This ride definitely qualified as a true history hunt. It was also a "tracking the tracks" ride. This truth in advertising has probably closed the page in many a browser , but what the heck.
They will miss a fine adventure where I pushed the envelope further than I ever have, except for that time when I locked up the front wheel in the gumbo down near Bayou Cocodrie, close to the ghost town of Fauborg. Since, I've been a little more aware, but, you wouldn't think it from where I went yesterday.
I am an obsessive person. That facet can be detrimental or productive. This time it was productive. I want to be where history happened. Ghost and Aura, you know.
I wanted to hear the locomotives as they slowed for Derailment Curve or prepared for the train's Mississippi River crossing on the ferry. I wanted to see Edenborn's railroad that he had built there while pursuing his hobby. The train ferry was his favorite part of the business. I also wanted to finish off the latest project in Simmesport, the turntable. I further wanted to replace the discarded shot of Old La.1 as it approached Edenborn's rail and car bridge from the Simmesport side, a photo I had tossed for its seeming ugly uselessness. But, the real obsessions were Torras Landing and Torras Junction. I've just become aware of what looks like a rail wye, used for turning the trains, at Torras, I wanted photographs of the location. The realization that the wye was there cements my theory. Fooie, I just wanted to be there. That was the place where the LR&NRR sailed for Angola. Like Keith says, don't believe people when they say "stuff is washed away". They just can't find it. His example of this is Naples, Edenborn's first ferry port to Angola.
Torras has grabbed me because the concept of a train "sailing" does seem "foreign", but isn't. Ferrying was used on the Mississippi for quite a while. In fact. It was used at Baton Rouge, New Orleans and Natchez, to name a few others.
Well, I've done it again. I've gone and spewed a bunch of stuff when all you wanted to do was look at the pictures and get full of briers in places few would go.
To set the scene, as I left the wind was howling out of the south but the sky, for the most part was still clear and the temperature was in the mid-70's. The wind doesn't bother me except on high, low railed bridges. I'd have the Atchafalaya Bridge at Simmesport to contend with. It's one of those. If blown over, it would just be into oncoming traffic and not off the bridge, that would be saved for the return ride.
I arrived at Simmesport and bit the bullet to go into the library to get a picture of the turntable which I'm sure they have. Keith had suggested that some people are skeptics until shown a notarized picture and that my three circumstantial witnesses were not enough. The library was closed. This was my fourth visit to Simmesport in two weeks. I can take frustration. That was fine, I'd do another ride through since I was there.
Here's the ramp up to the approach to Edenborn's Bridge, not as ugly as it is or the last shot of it was. When approaching the bridge, the motorist would have to go around a corner on the tracks to cross. There had to be some sort of warning system because, unlike the Legionier side, this was a blind approach. I walked out on the tracks and I still couldn't see the bridge. Three shots here. 1 is the ramp, 2 is taken from on the levee where the ramp ended, and 3 is the map showing my wanderings in Simmesport. Kinda drunk looking.
From there I rode on back up Main Street which is Old LA 1, and I would suppose, the original downtown of Simmesport. There's not much left. I did shoot a couple of old buildings. Remember, Simmesport suffered in the flood of 1927, and the old downtown withered from the new LA 1 bypassing it.
Next, it was out to 418 to see if I could get to the right of way of the old Louisiana Railway and Navigation Railroad as it went east to Torras Landing for the boat ride to Angola or its trip around Derailment Curve to join the Texas and Pacific going southeast to Lettsworth. The underpass is a tangible gateway to the Torras Peninsula. It is just after east bound trains traverse the Atchafalaya.
I stopped and tried to get a shot back to the line (in purple), but only took a picture of an old side track. The map shows where the road is in relationship to the "tracks". I also shot a picture of a yellow and brown house in the neighborhood of the bridge thinking it might be associated with the bridge. I now question that. I think it's just a yellow and brown house. If anyone knows, please write.
And here's a taste of what the rest of this report will be like. I'm kidding to an extent, and then, I stop kidding. Sorta normal for me.
Actually there were no more gates for a while. A short while.
I looked both ways down 418 and then sized up how far down the dirt road I'd have to go to where I saw the tree line marking the ROW. I zoomed down there to find a huge mud puddle. That irked me. I pulled a U-eee into a wheelie and roared back to the highway leaving a cloud of dust. Honest.
My next effort would be more successful, if not more dramatic.
