Not What I Had Planned, But

by admin on 2016/12/20

Jimbaux feels that people are strange when you're a stranger.

Sugar And Rice

Today, Tuesday 20 December 2016, I set out to photograph a train on the Abbeville Branch of the Louisiana & Delta Railroad, just like I did nearly a month ago.

A Typical Holiday Shortline Hunt

As so many of the photos taken this time of year show, I have historically used the two or three weeks around Christmas and New Year’s Day to do some of my most intense shortline railroad photography, as, for example, my 28 December 2005 piece shows.

The intel provided to me yesterday suggested that the train would run to Abbeville on the seldom-served former SP Midland Branch today, which influenced my travel plans, but how things turned out on the ground was different.  I arrived in New Iberia some time at around 09:00, fearing that I might have arrived just too late to catch the branch train heading onto the branch.  A quick check of the runaround track at South Jefferson Street showed that I was not late; there were seven Abbeville cars in the track, and there was no locomotive or crew moving anywhere near it.

Well, now what?

Then, humint indicated to me that, due to a layoff the day before, the job was basically one day behind schedule and that it would have to go to Cajun Sugar Co-Op first thing, possibly making it onto the Abbeville Branch in the afternoon to be tied down for the night somewhere, but certainly not completing a back-and-forth Abbeville Branch run today.

Well, fooey.  Had I known that, I’d have spent hours more of my time at home before coming here.

So, if you’re here only for pictures of action of the Abbeville Branch train and lake the time or curiosity to see what the same crew did before, scroll down about two-thirds of the way on the page to the “How This Post Should Have Started” subheadline and also stay tuned for tomorrow’s posting.

What do I do now?  I pondered swapping out my boots for my sneakers to take a walking tour of New Iberia, something that I’ve never done and that I think that would be good.


I’m too damned inert; so, I wait for the train to make a decision for me about what I should do.

And the train made a decision for me.

I sat and Gchatted with The Mid-City Marine for a little while and messed around on the internet while waiting for, finally, the job to start working.

These people were mumbling some weird sounding blather about the train as they approached and passed me.

Well, how about that, a CF7 still in action in 2016!


At this point, I figured I’d chase the job anyway.  Perhaps I could do the walking tour some other time, and I’d be able to get some walking done in the many places that I’d stop to shadow this job.  Plus, it would be somewhat interesting, as this would mean going up all that remains of the extensive Missouri Pacific trackage – an enormous branchline – in this area.

I’ve Made A Decision; So, The Chase Is On!

I barely got to the old MoPac junction just in time to get these shots of the light power set moving on the old connector track.

There was at one time an interlocking tower right behind where I am standing that controlled the MoPac’s crossing of the Southern Pacific mainline.

This job uses two locomotives because there is no runaround track at the sugar mill.

The Old MoPac Yard

The job has to stop at the old MP yard to do some switching; the yard, adjacent to the site of the former Iberia Sugar Coop, is used primarily for storage.

So, there is some switching to be done, apparently in preparation for going to Cajun Sugar Co-Op.  This strikes me as a strange place for a taco truck.

Anyway, let’s get a few shots of the former mill before turning our attention back to the track.

Closed sugar mills seem to be a relic of the days before we succeeded in building an economy driven by consumption more than by production.

Okay, let’s look back at the track to see what’s happening there.

The locomotives uncoupled so that the crew could put the cars between them because there is no runaround track at the end of this branchline that is part of a former mainline; I suppose that the MoPac worked Cajun Sugar Co-Op with a train that was leaving New Iberia for Port Barre.

Now, below, we can see good ol’ Peartree working the yard on this cool day.

Peartree stated railroading with the Southern Pacific in 1973, and he is one of only two remaining L&D train service employees who had been employed by SP.

Right now, the 1500 is shoving some tank cars toward the 1712

The little automobile at right is a company automobile driven by a third crew member.

While all of this is happening, traffic – appropriately, plenty of which is loaded sugar cane trucks here as grinding season is coming to an end – is waiting at the crossing.

Presumably, these are molasses tank cars, making the juxtaposition between trucks carrying freshly harvested cane stalks and the tank cars that will carry the product made from those cane stalks all the more appropriate.

