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Following Louisiana's & Mississippi's Historic Railroads

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Finding the Lumber Mill Railroads

Following the Historic Rails of Mississippi

More Free Big Pictures

These are large pictures. Click what you see and the larger version will appear.

This is/was the Kate Chopin House in Chopin, La., between Alexandria and Natchitoches on La.1.

This is/was the McNabb Music Store in Bunkie, La., south of Alexandria, US 71.

DEPOT: The Sunset Limited Lafayette

Being me, my timing was great. I'm a train magnet. While doing the Icing on the Cake fill in the blanks hunt, I took a picture of the depot. Something was strange. There were people waiting on the benches. I had hit the mother lode. I went down there and parked by the Jefferson Blvd. underpass. It is a gathering place, so I moved to the south side of the depot at the Lee Ave. crossing. After it crosses the tracks, it is 6th Street. Go figure.

I sat for a long time, finally asking a fella when the train was
coming. He said, "2:30". It was 4:oo.

I had time to take a few "orientation" shots. This is facing
north. The Hub City Hunt / Icing Hunt happened up there.

I, like all the potential passengers looked south. I assumed
that since they were looking south, from the south it
would come. It originates in New Orleans, 125 miles away.

I yelled to the assembled, "Here it comes". A loud applause
was heard. It was a jovial group who understood that
the age of the gold watch hung by the chain was gone.

I knew I had an opportunity for a shot. The jag in the
tracks would provide that. Why is there a jag? Was it a
surveying mistake like what occurs in our highway and bridge
building? I think there is a story here.

As each passenger exited, they shook the conductor's hand.
It is obvious that a train trip is different.

I walked behind the train and sought an angle to get the
whole train. I had to work at it.

I strolled back.

The depot was a beehive of activity.

It was All Aboard Time.

Al had written that he liked the picture of the train
coming in and that he thought it was the first time I'd
gotten a close up. It was the first time from a moving frontal. I
wrote back telling him about the picture I'd gotten in Rayne.

It was doing the snake on a side track so the freight could get by. That explains why it can't keep a schedule. It was an hour and a half late getting to Lafayette. It had departed from New Orleans, 125 miles away and it was already that late. By Los Angeles it could be a day late according to a reader. So, you never use it for appointments. Everyone getting off was smiling. Everyone getting on was smiling. I don't think it is considered serious transportation.

Here's the Rayne shot.

This is west of Rayne out on the Cajun Prairie alongside US 90.
It was dead stopped.

And here is my New Iberia shot.

That's it. Not quite. Andy in Jennings added this.

Thanks Steve,
Reminds me of when my cuz and I use to sit near the old depot in Jennings and watch the trains stop or keep on going and snatch a message from the depot hung out on a line. Sometimes the train would just throw out a pack of stuff instead of stopping all the way. We would also wave at the passengers going by and once in awhile at a hobo going through on a freight train. Great days.

Thanks again to Andy for his contributions to this rag.

Train Chase: The Acadiana Railroad: Gloria

I've been on grandfather duty for a few weeks now and I needed to find a monastery in which to take refuge. Not knowing of any, I chose to wander up to Opelousas and see what was happening in the Acadiana Railroad yard. Long story short, nothing. The rails I like to check out are the old Texas & Pacific branch running between Opelousas and Bunkie, now owned by Acadiana. I've always wanted to catch a train on it. Lately I've seen a few but they never went very far, mostly back and forth. I am getting the idea that railroading is not all romantic runs across the countryside into ever changing horizons, but hot and cold, dangerous, arduous, repetitious work.

When I was a kid I wanted to be a railroad engineer. I tried to steal an engine once when I was 9. We really didn't have any grasp of what switches did so our outing could have gotten ugly if an employee hadn't nabbed us. I've tapped that old lust and when ride ideas aren't kicking in the door, I can always go to one of the rail corridors or yards I know and pick up a train to chase, photograph it, wave to the engineer and pretend I am 9.

9 was pretty good, 8 was better. I was not on probation when I was 8.

I guess I had determined it was my turn to be the child,
again. After finding nothing in Opelousas, I followed
the tracks, haphazardly to Ville Platte, saw nothing and was
getting ready to hit the highway for it was still early and
cool. Passing the old depot in VP, which is really the Elton
depot, my jaw dropped once more, my timing surreal.