For the first time today, I was at the ROW. Here's looking back at the historic town of Eden toward Legionier. I wonder if Edenborn didn't come up with that name. He named many of the depots along his route. Some names stuck as town names as the area grew up.
Here's looking toward La.970. I almost rode the ROW down there but I think I was deep into a private farm already, maybe not? There were no warning signs.
I jumped back on 418 realizing my next chance would be La.970 where the ROW crosses it. I'm going to show the progress in the route with the purple line. Howz that?
I rode the Row down to a point where a bean field brought a halt to my joyous romp. I figured I wasn't missing much and headed back. I would have liked to have seen the bayou crossing, oh well. Wouldn't be my last "oh well" of the day.
Actually I say AHHH!!!! a lot when I get turned around.
I returned to 970 and took this shot of where I'd go next, quickly. Actually, I went very quickly. The red line is there to show you the curve to the right or east. It was headed to La.15 and a gate. Not the last gate of the trip.
As I rounded the right turn in a full locked up slide, I saw the gate ahead. I figured it was over and that I'd done all the ROW I was going to do without seeing my lusted for Torras Junction or Derailment Curve and anything but Torras Junction, again. I was wrong on all accounts. What's new, it's the curse. Here's the gate and my first case of fallen spirits.
Click the map to enlarge the map in another window.
This is what you'll see next in the photograph. I'll explain it all right now to keep your enthusiasm up. We wouldn't want your entuhsiasm to fall down now, would you? We've been following the yellow line from Legionier (Simmesport east)to La.15, where we are now. In the next shot you'll see that I have 2 red lines. The one straight ahead would follow the the red line on this topographic map to Torras, the old route after the Naples route that crossed the river to Angola. The red line that curves to the right in the picture would follow the yellow line on the topo map around Derailment Curve, the inside of which is the land in the picture to the right of the road. It goes to Lettsworth. The green line going north is the T&P going to Vidalia. The green line headed southeast is a stretch which the LR&N used to bypass the long curve out onto the Torras Peninsula later on which left all of this a speck on the floor of history. How's that enthusiasm working for you?
Straight to Torras, or, go right around Derailment Curve to Lettsworth. Slow down and don't back up.
After the Gate, on the map, I headed north on LA15 back to La.418 which I took to where you see Torras. I'd been there before and was afraid to continue as I believe a bad dog was at the trailer. Something unnerved me anyway. Today, I didn't care. I was going down this road as it was the T&P's ROW headed to Torras Junction. It probably would come up short, but I'd give it hell trying.
You'll have to wait until tomorrow for those pictures and the rest of the ride. My computer is acting up and this has taken twice as long to do as usual which is basically forever anyway. One last shot. The black triangle is sitting on Torras Junction. Big Grin.
How did you sleep with all that suspense I left you with last night?
On this page I'll be asking a lot of your imagination. I'll try to help it along, but, it is really up to you. If you can't get into the choo choo mood, just consider it as a walk in the woods, fields, brier bushes, snake pits and rat holes.
Here's the map. I didn't see the church. The next picture was taken standing where you see "Torras" written. That was probably not the actual site of the town of Torras which was besieged by floods in the early 1900's and eventually abandoned. It would have been further northeast on the green line which was the Texas and Pacific route north. "X" marks the location of Torras Junction, my most recent lust, if I haven't mentioned that yet.
To pick up where we left off last night. I turned east on 418 to see if I could access Torras Junction from the Texas and Pacific RR ROW that goes north-south, Vidalia to Lettsworth. The "gate" next to Derailment Curve had prevented me from taking the LR&N ROW from there to Torras Junction. "If you can't get it one way, try another, but get it", my motto as an obsessive.
In the picture below, the tree line marks what I suspect is the actual track bed. I looked at the ramshackle house trailer and shoeless cars to the left, heard no dogs and hauled it down the two rut dirt road. I descended into history. I was very careful, not wanting to "blow" this moment and dump the bike in some unnoticed mud hole. I also watched the GPS as my route stayed true to the dashes that marked the T&P route to the junction. I saw a field coming up with no road entering it. It would be close and I braced myself for disappointment.
Wham bam, thank you mam, I was there. I parked the bike on a CEMENT SLAB. I suspect the true crossing to be to the left in this picture. I tried to get up on the bed but it was too thick and, frankly, scary. Snakes, I hate snakes and it was in the mid 70's, and sunny. Just right for a late Autumn cobra sunning.
