Vinson – Bergstrom Spur (Austin, TX)

Overview

The Vinson/Bergstrom spur in the south of Austin, Texas was an industrial branchline off the Union Pacific (formerly Southern Pacific/Missouri Pacific – MoPac)  mainline.

Between 1998 and 2000 I worked at the then US Foodservice warehouse in Fleming Court. That facility had in a previous incarnation been the SYSCO Foodservice’s warehouse. SYSCO had built the warehouse to use rail service to receive dry goods, refrigerated and frozen foods. Whether they did so is open to conjecture. No one could confirm this for me. However, while getting to know the facility I was told that we’d received no inbound goods by rail for several years by one of the warehouse supervisors.

Being the railfan that I am I was quite sad as I would not get to see any cars unloaded at work – which would have been a hoot and quite the learning experience. My interest in the rail operations was piqued however, and I wanted to learn as much as I could about the work that this line in my new home. We’d only moved to the US, and specifically Austin, TX in late 1997. So I decided that I’d complete a photo essay of the entire line, starting with the US Foodservice spur.  And the rest, as it is often said, is now history.

A note on images

All of the VInson / Bergstrom Lead images are smaller in size than modern images. These images were taken on film with my trusty Canon AE1 + Program camera, before being scanned to CD,  or my first digital camera – a Kodak EasyShare CX7220.

A little history

This spur originally served the original construction of Del Valle Army Air Base in 1942, built as a part of the war effort. In 1943 the base was renamed to Bergstrom Army Air Field on 3 March 1943, in honor of Austinite Capt. John A. E. Bergstrom, who was killed at Clark Field, Philippines. The base was renamed Bergstrom Field on 11 November 1943, and became Bergstrom Air Force Base in December 1948. Initially, Bergstrom was the home of troop-carrier units.

Bergstrom AFB Flight Line During 1986 Reconnaissance Air Meet (image courtesy of fortwiki.com)

It was declared a permanent base after World War II and was at various times assigned to the Strategic Air Command and the Tactical Air Command. After July 1966 it was under the control of the Tactical Air Command and housed the headquarters for the Twelfth Air Force, which was responsible for all Tactical Air Command reconnaissance, fighter, and airlift operations west of the Mississippi River.


Interesting factoid: The circular 12th Air Force headquarters building was converted during the rebuild into the Austin Airport Hilton. More information here [PDF]


Back on track

While I was photographing the spur it was still in regular (if not necessarily daily) use and was served from the SP/UP New Braunfels yard at least once each week. I noticed a lot of inbound loads came in on centrebeam cars for the lumber/builders yard at Burleson Road. There were other loads inbound too but those I didn’t really take note of at the time. Most of the other loads were boxcars.

At various times cars would be stored on the US Foodservice lead. In 2000 there were a string of centrebeam cars. One day they’d be there and the next were gone. Other times there’d one or two cars there for extended periods. I assumed that they were out of use, or forgotten by the car management team, and simply stored there before being called back into action.

Somewhere between 2000, and about 2008, the Union Pacific unofficially abandoned service on the spur, maintenance was discontinued and it fell into disuse. To my knowledge mine are the only images to cover the Bergstrom Industrial spur in any detail. So I suppose that makes them of historical and modelling interest if nothing else.

Next – we’ll take an overview look at the spur and the industries of this once busy line.

Copyright information

Copyright 1998, 1999, 2000: All images, unless otherwise noted, are the Copyright of Andrew Martin and are not be used without prior written authorisation. Copying for personal use may be permitted so long as full attribution including the source file location, photographer’s name, the copyright information are included in your usage of the image. You should contact me for further details if needed using the contact form at the bottom of ABOUT page.


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