I don't care if it's not the Ville Platte Texas & Pacific depot.
I don't care if it's not a bellowing beast of a steam engine.
It was a train passing a historic depot. That impresses me.

I pondered whether I should follow it.

It was headed south. Was it going back to Opelousas?
Would I be able to photograph it at each of the scenic
back road crossings?

I was grinning with the possibilities.

I had the perfect shot lined up and this jerk pulled in front
of me. He's lucky I was on the move.

I really like the one below. It reminds me of a steam engine.

I know you can't get the feeling of these things looking at
still shots. I think that a little time lapse photography may
help with that.

I roared down to the tank car shop. It is a big deal.
That little tug runs all day long. If you like tug watching,
this is the place to be. It is 10x more exciting than soccer.
I'm sure the folks that have to wait for the street to clear
enjoy it as a break in their busy day. I saw many lining
up to watch.

The drama was getting ready to proceed. Please get some
popcorn, sit down and be quiet up front. You may wear
engineer and conductor hats if you want, but slump down
a bit so the rest of us won't have to bean you with a cup
of ice.

There are 3 main characters. First, there is the green tug.
Then there's the yellow diesel with black stripes. I call
her "Tigress". Then there's the approaching 1500 Gateway
Western. I'll call her "Cow Girl" That's Tuggy, Tigress and
Cow Girl. There will be one more, but she's all down the line.

Tigress was snoozing on the spur next to the farmer's coop.
The cars behind her seem to be from the Cabbot carbon
black plant north of VP.

There was a calm in the air. You know the feeling. Something
was about to happen, but I didn't know what and I still
don't understand how it happened. Today, I had two
large trains completely vaporize on me. I'll tell you what
I've rationalize for the sake of my teetering sanity .

Cow Girl approached slowly, having just recently cleared
Ville Platte and the majestic rice driers, a strange dude on
a blue motorcycle taking pictures and a jerk. See, I can't
let perturbations go.

She stopped.

Tuggy pulled out of the tank car yard and moved along-
side Cow Girl.

Very close alongside. I envisioned a snuggle.

Then he went back to his yard, possibly grinning a bit.

Then he pulled out again. *You can check the nos. on
these shots. They are different and in order. This was

Then Tigress woke up, her nostril lights shinning.

She pulled, by herself, out into the fray and posed.

She then butted right up to Cow Girl. The fellow is switching
her. Her engine was purring.

I have no idea what he was doing below.

Next, Tigress backed into a long line of cars on the main
line. She faced toward VP.

Cow Girl backed into the slot where Tigress had been snoozing.

It seemed to be some kind of game or dance.

Tigress pulled the line of cars past Cow Girl.

Then she ran into the cars that Cow Girl had discarded
prior to taking Tigress's bed. I think I heard the fella
yell, "Foooie".

Then, Tigress pulled/pushed the whole mess back across the road.
Look, you can't make this stuff up.

Cow Girl sat there by herself, now on what she considered
"her" bed.

Then she got up and pulled out and backed up to the cars she
had come with.

Ah, what she had done was to get on the other end of her train.
There's a way to do that with one engine, but it's frowned upon.
This explains why Tigress 8083 sleeps at the coop. There
may be other reasons.

Cow Girl backed up and latched on.

Then she pulled the cars forward.

Well, not exactly, Tigress cut all the the tanker cars lose.
Tigress was at one end, Cow Girl at the other.

She posed for a shot, again.

Then she went back to bed with her carbon black cars.

Cow Girl pushed the line of cars back across the road.

They obediently sat there while Tigress went back to sleep.

Cow Girl backed into the tank plant. Tuggy, having enjoyed
his rest, got back to work.

Cow Girl pulled a long string of tank cars out of the plant.

Then she pushed them back in to join the other cars.

She then pulled forward. Was she headed back to Cabbot?
I rushed to the next crossing and found a place to park the

I shot toward Ville Platte.

I zoomed in toward Ville Platte.

I shot back toward the plant. There was Cow Girl and all of her
cars. Oh boy!!

Was she moving?

The warning lights and bell started up.

I envisioned more great shots of the train passing the
depot and rice dryers. Then we'd be off to the countryside
and even the forest. I was overtaken by a manic euphoria.

Cow Girl backed up. Did she want more cars?

It was hot. I needed gas and I wanted to ride around a
little to cool off. Then I'd go back. Maybe she would be
ready to proceed. Every move took so much time, I
figured I'd have plenty.

