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Following Louisiana's & Mississippi's Historic Railroads

My Ride Reports

Finding the Lumber Mill Railroads

Following the Historic Rails of Mississippi

A Family of Railroaders

Leon wrote that he'd enjoyed the ride report on the Torras Peninsula. He added that he had railroaders in the family and that he had grown up in Avoyelles parish.

Railroaders in the family? I asked him to elaborate.

He stated, "I think my grandfather, Arno, worked for the Texas & Pacific Railroad. I recall seeing  calendars on his wall in the 50's. I think they were labeled "Louisiana & Arkansas Railroad". He retired around 1950".

Why did a T&P employee have Louisiana & Arkansas calendars?  Because there was a joint Arkansas & Louisiana and Texas & Pacific dispatch office at Torras Junction. Further, his father and and grandfather had worked there at the same time. The pages of the two biographies below are full of little gems like that. This explains the concrete slab I found there. I also learned that there was a water tank at the junction.
Below you see a yellow and purple line.
The yellow line depicts  the route of  Texas &Pacific RR rails,  the purple line is the La.Rail & Navigation Co's route, and the red arrow points the disappearing concrete slab.
I was there at the beginning of December which helped in "seeing" the evidence.

He continued, "My Grandfather also worked at the station at Woodside,La. Somewhere I have a photo of him (his grandfather) at the Torras station with about a half dozen track workers when  my father was about six years old".

He told me that his paternal grandfather's name was Arno Joseph LeJeune, 1881-1971.
He was the agent / telegrapher at the Torras station in the early 1900's.

He continued saying his father knew almost everyone, black and white, who worked the lines you mentioned ..... Lecompte, as I recall, was where Sam Poole was from. He was retired when I was very young in the 1950's. He and Bob Nash, retired, used to show up at the Bunkie depot everyday to visit my father and the other workers, and also to check there pocket watches with the big master clock in the telegraph office. Bob Nash was friends with my grandfather many years before. That office / depot was virtually unchanged from around 1880, or so, until it was torn down in the 70's or 80's. When the railroad installed the IBM keypunch systems, forerunners of computers, in the Bunkie office in the late 60's or early 70's.
That liked to have killed my dad. He learned the system but didn't like it.

He continued, "My father retired in 1982 from the Missouri Pacific Railroad. (Texas & Pacific Railroad) in Bunkie, La. The day he retired the Missouri Pacific  padlocked the depot and computer routed everything to Shreveport and St. Louis, a longer story there. He was the agent / telegrapher. Telegraph was pretty much discontinued around 1964 with the advent of microwave transmissions.
The old timers still used the telegraph, until the equipment was removed later".

He continued, "These are some other names of men at the Texas & Pacific. Norris Ducote worked in Church Point, J.T. Dunbar, Mr. Gauthier, Tony Taylor, and Lance Rabalais. My father also worked at Addis a while, probably in the early 50's. I got to ride the T&P free from New Orleans to El Paso. I also rode one of the last passenger trains from Bunkie to New Orleans back in 1968 or 1969. The only thing my father ever told me to do was, "Don't work for the railroad".  Fresh out of high school, in '68, I rode that train to Addis to apply for a job with the railroad and didn't get it".

He continued, "Norris Ducote was one of my father's best friends. He lived in Cottonport. At some point he was transferred to Church Point ( that train was called the Church Point local)
 I remember him well because he and my dad would take me with them sometimes".

He continued and he continued, each addition stoking a fire of intrigue. The problem was, the fire was out of control. I was overwhelmed. Then Leon emailed more and even snail mailed an old newspaper article focusing on his father and grandfather and their families. While he was out of touch I attempted to assemble all the data chronologically taking 6 hours. Finally, when I thought I was nearing a point where I could pull his family's story together, he came up with more information in the form of two biographies and what I will call "further information". The whole process was a test of my endurance which I think was worthwhile.
There is a point when confusion can be overwhelming. I think I tested Leon's patience to the breaking point.
My continuous inquiries were necessary to get it right.
He approved of this, the final copy.
I would have approved of anything at that point.

At this point in this pursuit I will not start typing, I "screen shot" quotes and crediting from this point on with his blessings. I have added a few captions to try to keep the article on course.
 The above tidbits are what I had to deal with at first.
Leon found the source of all his scattered memories and sent them to me. I have posted it all here.

All of the following images are "THUMBS". They are "shortcuts" for the underlying pictures of the pages. If the thumbs are not readable, click them and the underlying page will appear or once did as this is rewrite. You may then need to zoom in a bit. In Windows 7 a "+" sign appears as your mouse pointer when placed over the document. Click and even I can read it. When finished, hit your back arrow and you will return to this page where you can either read the thumb or click it to see the actual page.
This will be slow going but worth your time.

