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Following Louisiana's & Mississippi's Historic Railroads

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Following the Historic Rails of Mississippi

Something Old, Something New, Well Not Exactly

There are two hunting grounds within 30 minutes of my house.
Anywhere from Lafayette to New Iberia can be reached within that time frame.
And, I can get to Port Barre, on US 190 quickly. 
Of course, once that initial 30 minutes is spent it only makes sense to expand the hunt. Right!!
I was a bit crippled in my ability to "sniff" out my "prey" in this one with low volume on the scanner.
Adapting, I decided to wing it and enjoy the ride on a gorgeous day.
At 2:45 Sunday afternoon, a fairly late start, 
I had chosen the Port Barre route and headed east from there toward the 
Bayou Courtableau bridge where 
I'd turn around and head back to Opelousas.
The first picture is that of an old bar on the bayou.
It has a great view of the waterway.
Mark has related a story about this place which I forget. 
I'm sure there are a few stories floating around which involve this place.
I may be getting bogged down trying to remember that one.
Maybe I'll ask him and see if he remembers.
The actual route of the bayou crosses beneath the US190 bridge and rail bridge 
shortly after the bar's location.
All the pictures would be taken with the little camera which is about as good as a phone's.
Many of the shots were deleted because they were blurred or really boring. 
The ones I kept were the exception.
Checking crossings for oncoming trains is like buying "scratch off" lottery tickets.
You hardly ever win but the possibility is irresistible.
Each "ticket" offers 2 chances,  This and That Way.

On the map below:
The location of the shots above is at the first "190" marker to the left.

The next four will be at "Shady Camp".
The waterway, which I'm guessing was an outlet for Darbonne Bay into the bayou was cut off by the Corps
of Engineers in the dim past. There is a level maintaining spillway and control structure on the levee road  going south from Shady Camp.

 Approaching the levee road on US 190.

This is probably a "borrow pit" for the highway.
Hit it right and the picture can be spectacular. Hitting it wrong and it's like this.
This is the much photographed rail bridge entering the Basin between Shady Camp and Krotz Springs. 
I am sure that "Shady Camp" is a long forgotten name.
I'll revive it just for this article.
Back at Port Barre I'd check the yard. Then I'd pan north.
Nothing shots sometime work.
East Opelousas under US190.
For those interested, this is a great train watching spot.

This is just before I deployed my cone. When not in use I wear it as a helmet. (Saturday Night Live)
Continuing on Grolee St. (on the map), at the railroad crossing, is this lumber business.
Does this place have historical roots? I'll bet it does.
This is from the Grolee Crossing looking beneath Interstate 49 (map)
This is beneath I-49.
Mark had said "the collection" at SILX  (next to the Acadiana RR office location) seemed to have changed.
I didn't notice anything. In fact it looked as if business was slow.
Maybe that was the "change".
Wait, 1503 looks different. No, that's another engine, wait ........

7101 may be a project. This is where several were rebuilt.

It was 4:15. Amtrak was due in Lafayette for 5:00
I lay down on the tank and jerked the throttle cable taunt heading south.
At Nap Lane there was this neat old Cajun homestead. 
This is all that remains after the fire.
There is a fine old barn in the background.

The I-49 service road runs a 55 mph speed limit with no semis. It is the best option.
The "Bike Barn" was a brilliant idea. It attracts people who ride bikes to bars.
Strangely, this is more my type of destination, the Lafayette Yard.
I had no idea where the Sunset Limited was. (Amtrak)
It was fifteen minutes late, not bad.
In the meantime I'd look around.
Staying in one spot is not smart.

Here she came.
Something was not "right".
It didn't click or I was too much in a frenzy to think about it.

I was more interested in the old car.
I would have to chase it to the depot.
The train was late. It would not be there long. 

At Johnston Street I was stuck at a light.
I chose to wait for the car shot.
The guy at the rear was taking it all in.
The shots I took going down Cypress St. next to the rails were not that good.
He was waving  like he knew me.
I wanted to catch him but my aim was  way off.
Remember, I was on a bike and trying to stay on the street.

There you go, sir, you have made the Chasing Trains Blog, a true honor.
And away it went.

Now the matter of that engine.

I had thought AMTK had started a new paint scheme series.
Not so.

