Big Day On The Lockport Branch – 28 December 2005

by admin on 2015/12/28

Happy holidays, everyone.  In the last week, you’ve seen two sets of pictures of Louisiana & Delta Railroad action on the Lockport Branch of the former Southern Pacific railway; the set of pictures that you will see in this article – the third set of Lockport Branch pictures this week (and the last that I took for many months) – were taken on Wednesday 28 December 2005, nine days after the cloudy Monday 19 December 2005 Lockport Branch pictures that you saw nine days ago and one week after a better set of sunny day Lockport Branch pictures taken on Wednesday 21 December 2005.

In parentheses in the above paragraph, I mention that although this is the third time in fewer than 10 days that I photographed action on the Lockport Branch it was the last time for several months; I think that August 2006, more than a half-year later, was the next time that I photographed action on the branch.  I have recently explained the reasons for this clustering of my Lockport Branch photography in late December, but I shall repeat myself here now; if you don’t want to read it (and you might not want to read it if you already know the answers), skip the next three paragraphs.

First, the branch was served almost always on weekdays, and usually only on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.  So, so long as I was working a normal Monday-Friday job, my chances of seeing and photographing action on the branch were limited, and since the jobs that I held in those days had two weeks or close to two weeks off for Christmas and New Year’s, that was the best time for me to photograph Lockport Branch action, but also for another reason that made it better than any other part of the year when I had time off, and I had plenty of time off in the summer, which leads us to the second reasons.

Second, since the branch was normally served in the middle of the day, and since that time of the day in the spring and summer has harsh high-sun lighting, it was best for me to instead photograph the action of the branch in a time of year that had low-angle sunlight throughout all of the daylight hours.  I have gotten good shots on the branch in the spring and summer, but it’s usually in the morning before the onset of high-sun, and the train is still running on the branch after high-sun sets in, meaning that good shots on the line in that time of the year don’t include following the train for its entire run and back the way that today’s article does.

Tertiary-ancillary reasons for my focus on the branch this time of year include the fact that I loathe heat-and-humidity (moreso than the average person in this area does) and that, at its highest heights, the sugarcane in the cane fields along the line make photography difficult, even if it does help make the interestingly-peculiar effect of having the train appear to be swimming in the sugarcane as happened in my August 2006 pictures on the line.

I should now mention again that all caption information – plus a number for each picture – can be found in the filename of each picture, which can be read by positioning your mouse arrow over the picture.

So, we start the day in the southern reaches of Whoadieland on the W’ank, since I had spent the day before foaming the NOGC.  Holy smokes, did I ever spend a ridiculous amount of my time – my energy, my life – taking pictures of trains back then!

I guess that I stopped at Jerry’s for breakfast that morning.

After the picture, I am, 41 minutes later, at CTC Live Oak in Waggaman at 09:11 to get this image.

Yeah, can we get to the Lockport Branch already?

Apparently, I had known that the L&D’s Schriever Job – train SC1 – had to go to Monsanto in Boutte before working in Raceland and Lockport, which explains my lack of a hurry to get there early.  The train arrived in Raceland after 11:00.

Yeah, this is not why we’re here; this is just the low-lying, not-so-valuable fruit that we pick up while we’re already here.

Next, things get interesting as the LDRR 1850 begins to shove the Lockport boxcars and Raceland lumber car down the wye.

Those were the boxcars that I saw – and had sought – in Avondale yesterday and that the UP local had apparently delivered here the previous afternoon.  I don’t remember how or by which carrier the lumber car had arrived in Raceland, but I suspect that it was via UP also.

We’re home.

So, after running around the cars by going back around the wye, the first customer to serve is Dufrene Lumber, getting this car set out on the Post Office Track.

We’re not at the Post Office Track yet, but we’re getting close, and, below, we are past the sugar mill.

Do you see OMW still riding the car?