I don’t quite know what is happening here with these cars.

The carbon black hopper cars are there for storage.

The inclusion of the crossbuck this time makes things better.

I wanted to show the traffic buildup on this side of the road, too.

Now, our CF7 shoves back, and it’ll be awhile before it powers the train again.

I love the 1500.  Ten years ago next week, I got some good shots of it working the Schriever Job.

Now, the locomotives, crew, and cars are moving to the other end of the yard; so, that is where I, too, will go.

The Railroad Photography Equivalent Of The Part Of A Conversation That Precedes The Phrase “To Be Honest”

Few seemingly innocuous phrases cause a person to lose credibility to me more than the phrase “to be honest” or “I’ll be honest,” when speaking to me.  If you want me to never trust you or take you seriously, just say one of those two phrases to me.  You’ve just informed me that everything that you’ve told me up to this point was BS and that I can’t trust you, or, at the very best, you’re insulting both me and yourself by telling me that you expect that I expect that you will lie to me; quite recently, I’ve had it confirmed to me that someone who frequently uses “I’ll be honest” didn’t care whether what he had said before was true, meaning that he didn’t care that the rest of us cared if what he said was true, and, as such, I’ve somewhat tuned him out and don’t trust anything that he says anymore.

Why says this to someone?  It has no place in a professional, straightforward setting.  If you’re niece asks you what you think of her singing, and you know that she’s fishing for compliments, then it miiiiight be okay to say, “to be honest, you sing nasally and have trouble matching pitch,” but, in a professional or business setting?

When you tell someone something and then let a “to be honest” or “I’ll be honest” out thereafter, that something that you had said before is now questionable; it’s just that, since the revealing phrase came out after the “something” in question, you don’t know to suspect what you heard until after you’ve heard it.

For the very same reason, this train that appeared to be a bunch of tank cars going to a sugar mill for molasses loading turned out to be something else.

I like this picture!  Yes, what a great story!  Read the rest of this paragraph in a David Attenborough voice.  ”Here we are on what’s left of an extensive old Missouri Pacific Railroad set of branchlines along the Teche River, and we’re watching the Louisiana & Delta Railroad engage in its ritual switching of molasses tank cars before going to a sugar mill to spot these cars at the last customer on this old line.”

Yeah, and before they can proceed to the mill, they have to get these stored carbon black hopper cars off of the branchline.

Damn, the L&D spends plenty of time switching around storage cars!

On my way to this stop, I saw a few campaign signs for Scott Angelle.  I’m glad that the decent and sane Republican got some support in this district that ended up electing a fear-mongering charlatan to Congress to match the fear-mongering charlatan that it sent to the White House.

This is a beautiful area with some wonderful people, but there’s an undercurrent of nastiness and hatred that cannot be denied.

The most forgiving thing that I can say about it, the place where we have to meet people where their fears are, is that it’s the old scarcity mentality, which made sense for our prehistoric ancestors but has no place in a modern market economy in which we want to value – or, at least, avoid devaluing – everyone’s humanity.

Well, it looks like our train might be done its work, right?

Wait, What?

Here’s where the conversation is about to take a bad turn, the mouth opens to say “to be honest with you” but doesn’t say it just yet.

Wait, why are the two locomotives back together again?  They must be going to pull the tank cars with both of the locomotives on the front end and just put a locomotive on each end once they build the return train at the mill, right?

“To Be Honest With You”

What in the hell?  Why are the two locomotives by themselves leaving the yard for the mill?

So, this “train” of tank cars that I thought was empty tank cars bound for the mill and part of a great story of this train that I was telling turned out to be a fraud all along?

The train was “honest with” me only as it left the yard.

As I drove east toward the mill, that’s when I saw a few Clay Higgins signs.  The people who put these signs up could just as well have posted signs saying “Hello, we are sadistic and easily susceptible to fear-mongering!”

An Active Sugar Mill

I had chased this train once before, back in 2009, and Peartree was working this job that day, too.  So, I knew that there was basically one place – south of the La. Hwy. 344 crossing – to photograph this train as it neared the mill.