He said that it was one of Amtrak's four Heritage Units.
"Back in 2011, in celebration of its 40th anniversary, our ... federal railway painted four locomotives in four of its different historic liveries.  They're still running around.

See photos of them ... at and .
See side views of the four as models at".
Now we know the rest of the story, Thanks 00-L.
And, that's that.

Copy The Swampers

First of all, I would like to, and you should, too, thank Mark and Mike for contributing the kindling that got this one going. They correctly identified the road I took out of Port Barre on the last ride as part of the old Opelousas, Gulf and Northeast Railroad. Having already covered a good bit of the route, unknowingly, I figured this one would be a cinch. I'd begin in Opelousas and just ride around looking for stuff that seemed to be the OG&NE, shoot it and tell you it was. Well, not exactly. Opelousas seemed the obvious place to start but then I found there had been an "O'G'", depot in Crowley while doing further research. I also have a picture of it but they are not the same. Were there 2 depots in Crowley? More research.

I knew all this picture taking would at one point make things easier. Oh, I almost forgot to tell you, "O-G" is the local nickname for the railroad. Don't get the idea that everyone knows about it. And, please, don't go and ask someone if they've ridden the OG. They will probably give you a strange look, at best. I've done some Googling and not found out much about the railroad, so I'm not saying exactly what its routes were. You can chime in anytime you want and send what you know. I'm not proud and in fact these writes are meant as bait for anyone who has something to add. This website is built on others knowledge, not mine, I don't know bo diddly. The O-G went to Crowley, that I know. Mark seems to think it went to Church Point, Mike said it went to Melvile. I spent the required time letting Google Earth blur in and out on my dial up connection, then finally, the Opelousas to Melville straight line bed appeared. I'd hut it down. Actually, only a little hunting would be required since I had ridden another huge part of the route before. Again, I had suspected it to be a rail bed. Things had changed at Swayze and the stress of re-riding a changed route added just the zip needed to what would have been a "been there done that" experience. The road to Second Lake was the best. If you didn't know, we've had some rainy weather (two hurricanes) and everything is saturated. I never knew if what looked like dry road, was. That went on for 3 miles as 2 rut dirt. I know that one day I will be gator bait but not on this one. Stay tuned.

There is another wet lands railroad route followed in this ride report. It is the ultimate swamper railroad. It went to a quickly deteriorating shrine, again unmarked by any historical society or state historical marker. I could not believe it. At least what remains has not been torn down, amazingly. More on it later.

As in high adventure movies, this will start slowly. But rest assured there will be some action in this one to make all that history go down easier. Yes, I know what you are about to ask, "Did you visit any rapids on this one Mr.Steve"?
Yes, I did Mildred, and if you read on to the last page I'll show them to you, and yes, they are more spectacular than the Whiteville Falls.

If no one else has any questions, let's just get on with it. I think I said that a while back?

This one was going to be all business. I had a definite goal and so many hours to accomplish it. The weather was beautiful. I would see what I could still produce as an innovative, investigative reporter. I felt my hero, Geraldo, guiding me. But, first, I got sidetracked and discovered the Iota Depot in my own backyard. Have I told you discovering stuff comes natural to me? Chester Whoneauxs had moved it from Iota to Hector Conolly Rd. Who'd thunk it? David said his grandfather had probably walked the same floors.

Here are all the angles.

I had gone inside to ask if this was a railroad depot. They gave me a funny look.

It was like, "Isn't our sign enough"? Then he wanted to charge me five bucks for each picture I'd taken. I think he thought I was stupid. I only gave him 2.50 each.

An action moment would follow:

I flew up the ramp onto I-49. Half of you has just gasped and passed out knowing I don't do interstates. Gasp again, I did two interstates that day and at the fully allowable speed limit, a third gasp was just heard. Wake up Mildred.

Mark had told me of some adventure he'd had behind the State Police station east of Opelousas where the OG had run. I went there but indeed, it was only for truly off road machines. I was satisfied to get a few shots. This is very near I-49 just above Opelousas. Look, I told you it would start slowly, hang in there, remember the rapids are coming. Old rail routes are sometimes preserved by the presence of power lines. This will be true as we follow the OG.

