Winding Stair Mountain Profile: June 30, 1909

Discussion in 'Arthur Subdivision' started by Karl, Jul 21, 2007.

  1. Karl

    Karl 2008 Engineer of the Year Supporter


    Attached Files:

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  2. Karl

    Karl 2008 Engineer of the Year Supporter

    Winding Stair Mountain impeded the Frisco’s original line to Texas with a short but steep climb. In terms of absolute elevation , the Frisco crested the ridge at 944.8 feet above sea level, but the approaches on either side were short, which necessitated steep grades. For a very brief stretch around MP 477.5, the grade achieved a maximum of 3%. Otherwise the rate of climb bounced between 1.5% and 2.3%. Joe Collias devotes 3 pages of his book to this section of the Frisco with several outstanding shots taken by Preston George.

    The profile serves as a sort of Rosetta Stone, and gives the relationship between mile post and survey station number. In several places, there are “Long Stations” that exceed the typical 100 feet.

    Three flood events are noted on the profile. The high water level is shown around MP 484 that occurred 8/18/15. The area around MP 474 went underwater during December 1927, and again during May 1929.

    Attached Files:

    Last edited: Oct 14, 2015
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  3. Karl

    Karl 2008 Engineer of the Year Supporter

    During Sunday, October 11, Jeff Cooney and I made a quick detour to the Winding Stair Mountains to explore the remnants of the Arthur Subdivision grade over the Winding Stair Mountains.

    The Winding Stair Mountains impeded the Frisco’s original line to Texas, and to get up, over, and down the 1400’ (above MSL) mountains in the relatively short span of ten miles, MP 474.2 and MP 484.2, steep grades were required. The Frisco used a pass, which was located between Gobblers Knob and Round Top to obtain a lower crossing, 944.8’ (above MSL) over the mountains.


    Even with the lower elevation at the summit, the southbound grades bounced between 1.5% and 2.3%, and during a very brief stretch around MP477.5 the grade reached its maximum of 3%. The northbound grades were less severe but still ranged between 0.9% and 2.67%. At the summit, Compton (MP 478.9), the line passed through a 1400’ long cut through the Johns Valley Formation (shale) that at its maximum reached about 40’ in depth.

    Joe Collias devotes 3 pages of his book, Frisco Power, to this section of the Frisco with several outstanding shots taken by Preston George. Jeff wanted to visit the sites depicted in Collias’s book. Jeff conducted a satellite recon, and determined that we could drive to Lamberson. Jeff’s research was spot on, and the drive to Lamberson was made easily by a rental car. We went around three abandoned bridges, and we made the drive through the ravine sections without difficulty. We could not get past bridge 480.1, where the road ended. We were able to drive from MP476.5 to 480.1 Given the ad hoc nature of our expedition, we went no further. We will have to return another day to explore the southern approach. That trip will be afoot.

    Bridge 477.4: Deck Plate Girder-double (DPG); 1 Span, 54’ long, max height 23’; erected 1930; Rock Creek

    Heading south(RR) at about MP 478.1-2 The grade is about 1.8% at this location.

    Bridge 479.3: Ballast Deck Pile Trestle (BDPT); 4 Panels; 5 Bents, 6 piles each; driven 1935; 10-ply chords; max height 15’; total length 53’.
    Bridge 479.4: Deck Plate Girder-double (DPG) ; 1 Span, 54’ long, max height 27’; erected 1930; Rock Creek. The north abutment.
    bridge 479_4_ii_dec.jpg
    Bridge 479.4: Deck Plate Girder-double (DPG) ; 1 Span, 54’ long, max height 27’; erected 1930; Rock Creek. The south abutment. jeff_compton_northward.jpg
    Compton, OK; MP 478.9: Jeff Cooney Photo. This is at the top of the hill, and the view is looking to the north (RR). The cut through the Johns Valley Formation can be seen. The Winding Stair Mountains are the result of intense folding, and the shale bedding planes are vertical. Compton was a blind station with a single passing track. At the turn of the last century the ETT's showed a capacity of 30 car lengths. By the late 1930's, the capacity was listed at 28 car lengths. No doubt, the adjustment was caused by an increase in the length of a "car length." A late 1950's ETT lists the capacity at 20 car lengths.


    Compton, OK; MP 478.9: The view is to the south (RR). The shale cut is still evident on the left side of the photo. The passing track was on the west (RR) side of the main line. A telephone was located at Compton, so that the crews could communicate with the dispatcher. The 1957 ETT shows that 704 and 737 had a scheduled meet here. Given that 737 was the tri-weekly Arthur Sub local, I doubt that the meet at the summit took place here very often.

