Wednesday 21 December 2005 was a memorable day, as I spent the afternoon on my beloved Lockport Branch, the since-closed 14-mile railroad branchline extending southward from Raceland, Louisiana, along the eastern bank of Bayou Lafourche past Lockport. You saw some not-so-great (because of the clouds) pictures from the branch two days ago, but today’s shots are better, as the sun was out all day.
In addition to describing the background of this branchline railroad, I should explain a little bit about how I documented and why so much of it happened in late December.
First, the branch was served since the early 1990s (before I started taking pictures or driving an automobile) by the Louisiana & Delta Railroad job that usually worked a normal weekday schedule (with the branch usually being served on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays); that meant that so long as I had a job with normal weekday working hours (and I usually did), my opportunities to see and photograph action on the branchline were slim, even for the three years during which I worked within earshot of the line. Only twice did I ever take time off of work to chase a train on the branch, and both of these times were in 2008 and 2009 when the branchline was about to be shut down (and of which I was aware at the time); other than that, I settled for experiencing branchline action on my time off of work, most of which was in late December around Christmas, which is a major part of why nearly all of the images of mine that you’ve seen from the branch are from around that time (including a memorable set from 23 December 2003), and today’s pictures are from the second of three times in this week that I photographed action on the branchline!
Second, getting good pictures usually requires low-angle sunlight, and I was especially beholden to that mentality when the branchline was active. Since the time of day that the branchline was served was usually in or near the middle part of the day, spring and summer were generally not the best times for photographing action on the branch; the train occasionally would get onto the branch as early as 08:00 for the good lighting that would last for another 90 minutes or so, but the rest of the train’s time on the branch would be in the nasty high-sun time, and by the time the good late afternoon spring-summer lighting would come, the train would be off of the branchline. Additionally, I hate the heat and humidity!
The combination of those two factors explains why so many of my Lockport Branch pictures were taken in late December, and it also explains why, despite having gone digital nearly six months before, my first digital pictures of action on the branch came in a week in which I got action on the branch on three separate days!
So, here we go. There is no photographic evidence to suggest where I slept that night, either at my crib on the W’ank or back home at Le Jardin. Whatever the case, my first image of the day is of a northbound hi-rail truck preceding the train on its return trip back up the branch.
Wow. I wonder why I didn’t get shots of the train going south in the morning. Anyway, here is the train, going north, after serving Valentine Paper.
Valentine Paper was not a traditional paper mill, and such a facility would have been out of place among the swamps, bayous, and sugarcane fields of the Mississippi River Delta; there was no inbound pulp or chips. The plant – perhaps more appropriately called a paper-finishing plant – received inbound paper that had been produced and rejected by other mills (like due to defects), and it refined the paper into specialty paper, like wrappers for fast-food packaging and such. Much of it arrived by rail, which makes sense, since traditional paper mills typically ship products out by rail in boxcars.
Because the boxcars were all loaded inbound and empty outbound (except for some extremely rare circumstances, the amount which might be countable on one hand) because they originated on other railroads, the variety of boxcars on the branch was impressive, both from shortlines and from major railroads; I don’t recall ever seeing any Canadian Pacific Railway family cars, and BNSF family cars, KCS family cars, and UP family cars were very rare, but other Class Ones were well represented, and today we are blessed with a couple of Ontario Northland Railway boxcars!
This was not the only time that I have ever seen ONR rolling stock, but it is the only place!
These three (one above, two below) images were taken at Myrtle Drive.
This is one of my favorite locations on the branch.
The glow from what is left of the harvested sugarcane stalks is typically so bright.
Next, we get four not-close-to-perpendicular broadside shots near the Bellevue Bridge.
The heat distortion is bad here, but it would be worse if not for the brightness of the dead cane in the fields, which reflects the light rather than, as a black field would do, absorbing it as heat and radiating it as waves; the caney fields are still radiating heatwaves, to be sure, but it would be worse without the cane.
I like broadside shots.
Here’s one more from this location, a wide-open expanse, before we proceed to the next location.
Okay, the next location is the down-home Clotilda Plantation, a place of special meaning to me.
I guess that the horse does not care about the train.
Below is one of my more favored shots of this set, as there is some interesting geometry at work.
That corner fence post makes a nice point on which to base the remainder of the image.
I got back in the truck and moved very quickly to the next location, just up the bayou from Clotilda and just south of the nursery.
Next, we come to another one of my favorite locations: Farm To Market Road. I love the sound and look of that name.
I believe that this is the same spot where Mike Palmieri shot a memorable picture.
Yes, as seen below, this is a special place.
Sometimes, words simply fail to explain or properly accompany these images.
Next we are at a spot that I can only describe as north of Sugarmill Road and south of US Highway 90.
Yes, the truck was getting very muddy, thanks to all of the mudriding that I was doing to get some of these shots.
Actually, maybe the mud (or most of it) came from when I chased the train here two days before, back when there was actually more mud.
Below is another favored location, a good, straight broadside with a nice tree in the background.
That is good, I think, but I think that the next shot is the shot of the day, due to a certain factor of which I deliberately took advantage.
I’m basically lying down to take that picture, and the reason is to be able to see the sky under the cars and around the wheels; the reason for that is to really get the essence of the train, seen as it is set apart – but still with – its surroundings, to show that nothing more than a few small areas of contact connect the train with anything else, to see the boxcar for what it is, in-and-of itself, to the greatest degree to which such is even possible.
That it is an Ontario Northland boxcar – quite exotic this far away from Canada – is all the better!
Back now in Raceland proper, we see at the old highway the train beginning to lean into the curve that defines the departure from the Raceland proper area.
Note the pile of bagasse on the left.
I’ve seen many trains at this location that has not seen a train since early 2009.
That’s it; now, it’s time to head back west. Back in Schriever, the locomotive is preparing to tie-down for the night; it is shown below moving westward in the siding.
This is back to reality, back to the mainline.
Damn, this thing is filthy.
The reality of the mainline provides us one more action view for the day, the only non-branchline, non-shortline action of the day.
That is BNSF Railway train M-LALNWO (Lafayette to New Orleans) moving east at dusk at milepost 56.
Good night, and stay tuned for yet more goodness tomorrow!