Opelousas sits high on an ancient bluff that overlooked the Mississippi on its furthest route westward. From this high point the OG moved eastward across the river bed to Melville. I knew the first place I'd be able to see it again was off of the most southern end of US 71, just above its intersection and terminus with US 190. [That was a fact filled paragraph. You might want to copy it?]

The OG had gone through a lot of swamp at this point. That was a totally erroneous statement. I only suspected it. After studying the map, it seems I was correct as it crosses DeJean Slough, Bayou Saquette, Little Darbonne Bayou, Bacasse Slough, and Big Darbonne Bayou plus a bunch of wetlands before getting to US71. I'll show you my route so far. I had a choice, either go the scenic route or go down 190. I went scenic as I suspected I might see all of 190 I'd ever want to see, later. Looking more closely at the map, I also discovered there was a settlement called New Darbonne and one called Williamson, the source of the name of where I went next. New Darbonne might have been the result of having old Darbonne on the wrong side of the levee? But, I can't get into these fascinating questions here. It might detract from the presiding boredom.

I headed up from Opelousas and over to 359 which took me to a parish road I use to get to 71 which I took way south, further than I'd thought, to Williams Spur, the OG's bed at newly discovered New Darbonne.

Open this map in a separate window by right clicking it and choosing "open in separate window". Then you can follow along. The yellow line is the first half of the ride. Notice I split the difference with the 190 way in getting to where Old Darbonne is seen near US71. The green line is the old rail route, roughly.I had ridden the Port Barre to Darbonne section in the Sidetracks write over on Back Road Riding. First you have to look at a few of my old barns on 359 near Washington. If you have your map in its separate window, you can see all of this just fine.

Forget about barns, we have swamps and rail lines to traverse and discover.
Stay tuned for part 2. In my recent need for instant gratification, I'm moving more toward the chapter format.
Chick here to read this chapter again if that Tylenol PM isn't working for you.
I sent out yesterday's snoozer expecting no interest. Wrong. I was at the computer from 8:00 to after 10:00 AM receiving information from people. One fella took pictures that I had taken on the Big Bend ride and told stories, some personal, about stuff that happened or things that were at each. Then, a new reader offered up the fact that his grandfather worked on the Angola side of the train ferry operation. Next, Mark goes off and runs a recon of the railroad I'm following on this one, the Opelousas, Gulf and North East, between Opelousas and Port Barre. Some of this section I'd blown off as inaccessible. His report to follow. After the onslaught of info, I resorted to going out to the field and continuing the chainsawing and burning of all the lost trees. I'm pretty limp right now but with all this newly acquired information, I want to move on and get it done. Riding astride a fresh 12 oz. can of Dr. Pepper, I can go the distance. So let's go.

Here's Mark's brief ride report on what he found between Opelousas and Port Barre.

He sure saved me a trip.

"I took a ride today to try to find parts of the OG between Opelousas and Port Barre. I went down Flossie Lane took a left and reached a closed gate. Seems they abandoned the road and the owners closed it off. Next,I went behind Troop K and the gate was open. I started down it until I met up with a truck. I didn't need another shotgun escort, so I turned around.

Next, I went to Port barre and took the road behind the Dollar Store. It follows the bayou then turns to gravel before getting to where the OG should be. My bike hates gravel so I turned around.

So,I came up empty".

No, he didn't come up empty, he just came up with reality. What were once public roads aren't anymore. In any case, I appreciate him doing the investigation the way it needed to be done.

So, I'm going to take it from where we left off last night. I told you that we were not going to fool with barns so soon in this one. I'm sticking with that promise. There will be some later, but they are important artifacts. We are now on US 71 at the intersection with Williamson Spur. I'm looking down Williamson Spur and I looking west at the little road that heads toward the levee on what might be private property but has no signs saying that. I'm blowing off the maybe private property road and going down Williamson Spur.

Then after a mile I start chastising myself for being such a worm. What's the worst that could happen if I rode down the unmarked road? Get shot? I've been shot, I shot myself once, no big deal.

And, besides, I'd complain about that big piece of machinery blocking what was the OG&NE bed. I wonder if they knew they had sat that thing on history?

I made my way past it and approached a field. At that point my wormyness had returned and I fled. Sometimes I get a feeling, no doubt brought on by being a worm.