    To be continued...
    Last edited: Oct 14, 2015
  4. paul slavens

    paul slavens Member

    Looks like a fun trip to me. Do you happen to know the page numbers in Joes book that show this area? thanks !...........EDIT I found them , this sis so much fun, great post !
    Last edited: Oct 14, 2015
  5. Karl

    Karl 2008 Engineer of the Year Supporter

    Continued from previous...
    Lamberson, OK; MP 480.0 The view is to the south (RR). There was insufficient space for a wye at Compton, so one was built just about a mile below the summit. The mainline curves to the right, and the north leg of the wye diverges to the left. Compare this view with Preston George's photo, which may be found on page 34 of Collias's Frisco Power.


    Preston George's photo of Lamberson depicts the unusual Wharton switch. This switch presages the current trend in railroading to install switches and crossings that lift the flange over the railhead with the use of "continuous rail technology". From Trautwine, 1922;

    Even though there is more space for a wye at Lamberson, flat ground in the Winding Stairs is rare, and the north leg of the wye disappears down grade very quickly. Jeff and I had a difficult time picking out the south leg.

    The mainline at Lamberson veers to the right on a 6 degree curve; the grade here is about 0.9%. Jeff's 1913 ETT indicates that Lamberson once had a siding with a capacity of 60 car lengths. It was no longer listed in my 1939 ETT. Cinders were visible at several locations during our exploration.

    Bridge 480.1: Deck Plate Girder-double (DPG) ; 1 Span, 54’ long, max height 29’; erected 1930; Rock Creek

    Bridge 480.1 was the end of the road for us which left us just under a half mile away from the setting of Preston George's photo of 1332 and train. The picture may be found on page 33 of Collias's Frisco Power.

    I haven't had a chance to delve deeply into the operations of the Winding Stairs, but Talihina served as the "headquarters" for the helpers that worked the mountain. During the teens, a 6-bin, Underwood Coaling facility was used to provide fuel; this facility was replaced during the 1920’s by a 3-bin, 250 ton Williams White coaling facility. I have made a quick perusal of the digital FEM to see if I could determine how many helper crews were stationed at Talihina, but I drew a blank.

    Jeff_ETT No. 27   1.jpg
    ETT 27, Aug 10, 13; Courtesy Jeff Cooney collection.
    ETT 31A, Dec 10, 1939 My Collection
    Last edited: Oct 14, 2015
  6. yardmaster

    yardmaster Administrator Staff Member Administrator Supporter

    This has solved a great mystery for me. I have carefully scrutinized the photo of the wye switch in Frisco Power over and over again, and came to the conclusion that my mind was playing tricks on me. I feel somewhat vindicated, now, if not embarrassed by my ignorance.

    Excellent field work, Karl and Jeff, and great supporting documentation with the illustrations and timetable references.

    Best Regards,
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  7. William Jackson

    William Jackson Bill Jackson

    That line sure brings back a lot of memories. I got to work just about everywhere on it. At the time Hugo, was about the end of the world. Thanks for keeping this line alive.
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  8. Karl

    Karl 2008 Engineer of the Year Supporter

    During Sunday morning, October 16, 2016, Jeff Cooney and I finished our exploration that we started last year, when we traveled the Frisco’s Arthur Subdivision’s Winding Stair Mountain segment. Last year, we could get no further south than Bridge 480.1, and we vowed to return in order to complete the trip over the mountain. After several false starts from the south side, we returned to Bengal for a trip to Compton and then down to Lamberson, where we were stymied last year. This year we would not be stopped, and we would attempt to get past bridge 380.1 whether we had to wade, swim, or go cross country.

    Fortunately, once we reached Lamberson, we saw that someone had used a Cat to cut a path through the ravine section, which would allow us the means to get around 480.1. From here, we hiked down to Bridge 481.6.

    Last year we tried to find the wye’s south leg’s connection with the mainline, but with no success. This year we found the location. Most of the dump had been washed-out by Rock Creek. All that remains of the south leg is a concrete box, which was put in place during 1920. Given all the vegetation, it’s easy to see why we missed it last year. Jeff tried to clear some of the brush away, but he had little success.

    The new path around the bridge provided the opportunity to take pictures from a different perspective.
    Bridge 480.1 was a 54’ double-DPG,which was erected during 1930.

    The north abutment of Bridge 480.1

    A few telegraph poles, both standing and fallen, were still extant. This was near MP 480.2.

    The ravine section view of Bridge 480.3, which crosses Rock Creek. The most recent bridge was erected during 1930, and it was a 54' double DPG. It's maximum height was 24'.

    The north abutment of Bridge 480.3

    This view is looking south near 480.35-480.4; the curve is 6 degrees, and the grade is 0.969%

    This view is to the north near the previous photo.