A note: Mr.Hook's article was given to me with the blessings of the Lejeune Family. Much, if not all, of the information came from Mrs. Jennie Lejeune and her husband, Dawson, as seen in her original writings about the family which is below his version.
 I just want to be clear I'm not abusing someone's private property.

My consultant, code named "OO-L",  wrote with more information on the author:

"I know Gerald A. Hook . He is retired from a position in KCS marketing at Baton Rouge and now lives in Arkansas. He is the current President of Kansas City Southern Historical Society, Inc".
That is dated information at this writing.

I'll turn the blog over to Mr.Hook, click the pages to read.

Thumb 1

Thumb 2.

Thumb 3.

Thumb 4

Thumb 5

Thumb 6.

Thumb 7.

The following is by Jennie Lejeune, Dawson's wife and Leon's mother. Much of it is repetitious. But some was not included in Hook's write which came, in part, from her writings.











Below is information she had collected about the ghost
town of Torras where she had lived and left because of the
"3 snakes in the house".

Below, the Torras depot can be made out to the right.
I would suspect the rails ran parallel to the street.
All of these will have to be clicked.

The name of the nearby town of Philipston could have
originated from the mentioned "Mr. Phillips".
I think that is completely accurate.
"Filston" may be an abbreviation.

I am guessing this is the location of Torras. These
are the Texas & Pacific bridge piers. To the right (south) would be Torras.
This bridged traversed Lower Old River. The actual span is pictured below.

Notice the swing section of the bridge to the left. It certainly
resembles the first first Texas & Pacific  Afchafalaya rail bridge at
Melville, but this one has  the heftier single support piers.

Below is from Wikipedia:

Torras is the name of a former town in the extreme northeastern corner of Pointe Coupee Parish, Louisiana. The town was located along either side of the Texas & Pacific Railroad at its juncture with Lower Old River. The Mississippi River is located just to the east and the juncture of the Red and Atchafalaya Rivers is just to the west.

Founded in 1902 and named for pioneer area planter Joseph Torras. Joseph Torras was born in Barcelona, Spain in 1820. He immigrated to the United States as a young man. Before settling in Pointe Coupee in 1845, he had lived in Natchez, Mississippi and Van Buren, Arkansas. He and his brother purchased the plantation of General Bennett Barton Simmes and opened the firm of M & J Torras.

The town of Torras was expected to develop into an important shipping and rail center, due to its excellent location. Disaster struck, however, on May 1, 1912, when the levee in front of the town gave way during the great Mississippi River flood of that year. The community was virtually destroyed as the flood waters poured south through Pointe Coupee Parish as well as into West Baton Rouge, Iberville and Assumption Parishes. Some 17,000 residents of Pointe Coupee were forced from their homes and at least 28 persons drowned, principally in the Lettsworth, Batchelor and Erwinwille communities to the south of Torras.

The community of Torras was moderately rebuilt and withstood the high water of the Great Flood of 1927, when a levee break occurred nearby at the McCrea community on the east bank of the Atchafalaya River. With the relocation of the railroad in later years, however, the community of Torras ceased to exist and there are no buildings left to mark its former location.

Now the 1912 NY Times article.

Next will be all the pictures I cut out of various sources
Leon sent. I may add a few of my more recent shots to the lot.

These are pictures from the newspaper article Leon sent me.
I think that article is mentioned in Hook's write.

Arno Lejeune would open and close that depot.

This is the Woodside Depot with Arno standing out front.
I think these two pictures were taken at the same time.

Below is the Woodside, La, mill during the 1927 flood.
( below Simmesport, Highway.105)
I would later get a note from a fella whose grandfather worked there.

Leon related another Lejeune family connection to Woodside:

"The sawmill at Woodside was where my great grandfather worked. My mother said he had gotten a big gash on his head. I think it happened when one of the mill blades went flying. It was not fatal but might have pushed him along a little faster".
"My great-great grandfather, on my mother's side, worked at that saw mill, also. Her father and her father's brother ran a steam ferry between Bayou Sarah and New Roads-way back."
That punched my button.

"Way back", indeed. In my research about Bayou Sarah, the ferry, which his relatives ran, is mentioned. After a while, if you learn enough history, it all starts fitting together.