Below, we are at the switch for the Post Office Track, and you can see the parked hopper cars on the Post Office Track, while the lumber car is in the process of being shoved down the branch past the switch to the Post Office Track.

In case it wasn’t already obvious what is happening, the below picture might explain it better.

How about that harvested sugarcane field with the cane stalks in the foreground?

So, here, the locomotive, after setting the centerbeam flatcar on the branch track past the switch to the Post Office Track, moves back in the other direction past the switch.

Now, it’s time to drag those hopper cars – bound for MTI – out of the way so that we can put the lumber car on the other side of them to shove it down the Post Office Track.

So, here, the SC1 couples the hopper cars to the centerbeam flatcar.

After that, the LDRR 1850 can pull all of the cars past the switch, line it for the Post Office Track, and begin shoving.

So, here we see OMW riding the point, protecting the shove, in a place dear to me.

In the 1960s, as teenagers, my father and uncle unloaded boxcars of lumber on this track and-or the one parallel to it that was removed.

When this picture was taken, as you can see, there were still railroad-owned hopper cars – all UP family cars, almost all with UP or MP reporting marks – being received by MTI; more recently, all hopper cars that arrive there are leased cars.

After the loaded centerbeam flatcar is set out, we see OMW riding the rear hopper car back to the branch-main, and the next task is to serve the MTI plant.

I’m not sure if Raceland Raw Sugars was even served on this day, as there is no evidence of such either in my photographs or in my foamer notes from that day; I guess that all of the tank cars that the SC1 brought into Raceland were Monsanto cars.

It’s time to serve the MTI plant.  This would take a little while, which was great by me, since it was now already well past 12:00, and I was quite hungry.  So, while the train was switching at MTI, I took the opportunity to head to the Shop Rite (or whatever it’s called) to grab a link of boudin, an egg roll, and a grape soda, after which I was able to get the below shot – taken 20 minutes after the above shot – of the train wrapping up the switching at MTI.

And now, 11 minutes later, it’s time for our train to start its track to Valentine Paper with the boxcars!

Below is a heavily cropped version of the same image.

Next, we see it much closer but still from the same spot.

It’s now after 13:00, unusually late for the train to be getting onto the branch (and you get why getting good photographs of such an operation would be difficult in the spring and summer with high-sun) as the train makes the curve starting away from Raceland and down the bayou.

Yeah, I’m accustomed to doing that shot earlier in the day, but by this time, the sun had swung too far to the west-left.

That’s okay, since we will very shortly have opportunities to be on the sunny-side of the train.

Three of the five cars in today’s train are CN family cars, but I am disappointed that they are tagged with graffiti.

Next is one of my favorite sets from the day, with the fresh sugarcane growing in the foreground.

It’s almost a picture of a sugarcane with a train filling the background!

This is the essence of rural branchline railroading, reminding me of my earliest childhood memories.

A shot that Porkchop did here in November 2007 shows the problems associated with photographing trains on the branch before the cane is cut, but his shot still shows part of the essence of branchline railroading!

Next, we trade a field of young cane for a plowed field.

Next, we are at Sugarmill Road near the former Georgia Sugar refinery.

We are in Mathews.

S. W. Mathews was the owner of the land here and owner of the Georgia Sugar refinery.

Next, we are at Clotilda Plantation, and we can see the nursery in the background.

We’ll be back here when the train makes its return trip northbound.

Next, we’re at McCloud, an insular place.

Okay, this next set is at a place called Bellevue.

The boxcars don’t really stand out against the trees, do they?  I guess bright hopper cars would work better here, but, oh, well.

Next, we’re on the LeBlanc property.

I like the bright, possibly-dead or at least moisture-deprived grass right by the track.

The houses in the back are at the end of Myrtle Drive, where I decided to not photograph on this day in lieu of getting these LeBlanc shots, since I had done the Myrtle Drive shots so recently and since the light wasn’t on the right side of the track anyway.

So, our next stop is Valentine, but, on the way, we will get a shot of a shrimp boat.