Before I did the worm thing, I could see the levee on Big Darbonne Bayou. The bed could not be followed further so I wasn't missing much. I had done the Port Barre to Darbonne section and it was basically right over the levee. Michael B. liked my map drawing so I'll do one here just for him.

What you see in red was done before, I know I seem to be a broken record on this. That little green piece is the last couple of pictures. The blue is where I'm at right now. We have to move on. This is like watching my wife read labels in the grocery store.

Now another map to make this all go easier. Open it in another window. I had made some ugly remark about computer incompetence. That resulted in me uploading the wrong picure. Be careful, Ugly can come back to bite you.

You see "New Darbonne", we're past there, finally. You see "PAR", we're there. "PAR" here is not a golfing term, it means that this is a parish road. PAR being on the map is useful in showing farmers the error of your ways. "I was just following my 1960's era software and it said this field was a public road. Sorry about the watermelon incident". My software also shows a PAR crossing the levee and going to Opelousas. I wouldn't follow it too quickly. Below is unquestionable evidence that this was an old rail route.

Where you see Swayze Side, there is a new bridge that took the place of the old trestle bridge that was there. I just missed seeing it a few years back. But, I wasn't interested in old rail beds then so I probably wouldn't have looked twice.
Here is what must have resembled much of the stretch between US 71 and Melville.

There is also this sign that I hadn't picked up on before. "Spur", duh.

Between Darbonne and where we are now, we'd gone by what was the settlement of Williamson. I saw that on a map yesterday. Hey, anyone out there from Williamson?

I turned onto Swayze Lake Rd. I had followed it before all the way to the levee and then to La.10, just east of Palmetto. The road looked less traveled and I started to get a little stressed. I, as a seasoned explorer, have learned that to hesitate means defeat. I as a worm, in reality, must tell you, getting shot does hurt, even with a pellet gun.

I continued. Then it became clear. I might be going into a hunting club. The sign said "posted". My initial mechanism for dealing with these signs is to interpret them as meaning on either side of the road, since this road was marked PAR and had a name and a stop sign, all facts were in my favor. I might have ridden a little faster until I saw a sign saying the same thing but in my rear view mirror. The same little house was still there.

Yea, neat old house, but, tell me true, didn't you feel the tension back there? I told you this thing would heat up. Hang on.

Next, there was a barn.

And some swamp.

And a provocative picture of my motorcycle. It also shows that the road had achieved a little more elevation. What I didn't realize was that I was following Bayou Petite Prairie which eventually makes it way to the Atchafalaya Levee on La.105 south of Mellvile where it has become Second Lake, a body of water we will soon visit. [thanks for the new comma supply, Ray] I had become intimately close with both Petite Prairie and Bayou Rouge at one time back when I was dragging around looking for bayous. Those days might be gone but every once in a while I get a little tingle which makes me want to follow them around some more. How can you resist a bayou named Petite. Whoa.

Where was I? Oh, yea, then this Pampas Grass stuff shows up. No house, no nothing, just a hedge of Pampas Grass in the turn. There is a story there, I know. But, no time for mulling, let's get it.

Hey, did you throw a little gravel in that turn? I did.

OK, it's time to get up on the levee and head north to La.10.

La.10 is a fascinating road. It traverses so much and always entertains. I rode along watching for any chance to re-visit the RR before Melville. Second Lake Road would provide that possibility. I can't tell right now whether that panned out or not. You'll have to wait as I am still sitting here in my work clothes and the dogs have moved across the room. Got the picture?


So, you believe that this ride is finally getting on a roll? Best pull back that expectation a little as I've just drug myself in from another five hours of cutting and burning the remnants of Hurricane Gustauv. On top of that, Old Miss and the Gators are playing and it looks like an upset in the making which would please me mightedly. (that's a MS word, "mightedly") Behind LA teams, I like to see MS teams do well. Don't get any ideas, LSU has no competition for my loyalty. It is a shame I can't watch the games because of the Whoo Doo curse I carry around. Don't ask.

Oh, sorry, sidetracked again.

Update: 17 to 17, 3rd quarter, go Rebels [that irks Ray]

It pleases me to irk him.

Ok, I'll stop fooling around. Let's get on down Second Lake Road.

Here's the map, again. Open it in a new window and let it set to the side as we travel along. You'll need it, as I did.