This is the only structure I could find at Woodside.
I stopped there and talked to these two fellas and asked them about the mill.
With an attitude they denied that there ever was one.
I think there was more than my question going on in our conversation.
You never know what's next doing research out on the road.
I wished them well and left. I was on "Easy Rider Road" and did not
want to become a sequel. 

North side.


Included in the old article that Leon sent me, were these shots:

Simmesport Depot with a passenger train beside it.

Leon's father, Dawson, in Bunkie, 1980. He would retire
after 42 years. In this one he is catching the orders off the passing caboose.

Bunkie 1940.

Quoting Leon,  "The photo of the Bunkie depot is taken from the southern perspective looking north. The first building on the left was the T&P freight office which was attached to the telegraph office and warehouse. It can also be seen in the aerial photo. The ticket office (across the side street) with it's beautifully appointed duplicated waiting rooms for black and white  was the other building which remains today. I grew up hanging around the depot and playing on the mail carts and listening to the click of the telegraph and the men talking. The telegraph office was torn down, probably in the 80's or early 90's. The ticket office (across the street) is still there and used for the Chamber of commerce, minus the ornamental iron work and canopies on all sides".

I questioned what the parallel separators were.

Leon continues:

"Here is a cut from the picture at, taken in 1963".
It looks like the mystery strips were parking slots.

Below is a fairly recent picture of the Bunkie Depot.

This is of Arno and his wife, Mit, in 1955. He had retired in 1949.

These are some repeats from the Torras article. More is better.

I had almost skimmed over the above picture.
Red River Landing's location, I believe it is now submerged.
I also believe that Red River Landing was a rail stop and the original
route of the Texas & Pacific's branch north to Ferriday from "west Baton Rouge".
Descriptions of the town's importance lead me to that conclusion.

Lower Old River is the route through the present  locks. It is also the route
between the Mississippi River and the Atchafalaya River which Edenborn's La. Rail & Navigation Co's
rail ferries plied between Naples (La.) and Angola Plantation, now a prison.

This is map of the Torras and Torras Junction area.
In my first attempt at this page, I was trying to estimate
the location of the Torras (town of) depot. Statements
ranged from one mile to two miles. I have it located at
1.1 miles from the Torras Junction. Two miles would put
it closer to the water which was probably behind the
photographer. Torras was on the T&P Line.
The L&A crossed La.15 and La. 418 before crossing
the river on a ferry to Angola and on to St.Francisville
and Baton Rouge.

Below is a map showing the locations of the various towns
mentioned. It's a big map, click to open. Some of the remaining rails are shown.

Below, I'm going to go through some of the exchanges between
Leon and I. No, not all the motorcycle and pop festival talk,
just the family and RR stuff.
Disappointed?  You should be.

Some may be repeats from the beginning of this write, but
you've forgotten that already, so here's a review.

These are Leon's words unless stated otherwise or obviously not.

Norris Ducote was one of my father's best friends. He lived in Cottonport, and at some point was transferred to Church Point ( that train was called the Church Point local) I remember him well cause he and my dad used to take me to the bars with them sometimes.

2015 >> I just realized that I have met a Uncle Norris Ducote in Cottonport.
He was elderly and a bit strange. I can only wonder.

 More Genealogy and repeats:
Leon's mother's side:
On my mother's side, her father and his brothers worked on the ferry
between Bayou Sarah (below St.Francisville) and New Roads way back. (on map)
Her grandfather, my great grandfather, worked at the Woodside saw mill.
More about Arno, Leon's grandfather:
He possibly worked at Addis, below Baton Rouge, known as "Baton Rouge Junction",  also. My father and grandfather got transferred and "bumped" around as needed. (Addis was an important Texas & Pacific RR town.)

Later Leon added a bit about the family's Torras and Morganza connections:

"C. Jones, my uncle, worked for the US Army Corps of Engineers. He retired, I think, in the late 60's and was called back when the Morganza Spillway was opened in 1973 or 1983 or both".

By "opened", Leon meant literally that. Morganza has only been "opened" (to let water from the Mississippi River flow down the spillway to Morgan City) only a few times in its history. It is a control structure. The picture below is me on La.1 on the river side of the gates.


"His son, C. Jones Jr. would probably recall a lot about what you have written as well as specific locations and details and possibly some photos. He was close to our grandfather, Arno, and probably hung out at the Woodside Depot and maybe Torras also in the mid 40's. He grew up in Melville, a short distance away and was mayor of Melville at some point. During WWII, most, if not all of the men in our family were overseas. (the World War?) I think his father Clyde was also overseas.

