‘Twas on the afternoon of Tuesday 25 October 2005 that I was first able to enter the non-Algiers portion of the city of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, which had passed nearly two months prior.
Ever searching for meaning and connections, I went to the places in the city that, at that time, had the most meaning for me. I likely drove under the Norfolk Southern “Back Belt” trackage on Canal Boulevard, likely passing the Plantation Coffee House, and then to the western edge of City Park at the NS Back Belt trackage at Marconi Drive. To understand why these locations are so important to me, it helps to understand that this was the New Orleans that I had hoped to know, as foretold in my influential 17 April 2004 visit, when I took my first-ever train picture on the NS Back Belt; to understand, then, why this particular day – the day of this article that you are reading – was so important to me, consider that this was my first time to this location after Katrina, and that these are my first digital pictures from the non-Algiers portion of the city of New Orleans.
Compared to its normal lush appearance, City Park looked like a moonscape, with all of the dead grass and small vegetation that had been submerged in the flood; I got the sense of death, dust, and desertion – desertiness.
There were trucks, large pieces of equipment, and campers providing lodging.
And here, you see what might be a Katrina casualty, the only dead thing that I photographed in the wake of Katrina.
It doesn’t seem like a big deal, but, for me, it represented so much, and it was all of the death that I needed or wanted to see.
I am happy to allow the sight of the carcass of a bird to be a placeholder for the sight of all of the human lives lost to this tragedy.
Here we see the campers there, I guess housing out-of-town rescue-and-recovery workers, or maybe displaced local residents; anyone know?
Next, we see the neat-looking, mildly iconic Marconi underpass under the NS Back Belt trackage.
It gets hit by a truck every few years!
Okay, let’s take a little ride, perhaps finding a train.
I found myself in places that would soon become familiar, places where I had never been on my own and where I had been once in 2003 with The Shadow Warrior, who died in early 2013.
We are at Florida Avenue just north of NS Oliver Yard, we are looking north at an oncoming train, and I take my first digital train photograph in the non-Algiers portion of the city of New Orleans. (The shots that I took eight days prior along the only short stretch of track in Algiers would be my first digital train pictures in New Orleans, but both culturally and railroadingly, that hardly counts for much.)
The train was a CSX detour train about to turn toward our left in the above picture; you can see, at left, the track that leads to the Back Belt, and you can see plenty of ballast that has been recently added.
CSX detoured trains over the NS into New Orleans until February 2006, as the CSX line across coastal Mississippi and into New Orleans was basically obliterated.
Next, I race to Broad Street to get a shot of the train coming past the Frenchmen Street signals, this being my first digital picture on the NS Back Belt.
That’s the Elysian Fields overpass in the background, and the closer set of signals – old Southern Railway cantilever signals – was replaced by early 2013. I don’t think that Katrina’s floodwaters reached the rails, but Florida Avenue, barely visible at the right edge of the picture, was submerged, and houses along it were flooded and vacated.
Here’s a closer shot.
Interestingly, that may have been the only time that I ever did this particular shot; I would go on to discover other, better locations, as you know!
That’s all for today; stay tuned for more New Orleans area trains tomorrow, a needed day off from railroad photography the next day, followed by three days of out-of-Louisiana railroad photography.