Jenks' shortline railroad keeps busy

Friday, October 14th 2005, 11:49 am
By: News On 6

The Tulsa area is home to one of Oklahoma's smaller railroads, the Tulsa Sapulpa-Union Railway. One of its branch lines is a 13 mile stretch along the west bank of the Arkansas River, from Tulsa south through Jenks.

News on 6 reporter Rick Wells climbed aboard the train some have dubbed the ‘toilet paper express.’

Welcome aboard the Jenks Traveler. We are headed north from the Kimberly Clark plant in Jenks up to the Sinclair Refinery in Tulsa, the major part of the Tulsa Sapulpa-Union railway's 23 mile shortline railroad.

Russell Crosby: "We have 63 crossings in that 23 miles everything from pedestrian crossings to a four lane major highway." And they gotta blow the whistle at every one. Kevin Tucker and his brother Terry operate the "Traveler" on its round trip five days a week.

The favorite part of the 13 miles, pretty easy, Turkey Mountain. Kevin Tucker: "the season changes, all the trees change." Easy to understand, the Arkansas River on one side, Turkey Mountain on the other. For the two miles between 71st Street and I-44 there are no crossings to worry about, so they can just enjoy the view. Kevin Tucker: "There's hiking trials on the side of that hill we usually see some joggers."

For long time railroaders like Russell Crosby this is almost the perfect scenario, a few good employees a few miles of right of way to maintain. "And you're in the railroad business." Russell Crosby: "we are that just like any other railroad."

Because they travel through Jenks everyday TSU re-painted and renumbered the locomotive, the 1905 in honor of Jenks' centennial. And that part about being the ‘toilet paper express.’ Russell Crosby: "that's the first time I've heard that term, I'd like to think we're the pulp express." Because they bring in the raw materials, the truckers haul all the toilet paper he told me.

There are 13 "short line" railroads in Oklahoma. They move freight on short branch lines and spurs connecting customers with the larger railroads, like Union Pacific.