He continues:
"That road on the inside of the Morgana spillway- I recall driving that road in the 50's with my parents. Today it was very clean and clear, and you could probably find the year imprinted on those culverts. Huey Long built Hwy.1 from his front porch in Winfield to the La. state. capital. It must have used good concrete".

(In deed)

This is from my old Garmin Topo Map. I think the Morganza
Spillway was completed in 1958 which jives with Leon traveling
it in the 50's. La. 972, before the spillway,  traveled inside (to the east of) the west
levee. Present 972 travels the road to LaCour, a plantation settlement.
By the way. LaCour Spur to mill is still evident at the intersection of
La.972 and La.1.

Below is the 2009 map. You can see the road has been
moved and old 972 is now called "Missouri Pacific RR".
Most likely Garmin burped on that one, maybe.
The railroad along La.1 was owned by the T&P RR.
The T&P was a Missouri Pacific RR company.
There may be a story here.

More from Leon:

One more story for now.

My mom was with this woman, (at a recent funeral) the niece of the nanny who helped by father's family and helped raise the 3 kids in Woodside (one of which was Dawson, Leon's dad). She owns and lives on the property close to the (mentioned) mill (at Woodside). My grandfather sold her aunt the property in the late 40's or so, which was quite a large parcel. The old woman had no kids of her own and lived to be over 100. I met her about 30 years ago. She still lived in an old shack on her property sitting right on the Tuscalusa trend. (an extensive oil and gas field to come)

Here's a  little off subject, Lake Martin, south of Breaux Bridge.

From Leon:

I buzzed through your Lake Martin photos. You hit the nail on the head. It is constantly evolving and never looks the same. I was fortunate to wind up there about 15+ years ago on the way home from  Festival International (in Lafayette) on a sunny day when 1000's of the rose bills herons were nesting complete with the biggest alligators I have ever seen sunning themselves in close proximity to balls on nutria on little stump islands  right by the gravel road on the north side as I recall.

More dissecting of notes:

 "That (Bunkie) office/depot was virtually unchanged from
around 1880 or so until it was torn down in the 70's or 80's".

"I think my grandfather worked for the LR&N, or the L&A. or it could have
been the T&P...but pretty sure it was at the ferry crossing for the train. I
recall seeing calendars on his wall in the 50's. I think they were L&A. I
know RR's were bought out and merged over many years. He retired around 1950".

The above statement was a mystery, then an epiphany. Father and son may
have been paid by both railroads as they monitored Torras Junction where the
Texas and Pacific had the trackage rights on the L&A approach to the ferry and
then swung south on its own rails coming form Ferriday-Torras headed to Lobdell
near the present Huey P. Long bridge at Baton Rouge. That route was also used
by the L&A. So, it seems that these companies were happily content with each
other in this neighborhood and why Arno had the L&A calendars.
 "My Grandfather also worked at the station at Woodside,La. Somewhere I have
 a photo of him at the Torras station with about a half dozen track workers
> and my father(about 6 years old). Or my mother has it".

That one is pictured above

This is another repeat, but interesting

My father knew pretty much everyone black and white who worked the lines
you mentioned. He probably knew Mike's father (Mike Wilson, who contributed
so much to this website with his "Railroader" articles.)

"Lecompte, as I recall, was where Sam Poole was from. He was retired when I was
very young in the 50's. He and Bob Nash, retired, use to show up at the Bunkie
depot everyday to visit my father and the other workers, and also to check their
pocket watches with the big master clock in the telegraph office. And Bob Nash was friends
with my grandfather many years before. That office/depot was virtually
 unchanged from around 1880 or so until it was torn down in the 70's or 80's.
When the RR install IBM keypunch systems(forerunners of computers) in the
Bunkie office in the late 60's or early 70's, it liked to have killed my dad- he learned
the system but didn't like.

\My father also retired ~1982 from the MoPac (use to be T&P) in Bunkie, La.
" The day he retired, the MP padlocked the depot and computer routed
everything to Shreveport and St. Louis- a longer story there... . He was
the agent/telegrapher. Telelgraph was pretty much discontinued around 1964
with the advent of microwave transmissions. And the old timers still used the
telegraph, until the equipment was removed later. He learned telegraph
from Mr. Selz Bordelon in New Roads, La. around 1938 or so. Spent WWII in the
Navy as a radioman on the USS Sangamon, then continued the T&P in New Roads in 1946".

