Abandoned Rails of The Bomber Spur

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Brief History

In 1941, on the outset of the United States' direct involvement in World War II, a new plant was built on the west side of Fort Worth, Texas, officially named Air Force Plant #4. Its sole purpose was to build B-24 Liberators by the Consolidated Vultee Aircraft Company. The plant continues to manufacture airplanes to this day, and has seen many contractual owners since the war: Convair, General Dynamics, and now Lockheed Martin. It has also produced many planes in its history; after the B-24 during WWII, it also produced B-29s, B-36s, B-52s, F-111s, F-16s, F-22s, and F-35s, the last three of which it currently produces.

Once Air Force Plant #4 was built, it didn't take long for the Air Force to build a base adjacent to the plant, Carswell Air Force Base. It has also undergone some changes, as it is no longer an Air Force Base, but a joint Naval Reserve base; thus it is called NAS JRB Fort Worth. A more detailed history of this installation can be found at the U.S. Navy website.

The Spur

During WWII, materials and prefabricated parts for the bombers needed to be shipped to the bomber plant; it was deciced to ship them in via railroad. Thus, the government contracted the Texas & Pacific Railroad to build a railroad spur from the T&P's mainline (about 5 miles to the south) to the plant. And so the "Bomber Spur" was born. Soon after, Carswell AFB needed jet fuel for their airplanes, so the T&P constructed a spur to Carswell that connected to the Bomber Spur that served the plant.

The Bomber Spur
A Santa Fe freight rolls by the Bomber Spur.
Photo by Ken Fitzgerald.

Officially known as "Carswell AFB Industrial Lead", the Bomber Spur served both the "bomber plant" and Carswell. It handled bulk materials to the bomber plant (in various types of cars), and jet fuel to Carswell (mainly in tanker cars). After the war, the spur was used for many years with decreasing regularity. After some time, a pipeline was installed to transport jet fuel to the base, thus the tracks to the base were no longer need or used. The arrival of bulk materials to the plant by truck was a sign of the beginning of the end for the Bomber Spur, and the tracks lay dormant for a few years before finally being removed.

A General Electric 44-tonner, USAF 1241, was used for switching duties on the spur; it was excessed in 1995, and sold to Dallas Area Rapid Transit, where it was discovered that it could not be used on DART's lines due to tunnel clearances. The switcher is now preserved and on display at the San Angelo Railroad Museum in the Atchison, Topeka, & Santa Fe "Zebra" paint scheme.

Charts

This small part of a Fort Worth map which shows the tracks of the spur within Carswell AFB.

Click here to open a window showing the track chart for the Bomber Spur, produced by the Union Pacific Engineering Department. A couple of things to note:

• The General Dynamic (GD) side of the spur is on the left side, the Carswell side of the spur is on the right
• While the track was constructed by the T&P railway, it is "owned by industry", which is to say that the government owned the tracks
• The only highway crossings indicated are "State Highway 377" (which is incorrect, since 377 is a "US" Highway) and Interstate 30; other highway crossings include Texas SH 183 (twice), and State Spurs 580 and 341
• "Kings Branch" and "Farmers Branch" are creeks or ravines; the bridges used to traverse "Kings Branch" are shown in the tour
• The end of UP ownership of the line occurs at MP 0.04 (or a little over 200 feet from the switch)
• Around "State Higway 377", there appears to be two tracks that branch off from the main for a short distance (indicated by the little markings on either side of the highway crossing). While I did not notice such track branches on my last visit, and while the track markings are too short to indicate a siding or branch of meaningful length, this will certainly warrant another trip to the spur and a closer investigation around US 377 on my part

Showing of

The beginning of the Bomber Spur at MP 252.8 along the UP's Baird Subdivision. The dwarf switch stand still remains among the weeds. UP's Centennial Yard lies just a mile to the east (or to the left in the picture). Photo by Greg Harrison, November 2005.

since these pictures have been taken the siding that was created from the bomber spur off the main has been removed, as well as the grade crossing at vickery, the bridge over camp bowie, and im sure that one of the utility boxes has been removed, no sure about the second

garrett hawkins
fort worth, TX
12/23/2010

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Thanks! You can see some railroad tank cars parked in the background in the movie "Strategic Air Command" when Jimmy Stewart is first reporting at the Carswell gate.