I got excited and took 30 pictures. 6 were blurred, 2 were of the sky, 1 was of my foot, and the rest are passable given large amounts of charity. I don't expect you to appreciate the weight these carry with me. Just think of them as lovely field pictures.
In this one, you can see my shadow standing at the bike, sun behind me, looking east down the LR&N headed to Torras Landing. My head is not that big, I never take off my helmet to prevent any damage I might receive from getting hit over the head with a pipe. Stuff happens.
This is looking back toward the labeled, "Torras". Notice, where I'm standing is on the higher ground which is the LR&N bed with the junction directly to my left. I want to keep you in synch.
Next, I hopped on the bike to see how far east I could ride on the LR&N toward the landing. There were woods ahead.
I saw the road dip into those woods and feared getting into a situation. I had bluffed my way through this ride so far and hadn't been caught. It looked damp ahead and I wasn't going there with this notoriously top heavy bike. I was close to where the LR&N crossed La.418 and it just wasn't worth it. Returning to the junction, I took one more parting shot.
I rode back to where "Torras" is written, on 418, parked down the road a bit from the trailer and shoeless cars, then walked up the levee to find where the T&P had headed off to Torras, the old abandoned town.
Sure nuff, there it was. I wondered how far up those 4 wheeler tracks went and then remembered my unprotected bike on the side of the road. I had a little panic attack and hoofed it back quickly.....................
.......after taking one more shot of the T&P headed to Torras Junction from the top of the levee.
Nowst time for a reVIEW. The squares are my tracks. The last square next to "Pic" is as far as I got on the rails going to Torras Landing, marked by the yellow tack to the far right (on the Mississippi River). With this GE map, you can see the woods that were ahead of me. There might have been a trestle there over Bayou Lettsworth, a bayou we will see later. The yellow line marks the approximate route to the highway. I have seen an opening in the woods that went straight from "pic" and not made the "S" turn to Torras. Had it been a storage area?
More supposition to come.
I rode 418 to the spot where the rails would have crossed. There were bails of hay stacked on the "high ground".
Here's looking from the west toward the road.
I think the rails took the road for a little way then turned toward Torras. I rode down to the turn and was struck by a lightning bolt of insane rage. If I had had a truck, I would have drug that crap to Baton Rouge and laid it on the steps of the capital.
How dare they block access to a national treasure. I'm getting to the bottom of this. I don't suspect it will be there next time as this place is popular with the locals. They'll pull it down. Wow, I'm not advocating any civil disobedience and surely not in hunting season.
With hung jaw, I motored toward the state police landing at Angola because I had seen something on a GE map of the Angola site that was a mystery. Also, there is something to the west of the highway I've highlighted in white. Was this a rail bed for storage, or a borrow pit for the highway? The foliage was too thick. I'll be back in winter.
Down at Angola Landing there is a clearing that goes to a "T". Beyond that is what looks like a rail bed headed to a water crossing, maybe, I walked it and the high ground abruptly fell off as if a trestle had started or it was the end of the line. Also, south of the road that connects 418 to the Angola landing is what is marked as a "trail". No, it depicts an old rail bed because it is as straight as an arrow. The "trail goes all the way to Smithland. What was going on here? A line came form Smithland and rode up to the Angola landing and then veered west over a trestle??????, or stopped? Here's the map with all that on it. Click to enlarge. More from the Smithland end in a moment.
Turning off 418 onto the Angola road, I stopped on the bridge and took a zoomed out shot toward what looked like a sand bar crossing the water. Was that a railroad tie?
Zooming in, this is the scene.
Getting to the landing, I shot way across the river to where the opposite landing is. I've been told that is my next hunt. I'm to figure out how the rails went after the ferry ride over to the prison area. I've decided how I can get on the prison's property. I'll drag that gate back at Torras Landing to the Capital steps, get out of the truck, yell a bunch about the local megalomaniacs and wait. If I'm ignored, I'll yell some more. It's been a while since I've seen Daryl and Daryl. Maybe we can all go on a history hunt picnic after a day of that hard labor.
Look, I see what seems like a rail bed to the right of the gate house. YOU? Or does it go with the power lines? Power poles are always a hint to where the old ROW's were. Wilbur, I know there was no power then, but the right of ways carried power after the days of telegraphs was over. Why buy new ones when you have old ones?
Now I walked what I thought was "something" down the clearing to the "T" and to where I perceived a bayou crossing. I might add it was very faintly perceived.
