The Bergstrom Industrial lead diverges from the UP main line, at Vinson (MP 183.8). Here the extra track on the east side becomes the Bergstrom Industrial lead (heading east to the former Bergstrom AFB, now Austin-Bergstrom International Airport. Back in 2000 I spent quite some time photographing the area. As a wide eyed immigrant I had never had such close up access to class 1 US railroading and the industries it served. And this was in my new backyard.
Image 1: Originally Brazos Forest Products (now Jeld-Wen Windows and Doors) – a former UP customer
You can view the gallery that accompanies this article here: The Vinson Lead Gallery
A detailed guide to industrial lead and the industries served
The switch into the Bergstrom (AKA Vinson) industrial lead comes off the mainline at a point between Falcon Cove, off Richmond Avenue and Emerald Forest Circle (off Emerald Forest Drive) in south Austin. The siding runs north eastwards along side the UP Main until crossing Vinson Drive at grade. Continuing North eastwards it crosses St Elmo Road West before curving due East behind the St Elmo Elementary school. The next road crossing is South 1st Street just south of Clifford Drive. The line continues eastwards for a short way before turning south-east and running beside Radam Lane. Where the line begins to run along Radam Lane there was a switch, since removed, that provided a permanent way siding. This stretch of line was used (and still may be) when the circus trains came to town to offload all of the road vehicles from flat cars. The next grade crossing is with South Congress Avenue midway between East Ben White Blvd and Industrial Blvd. The line will parallel the former all of the way until changing course and following the line of Burleson Road for the remainder of its journey south-west toward ABIA.
The first customer served on the line comes from a trailing switch to the north-east of the intersection of Willow Springs Rd, and Industrial Blvd. This switch curves and drops away from the branch line to the South-West before crossing Industrial Blvd and running in the DelStar gates. Another switch is located within the grounds of the facility allowing four hoppers to be unloaded at the silos there.
Jeld-Wen Windows & Doors
I originally had this business showing as Brazos Forest Products, but on checking more today (24/04/2013) I find that the company is now Jeld-Wen Windows and Doors. I have several images of Jeld-Wen double plug door cars travelling the rails, and for the modeller this could be a great choice for deliveries to this location, or for pick-ups from their manufacturing site in Austin, for shipping to other locations across the nation.
Original text for Brazos Forest Products: Continuing south-east the next grade crossing, and the next customer, is at Terry-O Lane. Just before Terry-O lane there is a large factory complex that used to be rail served. This I would have imagined took dimensional lumber (because of the cyclones and the storage hopper at the North-western edge of the property). While no longer rail served today, backdating the layout would allow you to reconnect them and ship dimensional lumber.
Commercial Metal Recycling
South-east of Terry-O Lane is the scrap metal dealer. They can handle 5 high-sided scrap cars there and these are loaded by the in-plant heavy equipment. This operation can be seen from the rear parking lot of the Taco Cabana.
The next grade crossing is Santiago St, followed closely after by the South I-35 frontage road. The line then bends eastward while passing underneath the elevated I-35 south and north bound lanes, and then crosses over the North I-35 frontage road.
Four Hands Home
The next grade crossing is at Woodward Street. 100 metres further on a trailing switch leads into a set of doors at a large industrial building which is Four Hands Home’s factory outlet store location. The location is 2090 Woodward St, Austin, TX 78744. I do not believe that there is any rail traffic going in to the building via the siding. But for the modeller you could reasonably find a use for some Hi-Cube boxcars for transporting furniture.
Passing Track & Austin Water Utility
Continuing south-east we cross South Industrial Drive where the only passing loop on the lead is located. Off the south (passing) track is a trailing switch onto a single door at the Austin Water Utility (Glen Bell Service Centre). Location is 3907 south industrial drive. I have no evidence of the spur or the door being in use, but again modeller’s license comes into play.
Continuing south-east the next grade crossing is at Todd Lane. The passing loop ends about 50 metres short of Todd lane and is sandwiched between Austin Energy’s electricity distribution location and the City of Austin’s recycling centre off Business Centre Drive. In the past the loco worked the train to here, and then shuffled cars around on the Todd Lane end to get them into order before proceeding on to complete any work required further down the lead.
Stock Building Supply
Once across Todd Lane the line curves gently toward the South east and runs alongside Burleson Road. Opposite the McDonald’s there are two grade crossings into Stock Building Supply. Another 125 metres along the line is the trailing switch into Stock Building supply which takes dimensional lumber on centre beam flatcars. This siding curves quite tightly into the facility and ends at 90 degrees to the branch line. There is a Wye switch about 3 car lengths in that splits the industry lead in two and provides storage for a minimum of 8 cars through about 14 all up if the lead is also used. The image on Bing shows 9 cars on the lead and siding in loaded and unloaded states.