Bruce
Houston, TX
11/16/2013

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http://www.planesofthepast.com/images/sac-movie/strategic-air-command-carswell-afb-gate.jpg

Bruce
Houston, TX
12/4/2013

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I believe this old gate was on the small segment labeled "Lake Rd" on your map, that turns into "Desert Storm Rd" near the northeastern junction at "Depot Rd". On the satellite map, you can see the remains of a gate location.

Bruce
Houston, TX
12/7/2013

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The short spur on the south side of the bridge over Camp Bowie Blvd. served the Levitz Furniture warehouse seen behind the bridge in photo #11. There are numerous loading dock doors in the south wall of the building. I grew up in Ft. Worth in the 60's and as far as I know there was never any siding or spur north of the bridge, but could be a remnant of the bypass around the bridge construction area.as it was built in 1958. Same thing with the I-30 bridge, the first of which was probably built about the same time or slightly later when the west freeway extended only to the bridge and no further as I-20 was not yet built. All traffic exited the SH 183 off ramp in photo #16. Last but not least, Convair never built any B-29's or B-52's, both Boeing aircraft, in Ft. Worth. Only pB-24's, B-32's, a fallback bomber developed in case the Boeing B-29 being developed at the same time failed, the B-36 which was all but shelved in 1942 or 43 to build lots of B-24's for the awe effort, B-58's, F-111's, F-16's, F-22's, F-35's, and numerous upgrades to planes they built and electronics modifications to planes other manufacturers built.

Mike Novak
Granbury , TX
4/24/2014

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That should read "war effort". Bruce, that gate is the main gate off of 183 / White Settlement Road. It's still there, but in a different incarnation. It's just north of the intersection of Military Way and Nimitz. Notice the parking lot in your linked picture is still there on the right on the Google Map. To the left of the gate on the Google Map, you can see where the tracks curved slightly to the NW where they ended up at the tank farm and runaround track which isn't shown on the map on this site or on Google Maps because they were demolished. I'm thinking the jet fuel pipeline was built in the 50's as the B-52's came on line and replaced the B-36's at Carswell. The reason the spur line slowly dwindled to nothing is be,cause av gas for piston engined planes still came by rail and as they were phased out during the 60's and early 70's so were the gasoline trains. I worked along the spur at a body shop on Alta Mere in 1982 and there was still a fuel train running two or three times weekly then. Carswell was a very busy place then and the train may have been supplementing jet fuel the pipeline couldn't deliver, those SAC B-52's and KC-135's were being constantly scrambled day and night and used enormous amounts of jet fuel.

Mike Novak
Granbury, TX
4/24/2014

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Cool, thanks Mike!

Bruce
Houston, TX
11/22/2014

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What B-29 production occurred at Air Force Plant #4?

Cap
Ft Worth, TX
1/27/2015

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Hi Cap, in reference to your question, as far as I know, there was no production of either B-29's or B-52 aircraft in Ft. Worth by Consolidated Aircraft or later Consolidated Vultee. Convair and General Dynamics did modify other manufacturer's aircraft there in the late 50's and early 60's. One airplane that I know of being modded there was the Martin RB-57. I don't know whether they were updating the recon equipment or if they were modding B-57's into RB-57's. My dad worked there on the B-58 and F-111 projects, then after being rehired years later on the F-16. He told me about the RB-57's he saw in the flight line hangars. He said they also had a pristine P-38 Lightning in the main plant for a time. Hope this clears up some things for you.

Mike Novak
Granbury, TX
5/29/2015

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@Mike,

Actually there was a very small spur to the north Camp Bowie Blvd. It went to the left side. If you go to Historicaerials.com you can see it. It was there in the 50's but seems to be gone/unused by the early 60's. There is a Furr's Family Dining there now.

