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Joe & Sharon Mainz's Southern Pacific Dalsa Cutoff

Introduction By Joe Mainz

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You might say that my wife, Sharon, and I have one of our favorite train watching locations in our own backyard. No, we don't live next door to the Southern Pacific (now Union Pacific) in San Antonio. But we do have our HO Dalsa Cutoff layout, featuring the Espee line across central Texas between Hearne and Flatonia. It's in a building we built for it just out of our back door.

I've been an avid SP fan since the late 1950s. That's when my older brother palmed my Lionel engine with the Espee's black widow paint scheme and my dad built our first layout. The SP was a natural choice to model since I grew up about five blocks from the SP's Sunset Route in southern San Antonio.

After building a couple of HO layouts on my own, we started our present model railroad in 1992, after Sharon and I moved to our current home. Over the years we've made several trips to Flatonia, about 80 miles east of San Antonio. That's where the Dalsa Cutoff, originally constructed as a shortcut between Dallas and San Antonio, connects to the New Orleans-Los Angeles Sunset Route. Some of those railfan trips extended up through Caldwell, Hearne, and many of the other small Texas towns in that area.

I decided to model this line mainly because it was here, and especially in Flatonia, where we most enjoyed watching trains. Also it's fairly close, so we could check on prototypes as I was building, it has the kind of rolling Farm country scenery I wanted to model, and it had a good amount of traffic.

The Flatonia Subdivision, as the Dalsa Cutoff was formally known, formed a strategic link between the Cotton Belt connection in Corsicana, Texas and the Sunset Route to L.A. It was part of the route of the SP's - at times the world's fastest freight trains, the Blue Streak Merchandises or "BSMs," from St. Louis and Memphis to Los Angeles. - Ed.

The layout depicts the line between Hearne and Flatonia, part of the Southern Pacific's Austin Division in the 1970s and early 1980s.I've also modeled the connection with the transcontinental Sunset Route at Flatonia.