I was upset with it being just light power, but, since I’m this close, I might as well do it, especially as it will allow me to photograph the train actually with cars on the return move.

The heat distortion was quite bad today.

Those houses appear to be new.  I like the shot of it at the crossing, despite it being a cluttered scene.

Okay, so, while we wait for the train to do its work, let’s have a look at the mill.

This scene is most reminiscent of my youth along the track near the Leighton sugar mill; so, there is something very special about this scene for me, as we now see our train emerging from having completed its work 19 minutes later.

And, now, a month after an ugly, repressive patriarchy all around me has been explicitly upheld, I’m wondering what the world of my youth even meant.

Maybe that’s why I am a photographer; the world that is photographed is too disgusting past what is seen in the photographs.

I’ll Get Back With You Guys Later

Having no interest in photographing whatever might happen at the MoPac yard – and I figure that those cars that were stored on the branch north of the crossing would have to be shoved back – on the train’s return trip, I went north on 344 to find my way quickly back to New Iberia, straight to the Wal-Mart.  I needed a new SD card for my camera, as all of these unexpected shots were taking all of the room on the one little card that I still had left after my workhoorse 16GB card got damaged or corrupted.

While at the Wal-Mart, I got myself some trail mix and other items.  I’ve been very good at not having fast food.  The last time that I ate fast food was nearly four weeks to the day before, the last time that I chased the Abbeville Branch train.  I decided that day or the next day – Thanksgiving Day – that I just had to do something about this, because I was still getting fat.  So, I got serious, got better at dieting, and started waling four miles a day on days when I could.

Seventy-two minutes after the last photograph, I arrived back at the old MP-SP junction just in time to photograph the return.

I love the sharpness of this curve.

I’m sorry if it seems repetitive to post both the above image and the below image, but I couldn’t decide which one is better.

Here, the train is entering the mainline, but to get to the L&D interchange yard, it must continue its eastward trajectory on the mainline to go past the east siding switch, enter the siding there, and then move westbound on the siding to get to the yard.  So, 10 minutes later at the park, we see this.

And, on the end of the train is something about as ancient as the cabooses that were once on the end of the train.

We’re at the point now that every time I see a CF7 in action might be, I suspect, the last.

Oh, That’s Right; This Is A Class I Mainline

So, here comes an eastbound BNSF Railway manifest train.

I don’t know what train is what anymore on BNSF, but this looks like it might be the train that carries the CN, NS, and NOPB interchange traffic, if it’s even still blocked that way; the other train would be – or would have been, the last that I knew a few years ago – the train with all of the CSX interchange traffic.  Of course, things may have changed.  I don’t know.

Let’s see some cars in this train.  These limestone slurry tank cars are somewhat interesting, as are the NS family gondolas.

I like Conrail.

I also, apparently, like wasting my time photographing railroad cars.

Why did I get cursed to like this stuff?  Why, God, why?  Couldn’t you have made me to like NASCAR, country music, misogyny, and meth, so that I could fit in?

Nerdin’ ain’t easy.

How This Post Should Have Started

Finally, the reason for my being here is about to be photographed.  Seventy-nine minutes after we saw the NI1 with two locomotives and 13 tank cars move westbound on the siding toward the interchange yard, we see it moving east with one locomotive – it’s not the 1500, dammit – and one empty hopper car bound for the rice mill.

This car would have arrived on the MAVBT from Saturday night or Sunday night.

Entering The Branch

Now, the train enters the former SP Salt Mine Branch, the beginning of today’s Abbeville Branch.

You can see the crossing signal for the mainline crossing in the background above.

Now, we’re getting to the runaround track where the rest of the Abbeville cars that had been here since last week was.


Next, you will see several shots of the shuffling of cars in the train.

There’s Peartree!

Check out the dogs in the back.

The task here is to put the tank car at the end of the train, the hopper cars at front, and the boxcars in between them.

There are four spotting tracks at the rice mill, but the boxcars can be loaded only on one of them.

I guess that it didn’t matter whether the boxcars were first or second in the train, but the point was to put them together.

This is the first time that I have photographed action on this track.

The lighting was dead-on head-on here, shifting from one side of the track to the other in the brief time that I was here.