Okay, now, we are in Valentine, and the train, after some brief switching – swapping five cars for four cars apparently doesn’t take long, unlike the larger amounts that were swapped when trains to the plant were bigger – we see the outbound train emerging from the plant, which is unseen to the right.

The track in the foreground is to the former Valentine Sugars facility, now occupied by Valentine Chemicals; it looks like it has been freshly refurbished, and it has been, which is sad considering that the branch was shut down three years later, much to the protestation of Valentine Chemicals.

Now, we are back at the LeBlanc property.

Our outbound train looks a little bit less Canadian than our inbound train looked.

Next, we are at Myrtle Drive.

This next shot is not a good train picture, but I always remember those banana plants there by the track.

Okay, let’s get the ditch shots of the train passing Myrtle Drive.

I like this last one, showing the sky beneath the cars.

This next shot is taken just a few minutes later, and I think that it’s the only time I did this shot.

There was apparently some marsh fire or swamp fire that day.

Next, we are back at Bellevue.

I’m just calling this place “Bellevue” because it’s next to the bridge that is often called that because there is on the other side of the bayou a residential subdivision of the same name.

Thirteen minutes later, we are back at Clotilda Plantation.

I wonder if the horses like trains.

The next shot is very similar to one that I took here one week before, but I like the other one with the corner fence post anchoring the lines of the image.

I love boxcars.

Next, we are at Georgia Avenue, a new residential street just west of the track and extending from the Sugarmill Road from where we shot earlier.

So, the train here is in the same spot as it was – albeit pointed in the other direction – in shot 3877.  Due to the branch’s closure and that fact that it’s highly unlikely to ever open again, the children who grow up in these houses will never know the joy of branchline trains.

Now, we’re at what I thought at the time was the climax of this set.

This is the view from US Highway 90.

Yes, we are at milepost 4.

Back in Raceland, we see the train again across harvested cane fields, and I show this fuzzy shot only because it shows our distant smoke again.

The area east of here is a bit marshy, heading toward Des Allemands.

Here is a better broadside shot showing, like we did a week ago, the sky underneath the boxcars.

Did I mention that I like boxcars and the ability to be able to perceive them against the sky so that they can be perceived in their most nearly-pure form?

Here we are back by the mill and back by the former US Highway 90, now La. Hwy. 182.

Finally, the train approaches the mainline back in Raceland near the beginning of the branchline.

That’s all for pictures today.  December 28 has, like many days around the winter solstice, traditionally been a very active time for me to be taking pictures for reasons that I mentioned prior to the pictures; one year to the day after I took today’s images, I returned to Mexico, and two years to the day after I took these images, I visited and photographed the Shiloh battlefield in Tennessee and photographed some railroad action in northeastern Mississippi.

The Lockport Branch was – and still is – such a special place for me, so explanatory of my love of or obsession with trains.  My earliest years were spent in a house with a bedroom with a window view of the SP Napoleonville Branch, which the L&D operated for a decade before it shut down in 1995 and the rails were removed in 1998; in adulthood, the Lockport Branch was the closest thing that I had to what I had remembered as a child, but now it, too, is shut down.

In the weeks prior to the day that today’s images were made, Valentine Paper shut down and then went through an ownership changed that saved the plant.  Dunn Paper bought the plant, but it apparently did so in order to learn the Valentine process to implement it in its other mills, and in December 2007, Valentine Paper closed for the final time.  As shown in what is one of my most soulful photo essays, I photographed the last railroad delivery to Valentine Paper on 8 December 2007, and, one month later, I photographed the last train from Valentine Paper when the last boxcars were retrieved from the plant.

Given my experience with losing the Napoleonville Branch and with other railroad branchlines in the area having gone away, I knew any time I photographed action on the Lockport Branch that I was photographing something that may not be around for much longer, and, sadly, I was right about that, but that is also why I spent so much time and effort documenting the line.  So, while the branch is no longer active, these pictures will live forever.


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