Also as a side note, the property, before Levitz, was a drive in.

Walter Imhof
Manorville, NY
10/14/2015

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@Walter

Thanks for the heads up on the vintage photo site, it showed me a few things I never knew about, like the drive in and that siding. First I need to clear up a thing or two. What is now named Camp Bowie West was originally HWY 80 West, the city changed the name sometime in the 80's due to all the noobs to Ft. Worth not being able to figure out for themselves that HWY 80 split off from Camp Bowie at a point 1/2 mile east of HWY 183. There was an old traffic circle ( I never knew this till now ) where HWYs 80 and 183 crossed. Sometime around 1958 a new RR bridge over Camp Bowie was built with 1958 cast in the concrete of the center pier between the traffic lanes. I figure this was done to widen Camp Bowie and put a median between the lanes when they built the new traffic circle 1/4 mile south of the old one at HWY 80/183. The old circle was replaced with the diamond shaped intersection that has changed very little to this day. Camp Bowie dead ends at the new circle. The drive in was between HWY 80 and Camp Bowie, it was replaced by the Ft. Worth Nieman Marcus store before the 1963 photo was taken. After Nieman's closed in the late 80's it sat vacant until it was converted into a magnet school. The Levitz building Is across Camp Bowie to the south of the drive in / Nieman's location and was built around 1970. I haven't looked at the early 70's photos yet, but I bet it shows a funky looking siding at the south end of the bridge that reverses directions once or twice and then curves around to the south side of the building and it's loading docks. Truck docks are on the north side of the building facing Camp Bowie. Judging from the shadow in the very blurry 1953 and 56 photos, the siding north of HWY 80 may have served a concrete batch plant, there are boxcars parked there in the '56 photo, so it's hard to guess. I know that as long as I can remember ( early 60's on ) there was another newer batch plant 1/2 mile farther north where Bomber Spur swings east and then back west, it was not served by rail. I worked between these two points at a paint and body in the late 70's while I was in high school and for a time afterward into the early 80's. I haven't walked the area where the short siding just north of 80 was, so I don't know if any remnants remain or not. Maybe when I'm poking around one of these days ill do it, that's a park next to it, so access is easy. Last time I was around there was last fall when I was poking around the old body shop while it was being demolished. I'll get back on here and report back after I do and let you know what, if anything remains.

Mike Novak
Granbury, TX
1/26/2016

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I checked the vintage aerial photos, the photo from 1970 shows an empty field at the south end of the rr bridge over Camp Bowie, which is also US HWY 377 as stated in the original author's description of his photos. The Levitz building was built sometime while I was in middle school from fall 1970 until spring 1973, the school bus passed under the RR bridge every day. So maybe it was 1971. The vintage aerial photo from 1979 shows the building with its siding that is on the east side of the main and ends at the south end of the bridge. From there, the spur into the property was accessed by throwing another switch and moving south off the siding to the freight docks on the south side of the building. Probably couldn't move more than one or two cars in at a time because of the short distance between the end of the siding at the bridge and the switch into the property. The top deck of the bridge over Camp Bowie was about 20 feet above the road. Also from the north end of the bridge to the HWY 80 crossing was a high fill, as was about 500 feet doth of the bridge, this was the reason for the crazy switchback siding into the Levitz property. Please keep in mind that being an old timer from the neighborhood, HWY 80 will never be Camp Bowie to me just as nobody in this area refers to Camp Bowie as 377. Thanks for being patient and reading my long ramblings!

Mike Novak
Granbury, TX
1/26/2016

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That should read about 500 south of the bridge.

Mike Novak
Granbury, TX
1/26/2016

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Good stuff Mike! Even though I was never anywhere near this part of Texas in my Air Force days, I always tried to keep up with the old bases during my time in. This was one of the great spurs into a base.

Walter Imhof
Manorville, NY
2/2/2016

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