Names associated with the Bunkie Station and the T&P:
"Also some other names of men at the T&P-Norris Ducote, he worked in Church
Point, J.T. Dunbar, ? Gauthier, Tony Taylor, Lance Rabalais. My father
also worked at Addis a while, probably in the early 50's. I got to ride the T&P
free from NO to El Paso. And I rode one of the last passenger trains from
Bunkie to New Orleans back in 1968 0r69 The only think my father ever told
me to do was-Don't work for the Railroad. So fresh out High School in 68,
or maybe 69- I rode that train to Addis to apply for a job with the RR. I didn't get it".

OO-L contributed this:

The T&P's line from Addis to Ferriday crossed Old River on a through-truss swing bridge and had a station at Torras. Meanwhile, the LR&N was using its long ferry route under that bridge between Naples and Angola.

My 2015 interjection: Recently OO sent me a note from a fellow forum member. The note covered
the history of the LR&N Co.'s ferry boats.  One ferry sunk in the Mississippi after hitting the
bridge he just mentioned. It is pictured above.

 In 1928, several things happened. The LR&N and the L&A came under joint ownership. The rail / highway bridge at Simmesport was completed, and what was about to emerge as the merged L&A built a new line from that bridge to its new ferry landing at Filston / Philipston, crossing the T&P's Addis-Ferriday line at Torras Junction. To reach Simmesport from the west, the emerging L&A obtained trackage rights over the T&P's Bunkie-Simmesport line from approximately Moreauville (where LR&N's line toward Big Bend - Naples had diverged). In exchange for this, L&A gave T&P trackage rights over its new line,  Simmesport to Torras Junction. This gave T&P a through connection from its main line at Bunkie to its line along the west bank of the Mississippi River in Pointe Coupee Parish to Ferriday.

The order of the Interstate Commerce Commission authorizing T&P to abandon the line between Junction and Ferriday was dated April 8, 1940, and said about it:

The line in question was built by the applicant [T&P] in 1902 and 1903 as a connecting link between the St. Louis, Iron Mountain & Southern Railway (now Missouri Pacific Railroad) and other lines of the Texas & Pacific to form a lower-grade and shorter route between St. Louis, Mo. and New Orleans. The ruling grade of the line is 0.3 percent, and the maximum curvature is 1 degree 30 minutes. It is laid with 63-pound rail, and most of the track is in a fair state of maintenance.

With the exception of approximately 6 miles between Slocum and a point near Shaw {me: below Ferriday}, the line is located west of the Mississippi River levee and is protected to some extent from the waters of that river. The segment is situated between the levee and the river and is damaged frequently by erosion. The line crosses the Old River near Torras, and the caving banks of that river frequently damages the track and interrupts the service. There has been no through service over the line since March 28, 1939, when the track at both of these locations was damaged by cavings of the river banks.

The order would have become effective seven days after its date. It is reasonable to assume that T&P's presence at Torras would have been shifted to Torras Junction at that time. I rather suspect that L&A (or maybe both railroads jointly) would have put a station at Torras Junction in 1928, when passenger interchange there would have become a possibility.

L&A became a subsidiary of KCS in 1939, and when the rail / highway bridge opened at Baton Rouge the following year, KCS abandoned its Filston-Angola ferry and began operation by trackage rights over T&P between Torras Junction and Lobdell (West Baton Rouge).

The demise of Torras Junction would have come in 1953, when KCS / L&A built its current alignment Legonier  to Lettsworth and abandoned Legonier  to  Torras Junction. T&P would have been able to have abandoned its Torras Junction  to Lettsworth segment, and presumably it did so without much delay. The 1953 changes took place in the wake of the 1951 troop-train tragedy between two KCS trains on T&P track just north of Lettsworth.

He goes on:

Now, the only problem I see with any of this is Mike Wilson's purported T&P involvement with defending whatever at Old River in 1945. A very cursory review of the Old River history that I've just done leads me to believe that there was no structure there at that time. If  I'm wrong, and there was, I suppose it's possible that T&P had left a stub of track up there from Torras Junction after the 1940 abandonment at the request of the Corps (or whomever) to facilitate the movement of materials, etc.
 Further research on this point might be indicated.

{Added later}
Thanks for sending the story of the T&P's efforts at Old River. I'm still a bit perplexed by the fact that the line was supposed to have been abandoned as of 1940. Perhaps service was abandoned, but the tracks left as far as the bridge or so. I've done more searching, and I still haven't (yet) found anything about any control structure or locks being there prior to the ones finished in 1963. There couldn't have been a control structure without locks for navigation. Could it have been nothing more than the railroad bridge, and the Corps wanted to dump rock from it to try to block the river? We know that the T&P's bridge was a through truss swing bridge, and we know that what's there now is just the bridge piers.

And I'll sign off, too, Steve