There’s good ol’ Peartee, again!

Normally, this switching would be done in the Mack track at West Erath, but I guess that the reason that it’s done here is that, since the crew knows that it won’t make it to Abbeville today, it will do as much work as it can here before moving on the branch so as to not have to go as far to drop off the train, meaning that there will be less work to do tomorrow, and the crew and train can return to New Iberia tomorrow night.

Now, we’re getting close to having our train built.

Okay, let’s get out of here and get one more shot as we leave.

Now, the train departs, and I have to hurry to find the first location to shoot it.

The Shops

The L&D locomotive shop is on St Mary Street, and, south of there, there is one car repair track.  The shop, seen in the background in the below picture, is at about milepost 1 of the branch.

The chase is on, and the sun is getting close to setting.

Why do I do this?


Now, we’re getting out of town, down the branch.

That’s US Highway 90 in the background.

A Good Way To End The Day, With Hope For More Tomorrow, Despite A New World Of Fear

At Migues Road, we’re ending the day before the train ties down for the night.

That’s the shot of the day, and I’ll give one more from a few seconds later.

That’s it.  That’s the lovely way that this day in this oh-so-unlovely times ended.

Now, it was time for me to drive back to my base, with the newfound knowledge that the world that surrounded me here hates me, a world where I – along with everyone else – gets blamed for conditions of my own birth, a world that says that it’s okay to violate my bodily autonomy, because I have none.

Most of these people whose homes I passed believe in and reinforced the very divisions about which they themselves complain. They voted for a campaign of exclusion, fear, division, and isolation, destroying bridges and limiting personal freedom.

Most of those of us who are distraught and outraged at the electoral outcome are not angry about politics, and, for most of us, it didn’t have a damned thing to do with Hillary Clinton; furthermore, without specific evidence demonstrating such, it would be absurd to suggest that any of this was either about ‘politics’ or had to do with Clinton. We’re demoralized because the outcome means that this country that we call ours, this country that we call home, this country for which our grandfathers fought against the kind of supremacist ideology that many of their grandchildren decided to somehow endorse, will be less kind and less safe, all of which is completely unnecessary.

Those who have always felt vulnerable now have that sense of vulnerability reinforced and affirmed.  Those who have long been marginalized will be pushed further to the margins. Those who have been told by society that they were inferior now have it ‘confirmed.’
Such an exclusionary and repressive society has essentially been the overall campaign promise of Donald Trump, and a demoralizing percentage of our fellow citizens have, somehow, said that they’re okay with this.
This is not and never has been about politics.  This is about humanity.

One Trump terror that I think is still severely underappreciated was the cruelty of publicizing Lindsey Graham’s private phone number.  I get that Graham is both a public figure and elected official, but accepting that behavior from Trump sets a very dangerous precedent, and, make no mistake about it, to reward Trump with your vote was to accept that kind of behavior, because it’s part of an overall pattern for Trump and his following.

If it’s acceptable for him to do that to Graham, then we’re not far from it being acceptable for him to do that to anyone.  Don’t you see that?  Don’t you see the horror there?  This means that, on top of all of Trump’s other offenses, if you voted for Trump, you voted to invade my privacy, and that of everyone; you’ve set a precedent for your own privacy to be violated, and it suggests that the reason that you think so lowly of your fellow citizens is that you think so lowly of yourself.

That’s why it’s hypocritical to try to tell any of us to stop freaking out about Trump. You have threatened us.  Don’t tell us to stop freaking out about Trump when you have needlessly created a world in which we live in far more fear than we did before.

Make no mistake about this: if you voted for Trump, you are responsible for creating an environment in which no one feels safe, in which all live in fear.

It now feels like living in enemy territory, and about the only way to avoid that feeling is when I momentarily put the fact that Trump was elected out of my mind, meaning that I have to shirk my civic duty of staying informed in order to not feel so demoralized. I no longer recognize this ‘homeland’ of mine, which makes me wonder if I ever knew it; I grieve its loss.