    The ravine section of Bridge 480.5, the Preston George Bridge, was originally a 75’, deck riveted truss, which was replaced during 1912 with a 73’ DPG. The maximum height of this bridge was 26'. Unlike most of the other steel bridges on the Winding Stairs, it was not rebuilt during 1930. The remnants of two steel piles remained. The 1979 Bridge Inventory offers no insight with regard to their purpose, but I suspect they were used to reinforce the old bridge.

    Bridge 480.5, north abutment.

    To be continued...
    Last edited: Oct 20, 2016
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  9. Karl

    Karl 2008 Engineer of the Year Supporter

    Bridge 480.5, south abutment

    Two piles are extant near the south abutment of Bridge 480.5. They are driven with batter (at an angle) and the web of each pile is angled inward. Perhaps a latter day attempt to strengthen the structure?

    SB Winding Stair Mtn., MP 480.5, P. George.jpg
    Frisco 1332 drifts downgrade with train 735 at Bridge 480.5. Preston George Photo, 1946; Jeff Cooney Collection. Note the Curve Monument at the extreme lower right of the photo. Given the lack of brake smoke, I wonder if the photo is posed.

    This view is looking north toward Bridge 480.5, and I am standing just a little south of where 1332 is located in Preston George's photo. The grade is 1.5% , and the curve is 6 degrees.

    MP 481+10 poles

    The Frisco used Monuments (later signs) and steel pins to mark points of tangent-spiral, spiral-curve, curve-spiral, and spiral-tangent. Here is the tangent pin, which marks spiral-tangent at the north end of the 5 degree-54 minute curve which is near 480.6.

    This diagram is from a Frisco 1914 Rule Book for Maintenance of Way and Structures, and it shows the proper placement of the monuments and pins.

    The view is to the north near MP 480.75; the grade is 2.267%

    The view is to the north near 481.4; the grade is 0.957%.

    NB Winding Stair Mtn., P George no date.jpg
    Frisco 1053 is leading train 704 up the hill to Compton, and is rounding the 5 degree - 54 minute curve near MP480.6. The lone chair car is one of the Jim Crow cars. Preston George photo; Jeff Cooney Collection.

    More following...
    Last edited: Oct 19, 2016
  10. frisco1522

    frisco1522 Staff Member Staff Member

    Also looks like good snake country. Some wild railroading in sort of an unexpected place. I'm also fascinated by the wye switch.
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  11. Karl

    Karl 2008 Engineer of the Year Supporter

    Under the heading Right Church, Wrong Pew, a hike in the weeds plus an old track chart provided better data for Bridge 481.6.

    Please see
    I'll have to redraw my imagineered version.

    The 1909 track chart indicates that bridge 481.6 (481.5 during 1909) existed as a “Rail-Bridge”. At that time, the center pier was concrete, and the abutments and wing walls were built of stone. The bridge was rebuilt during 1938; the stone abutments and the center pier were re-poured, and 90 lbs rail, which was milled during 1911 replaced original rail. The track chart shows that the “original” bridge used 2.61 tons of rail, so perhaps the original chords contained 4, 56 lbs rails per chord or a total of 8 rails for the entire bridge.

    This little structure is certainly a curiosity, and one wonders why a CMP or concrete box wasn't used at this location.

    This is a ravine section view (looking east) of Bridge 481.6. The structure is complete except for the deck.

    Bridge 481.6; Panel 1. Look closely at the base of the rail at the north abutment, and you will see the gauge rod, which was used to hold the 9-rail chord together.

    The date was cast into the abutment; 938 is a curiosity.

    This is a south looking view of Bridge 481.6. The 9-rail chords, the rail spacers, and the lone remaining gauge rod can be seen. The chords could have been fabricated in the shop, and then shipped to the site on a flatcar. I haven't quite figured out how the deck attached to the chords.
  12. Larry F.

    Larry F. Member

    I've looked at that photo in Collias's book many times of that wye and couldn't for the of me figure out an engine made that jump. Thanks for enlightening me. Larry
  13. William Jackson

    William Jackson Bill Jackson

    Great file Karl, I enjoy these because I took up part of this line. Dave Stratton I think did most of the pickup.
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  14. Joe Lovett

    Joe Lovett Member

    Karl, this has been a very interesting article. Your description and photos are great. Is there any more of the southern line that you would want to explore?

    I've always wanted to explore the Fayetteville to Pettigrew ROW in the northern section of the Central Division. One time I did drive along the route and saw some old bridge remains and there are some photos of the line in a store in Pettigrew but nothing major stood out.

  15. RogerRT

    RogerRT Staff Member Staff Member Supporter

    Do you remember when & what parts you took up???