I said that like you might actually go down Second Lake Road, well, you might. But first let me warn you. Dave just told me that a resident suggested not doing that in winter as it is flooded in several places. Swamp water is bad, cold swamp water is worse.

I'm going to tell you how things actually went so you won't be misguided into thinking stuff comes easily for me. I got to the end of this road and there was nothing but a right turn with more of the same, except the telltale power lines which were marking what was obviously the OG&NE rail bed, or close to it. I went on down there and found a landing which I didn't shoot since I was a little depressed about the same old stuff after such a long crappy ride on a rough dirt road, never knowing if it was slush or solid.

If I drop that bike, I might as well just sit, because that's what it will be doing. I've dropped it in a lonely place and it was a war which I barely won. I'd have that possibility starring me in the face on the return ride. The next pictures are shown to convey the melancholic attitude which had overcome me.

Update: Ole Miss, 24 Gators 17 Go Rebels! Again, I do that to irk Ray.

I was back at the corner thinking about the long dangerous ride back to La.10. I saw an old house back down this little road. Evidently, there had to have been some folks back here. The farm would have been right on the railroad. I almost blew it off but I needed a break and this was a place off the road where I could rest.

I ventured toward the house.

I looked to the left expecting to see water. All I saw was more right of way.
"Melancholy" is not a strong enough word.

Then, what the...........?

Oh my goodness.


Yes, the ride could have been turned around at this point and considered a success beyond any expectation. When you find a historic large river trestle used by a very by gone railroad, it is a moment. I had to take a victory lap. I was yelling, "Steve, you duh man, you duh man" and hi5n myself. About that time 2 AT&T trucks drove by, slowing down a bit. Yea dudes, if you saw me, I be duh man. That's a Fac', Jack.

It doesn't get much better than this. My personal faith restored and success applauded, I next turned my attention to the farmstead.

I looked inside in hopes of seeing something special about the old French cottage.

I didn't think to check those holes in the walls. I'll bet you they were full of moss which I think was used as insulation. Maybe best I didn't stick my hands in those holes. They could have been full of moss and snakes or black widows.

Mike Wilson added this: "You must be sore from all that gravel road riding. Looks like you gave the OG some serious inspection. My Christmas story takes place beside one of the trestles; I'm not sure which one. There were trapper families living all through that complex of lakes, and one family lived right at the end of the trestle, on a house out over the water.

Isn't that a coincidence. Stay tuned for another addition to the "The Railroader" series found only on History Hunts.

I felt a little uneasy and left the house turning my attention to the other structures.

31-24 Go Rebels

I walked on back.

This walking through high grass in snake country is a little daunting. I just keep moving as a moving target is less of one. Dragging my heavy boots through the LA tundra ain't a breeze either. Thank goodness the weather has turned cooler. Last month this would not be happening. The little shed seemed to have been converted into a fish cleaning labratory.

Back there was the barn. It was too overgrown to even think about. Visions of snakes hanging from the rafters (my own) keep me real about going into such places, sometimes.

31-30 Ole Miss just blocked the extra point. I had just thought, "they need to block it". Wham. Go Rebels.

With the feeling of success, but wanting more, I headed back up Second Lake Road to La.10. We have the best greens in the world.

I headed into Melville looking at the GPS. I did not see Williamson Spur as the map had said, so, I winged it. I ended up on W O road. On another map it is shown as W O Tracks Road.

Old Miss takes over on downs. Final, upset! Go Rebels. LSU, you better be ready.

I was headed to where you see "Melville Side" on the map. On the map you can see dotted lines if you opened it like I told you. They depict what probably was a logging railraod that ventured down Burton's Lake from the main line and over to the road which exited Second Lake. I very well might have left Second on an old logging RR. Some people see people ghost, I see RR ghost with the help of my old software.

There it was, the old raised bed coming into Melville.

I have artistically lined up the ramp of the old OG bed with the existing UP line going into Melville. I would suppose they shared the same station. If you think you see a ghost, you do. I may let you read the story later.

That station was just west of the Atchafalaya Bridge. I thought I'd get these out of the way before we rode back up the OG.

Back to W O Tracks Road. After leaving town it deteriorated. Here we go again.

