Doyle S. Gibson and His Career with the Cotton Belt and Southern Pacific


St. Louis Southwestern 4-8-8 Steam Engine #819St. Louis Southwestern (SSW) 4-8-8 Steam Engine #819

My uncle Doyle Stanley Gibson, Sr. had a long, and successful, career with the Cotton Belt Route and the Southern Pacific. He was born in Gilkerson, Arkansas, on June 18, 1921.

His father Charles was an employee of the Cotton Belt for 48 years and 8 months as Yard Foreman in Gilkerson and Brinkley. His employment with the Cotton Belt began in 1911. He helped lay tracks at the Arkansas Rice Growers plant in Stuttgart (see sample records below), rice growers plant in Helena, and many other rail projects over the years. It was thus natural that Doyle also pursue a railroad career, and began working as a section laborer for the Cotton Belt in June of 1939 at age eighteen.

Doyle attended Arkansas State College in Jonesboro for two years, and then was hired on May 17, 1941 in the Cotton Belt's Engineering Department in Jonesboro. He entered the University of Arkansas in September of 1942, and was ordered to active duty in the U.S. Army Signal Corps in June of 1943 where he received a commission as a 2nd Lieutenant.

After serving in World War II in New Guinea and Manila, he graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Civil Engineering from the University of Arkansas in 1949. He subsequently returned to work with the Cotton Belt in Pine Bluff.

Cotton Belt Gravity Yard in Pine Bluff, Arkansas under construction, March 21, 1958"Looking Toward the Hump"
Construction at the gravity yard, March 21, 1958

He was recalled to active duty in 1950 with the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers to serve in the reconstruction of Germany. He sailed to Bremerhaven, and was assigned to work at Ellwangen, located between Stuttgart and Nuremberg. In 1954, with the rank of Captain, Doyle sailed aboard the Liberty Ship S.S. General G. W. Goethals back to Brooklyn; shortly thereafter, he returned to civilian life again, as office engineer with the Cotton Belt.

During this time, Doyle was involved in the design of the logistics involved in moving famed Cotton Belt steam engine #819 from storage to its display at Oakland Park. I visited him in Pine Bluff at the time, and recall the work he did in transitioning the engine to the park.

Among his many other work assignments while in Pine Bluff was as Assistant Division Engineer in charge of construction of the Pine Bluff Gravity Yard, tracks, drainage and buildings during 1957-58.

In 1961, he was promoted from the Cotton Belt to the Southern Pacific (SP) Railroad, transferred to San Antonio, Texas, and shortly afterwards was appointed Division Engineer, effective January 1, 1963.

Among his many projects as Division Engineer in San Antonio was the development of the "Leap Frog" arrangement, a portable switch, in June of 1965 (see blueprint below).

On November 1, 1969, he was again transferred, this time to San Francisco, California. Among his positions with SP was Director of Planning and Engineering for the Southern Pacific Industrial Development Company (SPIDCO). During his 17 years in San Francisco, Doyle was responsible for development of industrial parks throughout the SP system.

Doyle Gibson demonstrating the Leap FrogDoyle Gibson demonstrating the Leap Frog

Doyle retired from a distinguished career spanning 46 years with the Southern Pacific and Cotton Belt on December 31, 1985. He and his wife Betty moved to a new home in Seguin, Texas, to enjoy many years of a well-deserved retirement.

Doyle was a strong man, a man of intellect. Yet he had a quiet demeanor, coupled with a good sense of humor. He was a walking encyclopedia of birds, and had a keen appreciation for nature. He was an excellent gardener, a keeper of bees, and an accomplished woodworker. He loved to travel, hunt, fish, and explore his ancestry. And he loved his family. We miss him.


Proposed "Leap Frog" arrangement, a portable railroad switch, developed on the San Antonio Division of the Southern Pacific, by D.S. Gibson, Division Engineer Proposed "Leap Frog" arrangement, a portable railroad switch, developed on the San Antonio Division of the Southern Pacific, by D.S Gibson, Division Engineer
 
Doyle Gibson demonstrating the "Leap Frog" during his tenure as Division Engineer of the San Antonio Division of the Southern Pacific Railroad Doyle Gibson demonstrating the "Leap Frog" during his tenure as Division Engineer of the San Antonio Division of the Southern Pacific Railroad
 
Doyle Gibson explaining the "Leap Frog" switch to Jerry McCarty, Jess Mullins, Smoky Stoever and others in 1969Doyle Gibson demonstrating the "Leap Frog" during his tenure as Division Engineer of the San Antonio Division of the Southern Pacific Railroad
 
Southern Pacific personnel, D.S. Gibson on the right Southern Pacific personnel, D.S Gibson on the right
 
Southern Pacific Business Car SP 132 "Houston" (circa 1969)
(l to r) John Ramsey, Bubba Barnett, Doyle Gibson, W.M. Woods
Southern Pacific Business Car SP 132 "Houston" (circa 1969) - (l to r) John Ramsey, Bubba Barnett, Doyle Gibson, W.M. Woods
This unit was built as a Pullman chair car in 1911 and sold to Southern Pacific in 1928. Later it was converted to a business car and renumbered SP 132 under the name "Lafayette". The name was changed to "Houston" in 1946. Today it has been renamed the "City of Sparks" and is located in Sparks, Nevada.

Doyle's explanation of the photo below ... "Pretty common occurrence when surveying in South Arkansas during the 1950s"Doyle's explantion of this photo ... "Pretty common occurrence when surveying in South Arkansas during the 1950s"
 
Records kept by Doyle's father Charles Gibson during the construction of Cotton Belt tracks into the Arkansas Rice Grower's plant at Stuttgart, Arkansas in 1961Records kept by Doyle's father Charles Gibson during the construction of Cotton Belt tracks into the Arkansas Rice Grower's plant at Stuttgart, Arkansas
 

 


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