and/or straw for bedding must also be provided.
stockyards, most of which were used seasonally, had insufficient water for the
brief stay of a large herd. The railroad might be called upon to park a company
water tanker at the yard when it was occupied. These frequently were 12,500 gallon
The First Quarter 1989 issue of Santa
Fe Modeler contained an article on building a Santa Fe Standard No. 1 stock
pen on pages 12-17. Bill Van der Meer used the jig described in the article to
build the beautiful model of a Standard No. 2 stock pen which is shown in the
February 2003, pgs. 64-65, issue of Model Railroader.
The Santa Fe standards called for
the loading chute to stand 6'6" from the centerline of the stock track. The
exception was in Texas, where state law demanded 8'6" clearance for the protection
Retired ATSF conductor, Gordon Locke,
tells this story: "Back in the late 50's and during the 60's I worked lots
of trains that either picked up or loaded cattle and sheep on the Lampasas and
San Saba Districts. Mostly what we hauled were calves going to feedlots or to
summer pastures in Colorado. On train 53-54 the Lometa to Eden Local most of the
agents along the line would already have 5 or 6 cars loaded before we arrived.
Some would pinch them down and some pulled the cars with chains and tractors or
pickups. There always was a cowman sitting on the rail as they were loaded counting
heads. Seems like 38 to 40 calves were loaded."
"The Santa Fe had a man contracted
to load. I remember an old Plymouth coupe. He mostly loaded sheep. He had a Judas
Goat. The goat would run in a car with the sheep following. The man would whistle
and the goat would run out of the car over the backs of the sheep. That goat chewed
tobacco like a cowboy and sat in the front seat of the Plymouth."
"The best cattle
trains I worked were in the spring. Owens Brothers Ranches at San Saba,TX, had
their own loading chute . We would run a caboose hop out of Temple at 0400; pick
up 60 stock cars at Lometa and run to San Saba; load 60 cars of yearlings, eat
lots of BBQ, and take the train to Brownwood in 16 hours. Owens always ran several
trainloads of yearlings to Colorado every spring. In later years the agents and
cowboys figured how to back trucks up to the cars on the stock tracks and load
them like that. The mainline trains like TSF every afternoon and the West Local
usually just picked up cars that were already loaded."
K. Spencer also has some livestock stories from Lamar,
CO, on this website.
by J. Stephen Sandifer