Before November 8, I had no problems standing for the Pledge of Allegiance, putting my forearm across my chest, and reciting the words, but how can I do that now when it’s so painfully obvious that the mantra of “liberty and justice for all” is so hollow and false?  I now understand why non-white people have historically been less enthusiastic about such “patriotic” displays, but voting for Trump was about the most anti-patriotic voting choice that you could ever have made; how do you love your country if you so obviously disregard the humanity of its – your fellow – citizens?

I have Trump voters telling me that they consider me a friend despite our differences.  You’re in no position to call me a friend if you voted for Trump.  You’re telling me that my humanity doesn’t matter, that it’s not up to me to decide who I am.  I have spent my whole adult life working against this immorality, this bullying, this objectification, and this threat to personal freedom, autonomy, and respect; imagine if you were a construction worker and worked for years on a project of which you were proud only to see the owners suddenly decide to demolish it as it neared completion.

This is not about a difference of opinion about political matters, as that would be far too trivial of a concern to cause division, or perhaps to even mention, since I don’t really care to use this blog to discuss politics.  This is about a fundamental difference in how we view the worth of all individuals, that it’s not anyone else’s place but yours to decide who you are.

You can say that you value my work and my uniqueness and all of that, but, if you voted for Trump, you’re suggesting that valuation is conditional, that individual persons don’t have worth on their own that doesn’t need to be valued by you or anyone else.

And it’s not about your intentions.  It’s about outcome.  And you will own all bad outcomes from this decision.

I’ll see you trackside tomorrow.


{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

1 RJD January 10, 2017 at 19:19

You’ve written at length regarding your dislike of Trump and your opinions of those who voted for Trump. My response will be relatively short. You claim no one is safe with Trump as president. I state to you this. Until ALL human life is protected, from conception to natural death, I can not, and will not, vote for a Democrat. Democrats stand for the taking of human lives through killing thee most vulnerable human beings of all – the child in the womb. There is no more barbaric act than that. And to say it is ok, to take the life of the ones LEAST capable of defending themselves, is the utmost in being morally reprehensible. These children are deserving of our greatest protection, not death merely because they exist. Why did I vote for Trump? For the very reason I DIDN’T vote fo Hillary. She is for killing those least capable of defending themselves. He’s come out against it. When we, as a country, decide to end the holocost called abortion, and decide ALL humans, from conception on, deserve protection, then I will consider voting for a Democrat. Trump has stated he he is in favor of protecting the child in the womb. You see sir, if a person, and a baby in the womb is a PERSON (it can’t be anything else) doesn’t have the right to life, then no other rights mean anything. The right to life is preeminent and paramount. Without that, all other rights are meaningless. That’s why I voted for Trump. We HAVE to get the foundational issue, abortion, fixed. Until we do that as a country, there’s no way we can right the ship on other matters.


2 JBX January 25, 2017 at 20:46

“You’ve written at length regarding your dislike of Trump and your opinions of those who voted for Trump.”

No, it’s not my “opinion of those who voted for Trump,” and I said so much, but don’t let that stop you from making up stuff that I didn’t say. As I said, it’s not about you or your intentions; it’s about what you’ve enabled, and that’s the point, that you’re responsible for it.

But leave it to a Trump voter to make decisions based on in-group-out-group thinking. I said no such thing about my opinions of Trump voters, but you think that this is somehow about you, against you; no wonder you vote to harm other people.

“Why did I vote for Trump? For the very reason I DIDN’T vote fo Hillary.”

So, you didn’t vote for Trump for anything that he really proposed; so, you were willing to overlook all of his horrible threats to your fellow citizens just because he wasn’t Hillary Clinton?

“She is for killing those least capable of defending themselves. He’s come out against it. ”

Listen to yourself! “He’s come out against it.” Yeah, “come out against it.” YOU DON’T EVEN BELIEVE THAT HE’S ACTUALLY ANTI-ABORTION! You just used that as an excuse!

You saw someone who waged an entire campaign on threats to bodily autonomy, and you thought it was okay to vote for that, even though you apparently doubt the sincerity of his anti-abortion positions. You’re more concerned about the lives of the unborn than the born? Gee, thanks.

You voted to threaten my life and leave me destitute! You voted the same for other people. I didn’t vote against you, but you voted against me and all of your fellow citizens. You expect me or anyone else to be nice to you?


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