Lubbock and Western Railway
Lubbock and Western Railway (LBWR) holds as much significance for the economy and development of the area as the famous children’s book, “The Polar Express,” does for the holiday train
A lot of parents in the Lubbock area are familiar with the very popular Polar Express train ride operating out of Wolfforth during the Christmas season. For sleeping innocents who might dream of sugar plums and a jolly old elf coming down the chimney, wondering what happens to the railway and its locomotives the remainder of the year is probably not a consideration; however, for adults living in the area, the economic impact the rail system makes on the community, is something to contemplate.
The reality is the event’s host, Lubbock and Western Railway (LBWR) holds as much significance for the economy and development of the area as the famous children’s book, “The Polar Express,” does for the holiday train — without one, the other might not exist. Iowa Pacific Holdings provides passenger equipment and on-train entertainment for the event.
“The railroad played a significant role in establishing the city, and solidifying its role as the Hub City,” said the marketing manager for LBWR, Kurtis Lindsey. “When the rails were constructed, it connected many of the industries to an economic viaduct, and allowed Lubbock to compete with regional cities such as Plainview and Amarillo. If it weren’t for the growth that the railroad helped spur, TTU might be somewhere else.”
In addition, without the railway there might never have been the extremely successful Lubbock Chamber of Commerce. The Lubbock Chamber has been ranked best in the nation and, according to city historians, the chamber began it’s more than 100-year history to help bring the railway to Lubbock. Without the railway, the burgeoning town of the late 19th and early 20th Centuries might have gone the way of many others not connected by the railways and fallen off the map of existence.
Chartered in 1910 to run from Lubbock to Crosbyton, the railway began operating as the Crosbyton-Southplains Railroad company and underwent many transformations and name and ownership changes until the line named the West Texas and Lubbock Railway, was purchased by Watco Companies, who soon changed the railway’s name.
The Lubbock and Western Railway operates using two short-line train routes in Texas. It is a 163-mile railroad operating in Texas from Lubbock to Seagraves and Whiteface; and from Plainview to Dimmit. Lindsey said residents should consider the volume the trains carry and the equivalent semi-trucks that would be needed to haul such loads and to compare the two to envisage how a short commute would get bogged down with hundreds more semi-trucks on the Lubbock roads. For example, one rail car of fracking sand holds 100 tons of product that would otherwise need four semi-trucks.
LBWR serves as a primary rail corridor supporting our region’s larger industries. The line hauls fracking sand to support area drilling operations; fertilizer components to grow cotton; peanuts and sorghum; and lumber to support the housing boom. Raw products are also carried to the marketplace, including peanuts for candy bars and cottonseed for California’s dairy cows.
Lindsey also said how proud the company feels about Lubbock, and it shows. It can be seen by residents, painted on the locomotives as the cars travel through the region to connecting destinations.
“You only need to be in Lubbock for a few minutes to understand how prideful the locals are of our Red Raiders. Following Watco’s commitment to the community that we serve; shortly after the purchase, Watco approached Texas Tech University for the idea of a TTU livery paint scheme. The University loved the idea, designed the scheme and together we put it in motion. It has been a hit ever since. There are only a few university-themed locomotives on the main lines so it’s really a unique way to show support for something the community believes in,” Lindsey said.
Officials from Watco said the company believes establishing a foundation in the community is important and that the Polar Express is a fantastic way to show support for the area, “by carrying the legacy of an age-old story — trains, Santa and the North Pole — and it also gives a new generation the opportunity to experience a train ride.”
This holiday season, get out to enjoy the magic of Christmas with the kids while taking a ride on the Polar Express. But the rest of the year when you find yourself impatiently waiting at a railroad crossing, or just see an LBWR train while out and about, look for the Red Raider locomotive running down the tracks carrying the cars along behind it and think about the precious cargo that keeps our community and economy chugging along. Find out more at www.watcocompanies.com.
By Kim Lehman