I reached the levee, seen ahead, and crossed it. The road was better on the other side. Or, possibly I have the pictures out of order?

Nevertheless, I got to the end of the line, literally, since I'd been riding the OG the whole way except for the levee crossing. Now, where was the bridge? How I escaped the snakes I just don't know because I was definitely on their turf.

I'm getting tired so I'll just let you look as I did and see what I found.

There it was. Bingo again.
That would require another victory lap.
What was all of this stuff I had to climb. It appeared to be blacktop.
Had the trestle been a car bridge, also? And, was this where Mike's over hanging house was located, featured in his Christmas story? I have to keep nudging him.

Here's a picture from on top.

I'm looking at my old topographic map and it calls this waterway, Burton's Lake.
Was the land between Burton's Lake and Second Lake reachable by car at one time?
I made it back to Melville and the old water tower really looked good. I was tired of Nature and ready to move on to a concrete world. I'd go down 105 to 190 at Krotz Springs and then on to the foot of the Huey P.Long Bridge and swing south on La.1 for the next part of this ride. We'll go to a teetering monument in railroading history. See it now. Tomorrow, it might not be there.


Before you get into my shallow offerings, I just received this from Woody:

I remember the troop trains crossing the river at Anchorage when I was a tyke. I was told they kept the ferries operating during the war as there was fear that a German sub may take out the new bridge. The only photos of the two train ferries at Anchorage are at the West Baton Rouge Museum in Port Allen. My cousin, Bob, and I, lived and grew up walking the pipeline and playing under the trestle. After the ferry shut down the trains carrying cane to Poplar Grove Plantation mill had to back up over the levee to make the Poplar Grove switchback. It was exciting to listen that trestle groan and creak under the load.

PS: My grandfather's home was a couple hundred feet north of the trestle - pronounced "trustle".

PS: I've ridden the rails many times from Ramah {the east Basin levee} to the Wiskey Bay Pilot Channel {the cut short cutting the Atchafalaya River east of the original channel} before the rails were pulled up. It was Gulf States Utility owned then and had several motorcars in a shed behind the levee at Ramah - My father Murphy Blanchard was a foreman for GSU. Thank you for the pictures of the Walker. I can't remember the name of the other ferry right now - that info was lost in a computer crash. The most fascinating thing was the structure that spanned the rails to the ferry - I climbed all over that thing after it was abandoned.... There were four ships that were dismantled at that site. I believe they were banana boats - at least that is what my grandfather told me (Sidney Blanchard)

Then Wood sent this:


Ferry serve here was initiated by the Colorado Southern, New Orleans
& Pacific Railroad in September 1909, for trains running between New
Orleans and Houston. The CSNO&P was succeeded by the New Orleans,
Texas & Mexico Railroad on 21 March 1910. At that time, this
railroad was controlled by the St. Louis & San Francisco Railroad
(Frisco). The Frisco went into receivership in 1913 and
relinquished control of the NOT&M in April 1916. The Missouri
Pacific purchased the NOT&M in 1924. Although a rail-highway bridge
was opened at Baton Rouge in 1940, the MP did not begin using it
until 1947, at which time the train ferry was discontinued.
The Southern Pacific used this ferry from 1911 until 1931, for
trains running between Lafayette and Baton Rouge. This SP branch
was severed in 1927, when the Great Flood damaged the swing span
over the Atchafalaya River. The SP abandoned its trackage rights
over the MP and Y&MV between Anchorage and Baton Rouge on 21 October, 1931.


· B. F. YOAKUM - sidewheel ferry, built at Dubuque, Iowa in 1910

for service here; renamed WILLARD V. KING in 1913; transferred to

Natchez-Vidalia by MP in 1924; transferred to St. Louis (Ivory

Street) in 1927, where it remained until retired in 1940.

· GEORGE H. WALKER - sidewheel ferry, built at Pittsburgh, PA in

1923 for service at Baton Rouge, and used here until serve was

abandoned in 1947. Converted into a transfer barge and used at


Bernstein, David M., The Southern Pacific Guide-Texas and
Louisiana Lines, David M. Bernstein, 1995.
Collias, Joe. G., Mopac Power, Howell-North Books 1980.
Fair, James R., The Louisiana and Arkansas Railway, Northern
Illinois University Press, 1997.