  16. Coonskin

    Coonskin Member

    I have thoroughly enjoyed this thread. Thanks Karl for sharing with us. I have hiked other roadbeds in the past... and after reading and seeing this thread, it is very tempting to put the section from Bengal to Talihina on the "want to do" list.

    My favorite era for most of the Frisco is way earlier than many of you find interesting: The "link n' pin" era. During much of the link n' pin era, Talihina, I.T. (Indian Territory) was a Division Point, with Chester, AR, being the northern end of that division.

    Below is a VERY RARE picture of the Frisco in Talihina, I.T., during the earliest of years (possibly a construction photo) of the line, approximately 1887 - 1888. LOVE the "atmosphere" found within this picture. That area was very, VERY wild and uninhabited (by "pale faces" aka white men) country back then. Plus, the railroading "back then" was so very rough and tumble. It was definitely "wooden cars and iron men".

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  17. Are there track charts for Talihina and the rest of the line available somewhere at or elsewhere online?
  18. Coonskin

    Coonskin Member

    What'cha got in mind, there Bradley my boy? ;)

    I have a complete set of circa 1960's track charts that includes the Arthur Sub from just south of Fort Smith to Hugo, OK. It also includes the "Central Branch" from Jenson, AR to near Huntington, AR. I would offer to scan it for you but, unfortunately, my current computer has quit printing and/or scanning, saying it has "lost communication" with the devices in question.

    However, IF you were talking about TOC19 track charts: I suspect there ain't no such animal.


    For several years (when in the mood), I have been creating a "V scale" (virtual simulation) of the Frisco's Central Division that includes the sub division from Chester, AR to Talihina, I.T. (Note: I used Microsoft's "Train Simulator" to create my route.) My era setting for my "Frisco Line" V scale version is the late 1880's. There is some basic scenery in place in some short segments thereon. One of those basic scenery segments is the helper section between Talihina to Bengal. In order to create the track and town plats, I had to use "known" (much more modern) data, and extrapolate from there, as well as extrapolating from various textual historic accounts/scant few photos/etc. I'm sure my version is filled with track schematic inaccuracies, but I'm okay with it. Below you'll see some pictures I snapped while operating trains within my "Frisco Line" V scale route...

    Pic 1: An overall view while waiting for a meet in Talihina. My engine (i.e. the "player" engine) is the center engine easing toward the main running tender first. My "job" for this "activity" (i.e. "operating session" in model railroad terms) is to wait until the No. 37, the "Arkansas & Texas Fast Freight" to meet No. 38 the "Through Freight". Once the meet is made, I'm to couple onto the rear of #38 and help it up over Winding Stair Mountain. That's #37 in the hole on the left, and #38 coming into town on the distant right. Note: I used a 1898 StL.&SF Time Table for the time schedules and meeting points, as well as train names.


    Pic 2: And here's an aerial view as #38 eases into town, holding the main.


    Pic 3: Here I'm hanging my head out the cab window as we're slugging through the cut just below Lamberson Wye. Nice stack talk!


    Pic 4: An aerial view of the train as it works its way through the cut and heading north over Winding Stair Mountain. Lamberson Wye is just ahead.


    Pic 5. Last pic. Looking back over the tender as we clear the cut.


    I have very much enjoyed recreating my version of the Frisco Line circa 1889. Still much to do when I'm in the mood again to work on it. Even in the areas where I have some basic scenery placed, I need to come back and detail it with various items as well as create/texture the custom structures needed. No hurry, I'll get to it "one of these days"!

    All fer now.
  19. john

    john Supporter

    While not a track chart, the National Archives does have right of way maps for most of the old Indian Territory portion of the Frisco Central Division (and a lot of other railroads as well) online for downloading. No doubt because of the original map size they are not particularly high resolution but they are interesting and usable.
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  20. William Jackson

    William Jackson Bill Jackson

    I want to say that was 1981, when we worked their, not sure where we was, I rode the rail train out to the work site the first time it arrived.
    We stayed in Poteau, Ok and after the train got to the work site, we just went to the nearest crossing where the train was parked.
    They stripped down Steel Gangs 1 and 2 sent them to pull spikes.
    I do remember the scenery, that must be the prettiest in Oklahoma most of which is pretty ugly.
    I worked the steel gang through Clinton and Cordell. The older Black guys, (about 8 in their 70's) wouldn't go into Cordell, Ok. Seem's one of the guys went into town for a loaf of bread and got hung. Guess I could understand why they stayed in the bunk cars and rode the machines to the job site. I had to cash their checks for them on payday. The stories they told and the lifestyle they led was a experience I will not forget.
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