I went by the old green warehouses.

And the depot, again.

It is now the new SWAMP POP MUSEUM. COOL!

I went back to the crossing. I went back to the tank plant.
Tuggy was going about his business. Tigress was sleeping.
There was no Cow Girl in sight. I knew she had to go
north. She could not push those cars south. I raced through
town and and up the Chicot State Park road, crossing over
behind the Cabbot plant. I saw a black diesel on the north
side of the yard. I saw no tank cars, only hoppers. I don't
think the diesel was Cow Girl, but it was black and I don't
know if they have another black diesel. I should have
let it go, but I didn't. Another perturbation, again.

I raced south just in case the impossible had happened.
Maybe Tigress had helped Cow Girl to the other end of
the train and she had gone to Opelousas. I stayed as
close to the rails as possible going south. I even found
a monastery in case I really needed one. You can see
the sign says, "Monastery". You can't miss it if you need

There was a lot of gravel, dust and heat.

I stopped at Mark's, he was gone. I sat under his shade
tree. I looked for my second peanut butter sandwich, it
was gone, too. A teaser diesel sat out on the tracks. I
stopped and took its picture.

Why? I think I have some issues.

I didn't know what I was doing. It was 97 degrees F,
I was probably dehydrated and I know I was hungry. I was
standing in the blazing sun and taking a picture of an old
junk diesel far off in a field. Maybe I needed something
to do, something of value, something that would make a
difference, something humane, something good, something
proud. Then there was a red flash in front of my camera
as I steadied my hand for a third picture of the faded old
engine who had worked hard all of her time, and for the
life of me, I couldn't think of a name for her. Suddenly
I thought of Van Morrison's song, "G-L-O-R-I-A".
She glowed, or was it that red flash? I swear her paint
brightened and I heard her engine rev.

It was Mark on his CRF. We stood in the 97 degree sun,
making sure not to find any shade as I tried to explain
what had happened in Ville Platte. His eye rolled and he
politely nodded in a understanding and sympathetic fashion.
I knew then, as I know now, he was confused and is
probably still confused. We left for the Statesmen St.
yard to search out more trains. Being me, there was one.

Virgil. There were many rail hooks there. Mark pulled
one up. They are attached to nothing. The are just hooks
sold by some Chinese hook company for 19.95 each.
There was a set of directions laying nearby. It read,
"Sticky in ground, hook rail, and be happy".

I asked Mark if he wanted to chase the train. He said no
and that it probably wasn't going anywhere. Mark, I'm in
Mobile writing this thing up. It never stopped until it
got to the Bay Tunnel.

This picture is so you will know how big these turkeys are.

We waved at the engineer. He waved back.

He ran east behind the Cleco Electric Plant. He was on the
main line now, what was the Missouri Pacific, now the Union

There's my signal. That's why we couldn't find it before.
Good, neither can Lueck.

That's a hopper. Oh, that's the point where the T&P
crossed the Missouri Pacific, once upon a time in a land
far away.

The engine would stop dead before each crossing and then
after a few minutes, cross it. Very strange. Cars were
seeing the engine stopped. The warning lights were still on,
and they crossed it. When he finally crossed, lighting up the
horns, they stopped. It seemed like a deadly chess match.

He was coming into downtown Opelousas, nearing the
old Missouri Pacific depot area.

He stopped again. Are those phone booths?

Is there a refrigerator on these things? I swear he got
out something wrapped in paper, like a ham or a bunch of
poke chops. I liked his hat. I suddenly regained the
wanting to be an engineer. Whoa, ride down the rails
eating ham and poke chops drinking lemonade and playing
railroading songs on the AM radio station.

This is where the depot was.
It's now UP's lot. It is not very grand.

He crossed La.182. I had planned my pursuit badly and got
lost on the same loop that Mark took when he went looking
for the OG on Sunday. The train was moving. Right after
182 is a hill. A train can get going. It is the ancient bank
of one of the Mississippi's multiple courses. I checked at a
couple of crossings and saw nothing. I'd been on this
ride since 8:45 and now it was 4:00 something. I'd
been in and out of delirium with only these pictures
to back up my story. It happened. Where are the trains?
What are Tigress and the black carbon cars doing
tonight? Where is Cow Girl? Was Gloria waiting for her?
I can see another restless night coming. I'll be shouting
G-L-O-R-I-A, and with my luck, that old faded diesel
will appear.

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