Now I continue:

I rode out of Mellvile on La.105, then shot over the Atchafalaya Bridge on US 190, then the 6 mile or 12 mile or whatever bridge to enjoy the long pull down into West Baton Rouge Parish. It was endless and I was tired. I'd been banging around the swamp for a while and just got a crazy wild hair to make the loop. What was I going to do, retrace my ride home? No, no retracing, that's for girly men. The picture below has been haunting me.

This is what drug me down US190 from Krotz Springs to the industrial neighborhood [as tastefully as I can put it] of West Baton Rouge Parish to a place once known as Anchorage. If you can't imagine what you are seeing, it is a tug pulling a barge with a steam engine and Missouri Pacific train across the Mississippi headed to Baton Rouge. The barge had just left where I would be standing, 1907.

Let me set this up a little. I arrived finally to where my GPS showed the rails going to the levee. There was this large refinery and that was all I saw. I climbed the levee and looked around. I saw a pipeline going into the river marked 38000 volts. That put me back because 110 volts will knock you down. I took a few shots of this and that and looked back toward the refinery and took a few more pictures there. I was not happy. I didn't see anything to blow my skirt up.
These are the duds. The discovery is further down the page:

An airplane.

Pipeline going into river, or maybe more in the past?

A train at the refinery.

Here's the map of where we are and how I got here and how I'll leave. See "Sunrise" right next to the river? Look just above there, you'll see Anchorage. Yes, Roy, you can click it and it'll will get bigger.

And, a picture of my bike from the top of the levee. Woopie.

Then I went down, drank some water and ate some kind of doo-i-tall-grain-noola hippie bar and prepared to ride home. I went 5 feet and saw this. The vision produced the same excitement that the first trestle had given me times ten.

Oh my goodness. [No, I really don't say that but this is a family website].
The whole presentation gave me chills. The one remaining set of pilings on top was so poignant. It was a monolith reminiscent of the one in that weird space movie, but here in West Baton Rouge Parish. I proceeded to shoot it from every angle I could imagine. Some good, some not.

I like this one. You can see a part of the rest of the ramp on the other side of the road, I think it is within the refinery fence. The picture also contrasts between today's railroading and yesterday's. Pretty brilliant, huh?

Mike is going to pick it up here. My head's too big to go further:

Anchorage had a lot more pilings showing when we first moved to West Baton Rouge Parish in 1968. The Placid refinery was built in the early '70's, and before that, the old ramp started about halfway towards 'new' Highway 1. Our neighbor in Brusly was raised at Sunrise, which was just north of the Placid plant. Placid eventually bought out the entire settlement and tore all the houses down. Her dad was a stationary engineer on the MP ferry boats, and he used to tell me tales of working the railroad ferries. When the bridge was opened in 1938, the rail car ferries were shut down, and he went to work on the auto ferry at Port Allen. Learned a lot about stem on the river from him.

I had asked him about the big barn and water tower. You can see Poplar Grove Plantation on the map. Mike responded:

The water tank and barn were once part of Poplar Grove Sugar Mill, a medium sized mill that served most of the farmers in the Port Allen/Lobdell area. If you came in on US 190 from Erwinville, [which I did] just before you peel off onto LA 415, look to the left and you'll see the stack for Catherine (pronounced by locals as Katereen) Plantation mill. It's all that's left of the mill there. Poplar Grove's stack came down during Hurricane Andrew, and a lot of the bricks were snapped up by collectors. Both Poplar Grove and Catherine's "big houses" are still in use. The house at Poplar Grove was built for the 1904 Chicago World Exposition, then dismantled after the fair and shipped down the Illinois and Mississippi Rivers and rebuilt on its present site. Henry Watkins Allen, Civil War hero and governor, was born and raised at Poplar Grove, and is buried in the family cemetery there.

I sent him this mystery picture of cement on top of the levee:

The concrete blocks are what's left of an aborted effort to load barges with corn and rice. There was an extended longshoreman's strike at the port of Baton Rouge in the mid-60's. All the elevators throughout Iberville, West Baton Rouge and Pointe Coupee parishes and points north and west were full, and grain was spoiling on the ground. The old ferry landing was pressed into service and a cobbled together conveyor system was set up to load the barges by way of the conveyor. The blowers were set up on the levee, hence the concrete pilings. It didn't work out well, because the longshoremen set up a picket line, and most of the black drivers were afraid to cross it. It was all dismantled when the strike ended. [There are] Still some hard feeling in the area between organized labor and the farmers.