This is where I walked off the "grade" or whatever. The grass was just too high and I was not as inspired as usual. Dropping off a whatever can make you think twice about further pursuits. Or, I still had my mad on?
I walked back to the bike and stopped to shoot the mighty river at this awing place where C.Alphonso de LaSalle had rediscovered the Mississippi after 3 centuries or so. Sorry, he took all of my pictures to send to his relatives back in Da Parish.
Back to my mad, these are the bad guys.
I was so mad, I decided to flaunt my disrespect by going down the levee the WRONG WAY. (red sign) Come on? Is there really a "wrong way" to go down a levee? I guess there is, my son rolled his truck down one. Where does he get that from? Remember, this is the prison landing and some say it's a one way trip.
I continued down 418 to where the "trail" seemed to cross the levee. The red line marks the presumed "route".
I topped the levee and parked at "P", "2P" is further down the levee and out of sight. The purple line follow what I know were rails. Notice "Smithland Landing" is in the water, just as the old Red River Landing is further north. These places were washed away, but don't challenge Keith on that or he'll get scuba gear and find them.
Also, notice Mike's Bar. I bet that place rocked. For you Harley riders, you knew there was a "Hog Point". But, you'll have to swim to it.
From where I parked I looked down on what I think was the rail bed. The farmer had placed a feed crib on it.
Next is just a picture of the water next to the property. The next picture is what I saw climbing the levee.
The weather was "coming in". I had figured that south wind would be pushing some moisture out of the Gulf.
Then I saw these guys. I shooed them back through the fence explaining that the road was only big enough for one ass.
I rode on and turned down 971 toward Lettsworth (home of Buddy Guy).
I took a couple of shots along the way that display the varied architecture of past days.
I continued on into Lettsworth (home of Buddy Guy).
There is an old store there that you might want to visit quickly as the roof is going and that's that when that happens. Lettsworth is soaked in history, but not much is left. I've been into some of the old slacks and they are now falling down.
Here's my railroad shots of the place. I wanted to walk out to where the LR&N, or maybe then the name had changed to the L&A, had originally traveled to Torras Junction. I think I saw it. I was a little stressed because there wasn't much room to run if a train came. I estimated the distance up the tracks at less than a quarter mile. Here's the way it went.
The next pictures are meant for the rail-o-holics that might recognize some of the stuff that was along the side of the grade.
I walked quickly back towards La.1. The bike was parked away from the road but still I worried. Shots taken quickly in transit.
Had the cement laying on the side of the tracks come from a previous longer bridge across Bayou Lettsworth, which the new bridge ahead crosses? Or, somewhere else. [Explanation below by Mike] I was in the vicinity of the worst rail accident that the L&A had ever experienced. I didn't think to look for any evidence.
I was fried. It was time to attack the Atchafalaya Bridge again, this time in an angrier wind.I'd be blown into the rail if...... I tucked in low, put it in 2nd gear and climbed the ramp. The bike moved around a bit more. That might have been caused by the added weght of the huge 25 pound rail plate I had stowed up high in the bike's trunk. I made it over and was able to sit up on the down ramp. I turned south on La.105, the happy warrior though I'd taken a lick back at Torras Landing. The thrill of standing (almost) where the trains of two great railroads had crossed was almost overwhelming. I hope your vicarious visit there was also (overwhelming).
If you like this stuff, check below in the "Rail Articles" Box for other writes dealing with the Torras Peninsula.
More below on what I saw on the side of the rails at Lettsworth. Mike, writer of "The Railroader" articles sent me this.
The concrete ties you saw at Lettsworth were a failed experiment for the L & A.[Louisiana and Arkansas Railroad, later to merge with the Kansas City Southern line and eventually lose its identity] They were used along the entire route from Lobdell to Shreveport, and were supposed to be the end to constant tie replacement. They were hardy ties, but had no flexibility like wood ties, and ended up breaking where there was the least bit of movement of the railbed. They were replaced in the early '90's, and left along the roadbed for any one who wanted them. They are piled along the right of way just south of Alexandria, and a lot of farmers use them to set their equipment on in the fields. Don't try to pick one up...I learned the hard way that they are much heavier than the wood ones. They would make flower bed borders in your yard. Just haul one a trip on the back of your bike.
ME: Ok, I'll give it a try.
Rent the most recent Rolling Stone concert, "Shine A Light". Buddy Guy (Lettsworth, Louisiana) is a guest performer on the show. Just a taste of his power is displayed there. The concert ain't bad either for a bunch of geriatrics. Rock on!