I am certain that the industry siding has been rebuilt since 2000 when they only had space for four cars to be spotted and unloaded there. But I admit that I never did get onto the premises during this time and am relying on memory.
Continuing south-west the line crosses Drossett Drive at grade a sub-branch comes off the Bergstrom Industrial lead at a trailing switch just before the next grade crossing at Promontory Point Drive and Burleson Road. This sub-branch swings away from the Bergstrom Lead on a tight curve and heads due west.
The first industry lead about 50 metres in from the switch on the south side of the track and runs along the edge of the local Budweiser Distributor. There is a concrete ramp and loading dock that would have been used at some time for unloading full kegs and reloading empties for return to the nearest brewery. I never did see this in use in my time working in South Austin.
Unknown Industry 01
A further 10 metres along on the north side of the track another switch serves a tilt-up concrete building with 6 external doors. Currently there is no one in the building but the front of the building has truck docks so this could have been a distribution centre of some form or another. There used to be boxcars spotted there during the late 1990s and early 2000.
50 metres further on another switch to the north goes to the back of Goodman Distribution. Goodman has been building quality Goodman brand air conditioning and heating equipment since 1982. I have no idea how long they have been in this location, but I do recall seeing boxcars at the rear of the building during my time in the area.
Alcoholic Beverage Commission
30 metres on are two switches one after the other. The first to the south is a track into the rear of the Alcoholic Beverage Commission building. I have not seen any cars delivered here in my time. But again it is your standard concrete tilt-panel construction with 4 doors along the back wall. It could be used for almost any warehousing if you the modeller were so inclined.
The second switch coming off the branch to the north goes to the Back of Tri-Supply/InCycle Electronics.
- Tri-Supply are suppliers to the building trade and supply everything; doors, windows, mill work, appliances, electrical, fireplaces, bathroom fixtures and home decor. I have never seen cars spotted here during my time in Austin but the building is a modern tilt-up panel building with 5 door spots. So anything is possible.
- The second tenant in the building is Incycle who are EPA certified and qualified by the TECQ (Texas commission of environmental quality) as a centre for handling electronic waste and as an electronics Recycling Centre for the City of Austin.
Unknown Industry 02
The branch curves away to the south-west for around 90 metres to the final switch on the branch. The industry is currently vacant but that looks on Bing to have been a storage (possibly a moving company) facility. There is a single door in the end of the building.
The branch continues across Winnebago Lane before ending at Clampitt Paper. Although the branch does not run to the facility and dead ends in the grass behind them.
Back on the Bergstrom lead heading south-west again we cross Promontory Point Drive, and travelling another 200 metres we come to the last trailing switch on the line, again curving tightly 90 degrees to the south-west for the US Foodservice warehouse. There are 6 doors here, with only one of them being in the cold room area.
Lastly heading south-west we come to a small team area at the end of the branch opposite the El Meson Taqueria. The line then carries on for another hundred metres or so before going dead in the weeds.
The remainder of the line
The line used to go on to the Air Force Base (Bergstrom AFB) but after the base was closed, the line was truncated back to Burleson Road, although the right of way appears to still be intact all the way through to Highway 183.
Along the way it would have:
- crossed Montopolis Drive at grade,
- passed Mrs Baird’s Bakery off Old Burleson Road,
- travelled for some way until crossing Metlink Rd before hitting Hwy 183
From having seen the architect’s model when I worked at Austin Bergstrom International Airport, the line for the light rail would have crossed under the highway and then travelled sub-surface into the terminal buildings. Sadly this was dropped from the original scheme.
And this completes the detailed description of the Bergstrom Industrial Lead, Industries and sub branch. Hope that you have enjoyed the ride. Don’t forget to visit the gallery. I’ll be adding more pictures gathered from BING and Google as I go over the next few days. Unfortunately it looks like the line has fallen into disuse which is a shame as it could have provided a great location for some creative shortline magic. There were numerous industries and a lot of switching locations available, and the line along Radam Lane would have made a perfect interchange location with the shortline.
Additionally the area around Clampitt paper would have made the perfect location for a shortline office/engine facility and it would not have bothered anyone because the entire area is zoned industrial. If only the real world were as simple as the modelled one.
Have a great day, wherever you are.