At one time, there were 11 sugar mills operating between New Roads and Donaldsonville. Now, only Alma, at Lakeland (on La 413, north of Erwinville), and Cora Texas, at White Castle, are still operating The WBR museum at Port Allen, has a miniature operating mill, built and exhibited in Poplar Grove's house during the 1904 Fair.

How was that for a history lesson from Professor Wilson. Pretty cool!
I'll have to ask him how many railroads used Anchorage to get across the river. It served from, I think, 1900 to 1938. But, don't quote me.

The next phase of the Swampers' ride will take us back west where I'll attempt to follow the old S&P Atchafalaya section to Henderson. I wasn't real successful in finding right of ways because I was tired and in a semi urban area. What wasn't urban was planted in sugarcane which makes bed hunting hard and the line was not on my GPS, it is too old.

I'll leave you with this shot of the Huey P.Long Bridge which put Anchorage and Mike's neighgor's dad out of business.


On my return from Anchorage, I decided to go ahead and see how much of the old Atchafalaya Branch of the Southern Pacific RR I could follow going home. I was weary from way too much fun and didn't do such a good job. I was only secure that I was on "track" when I got to its obvious path along I-10.

First you have to read about the railroad. Open this link in another window or come back when you are finished. When you are finished you'll want to come back. If you think the Basin Bridge is a marvel, this little railroad will put that into perspective. CLICK HERE He makes one mistake. The cars were to be ferried across the Mississippi above Port Allen, not what he said, "Port Barre". I can understand that happens. Oh, the place was of course, Anchorage, where my ride home began.

Below is the map of that route. This was the way I-10 travelers had go before the stretch between Ramah and Baton Rouge was finished. I knew it well. Click to enlarge.

Giving up on seeing the rail bed before getting below Rosedale, I decided to do a little sight seeing along La.77, which, by the way is fine ride.
At Rosedale, yea, Rosedale, down by the river side, I shot this picture in front of Live Oak House. I'd taken one of the Guzzi in front of it years ago. It was like nothing has changed which of course is a warm and fuzzy feeling or I was whipped sideways like a beaten mule and delirious.

Here's the old one. Wow, I found it.

More looking back onto the grounds:

And, what might be the garage, or then, the carriage house?

I went down the road and went over a hump where I could not stop. I continued and saw another fine old home I remembered.

I had made the comment then, "nice driveway". That still works.

Across the bayou was this old Vicky.

Back to the bump, my goodness. There it was.

I decided to go ahead and get on I 10 at this point instead of backtracking and staying off of it. I hate interstates. I'm just afraid of them. Am I a girly man? I got back off at Ramah, just at the foot of the Basin Freeway Bridge.

I looked back up the field and could see the line still standing above the surrounding land.

It was about time for the train to be coming back from Baton Rouge. Can you see it?
How about now?

I then crossed the canal on what I'm saying might have been a trestle, your call. Maybe it was what took the place of the trestle. There sure were some tie looking planks around and a cow that gave me grief.

I crested the levee and looked down the old right of way into the Atchafalaya Basin. The present Basin is now only 16 miles wide at this point.

Here's a Google Earth shot with some of my markers. Marker 2 is where we are now. See "Atchafalaya Bridge". That is where the town Atchafalaya was. It is also where the new Welcome Center is. You must visit it. There is a free movie to watch.

Ok, I promised you I'd show you the rapids I found. I've named them Black Water Rapids. This map marks their location.


I suggest visiting after a hurricane that has dropped 12 inches of water. The falls roar with authority at this time of year.

It was time to get onto the Interstate. I took one more look up the bed coming from Baton Rouge. Oops, I'd better hurry.

I crossed the Basin getting off at Henderson where I looked back again.
Man, that little train is fast!

That's it for my part, obviously delirious at the writing end, also.
Mark has actually gotten down in the Basin and shot some of the railway. He's shared those pictures with us and here are a bunch. They are larger than mine and if you click them you can see their full size.

Ghost trains, there ain't no such thing. Maybe. I'm out of here. That's it.