NOGC And Newly Acquired GP38-3s in Gretna

by Jim on 2011/08/06

[Jimbaux trusted your intentions, a trust you took advantage of.]

Here are some pictures I took on Thursday.  These are my first pictures on the New Orleans & Gulf Coast Railway in more than a half-year.  The NOGC is an interesting shortline operation, and it’s owned by the Rio Grande Pacific Corporation which owns three more shortlines in the western United States.  There are two sections of street-running on the NOGC in the city of Gretna, one of which is on 4th Street and actually on the Union Pacific’s Gouldsboro Subdivision, which the UP leased to the NOGC in about 2004.

A couple of years ago, like about 2008, the NOGC acquired some ex-UP lease locomotives, a few of the GP38 variety.  Well, it looks to me like they have been fully acquired by the NOGC, judging by the new NOGC paint on them!

Above, we see a train preparing to leave Gouldsboro Yard, the Texas & Pacific Railway’s original yard in the New Orleans area, to switch industries in West Harvey and Marrero.

They’re All Here

Below, we see what appears to be all four of the NOGC’s newly-acquired GP38-3s as a pair of light engines passes the parked train.  The image seems a bit fuzzy, as it was taken with that non-focusing piece-of-junk lens, the 15-85mm/f3.5-5.6.

The picture above shows some long-unused rails in the lower left corner, part of the track that once went up to the Perry Street Wharf, which is seen (barely) at the far left.  Wouldn’t it be cool if there were still trains there, eh?

Time For Street Running!

It had been a really long time – probably more than three years – since I had photographed the street-running down Fourth Street in Gretna, and now it was time to break that drought!  Few images are more iconic of New Orleans area railroading than the street-running in Gretna.

The Texas & Pacific went down 3rd Street in Gretna.  What you see here is the ex-SP section along 4th Street, the only part of the NOGC that uses former SP trackage.  Notice in the above picture that the train is coming from the left onto 4th Street.  That’s where it is entering ex-SP trackage, coming from an S-curve section of track to which I refer as a “crossover,” even though there are no tracks coming from it.  I’ve asked, and I’ve never been able to get an answer about whether there was a crossover there before the two lines consolidated into one.

Just think of all of the cliché comments the above picture would get if I would post it to, eh?

The van below is about to make a right turn onto Lafayette Street, following the car you see above.

Below, we get a wider view, but still with the 70-200mm/f.28 lens, a view with a not-so-great view of the Gretna water tower.  The light power was making its way west to Westwego to grab a grain train off of the Union Pacific.  Grain trains on the NOGC are bound for Myrtle Grove, the last grain elevator on the Mississippi River.

As quick as I could, I swapped lenses back to the small lens and got this much wider view (taken from the exact same spot as the above four pictures), which shows even more of the shotgun houses along the track in Gretna, but right when I was doing this, the clouds took over.

I used the lasso tool in Photoshop to select the non-sky parts of the image to brighten them to the point that the sky doesn’t look as overexposed as it did in the raw image.

The above image also illustrates one of several reasons why I so frequently climb atop my truck to take pictures; it’s more clear from looking at the above shot that such a practice puts me at about cab-height.

Back To Gouldsboro

Now it’s time to go back to Gouldsboro Yard where the westbound train seen earlier is getting ready to leave.

That lead tank car would soon be set out once the crew arrived.  That pipe load is bound for a pipe-yard in Marrero.

Older Cousins

In the below picture, NOGC 505, one of the railroad’s GP7s, is seen parked on a small spur in the background.

The NOGC was originally just the New Orleans & Lower Coast Railway, a shortline emerging from Gouldsboro Yard and going down much of the length of the western bank of the Mississippi River to some remote places  downriver from New Orleans.  Much of that line has since been abandoned and only goes as far as Myrtle Grove now.

The main customer on the line is the Oak Point refinery owned by Chevron-Texaco.  Between there and the grain elevator at Myrtle Grove, the NOGC also serves the BP-Amaco refinery, but with far fewer carloadings. Between Oak Point and Gouldsboro, there is one drilling company that receives drill pipes in gondolas, and those are, as far as I know, still the only four customers remaining on the line.  It’s been a really long time since I’ve been down that way, though.

Another Iconic View

The street-running in Gretna is indeed an iconic view of New Orleans area railroading, but another iconic New Orleans railroad scene is anything coming out of the upriver end of Gouldsboro Yard with the Crescent City Connection bridges overhead.  Yes, the Mississippi River (to the left of the frame below) actually is flowing about due north at this point.  You’re looking both north and downriver here.

Although there is more than 100 miles of river between here and the Gulf of Mexico, this pair of bridges is the last crossing of the Mississippi River.  A few ferries connect the small, isolated communities downriver from here.

More Telephoto Lessons

Comparing the picture immediately above with the one immediately below, and given that the train hasn’t moved (there isn’t even a crew aboard yet), the average viewer should be able to realize that the picture below was taken at a much greater distance from the train; if you don’t know what I mean, compare the relative amount of space(s) taken up by the train and the bridge in each picture.

Shortly after I took the above picture, the crew for the train arrives, as seen below by both the presence of the truck as well as the fact that the ditch lights have been turned on.

Also, note the trainman on the ground in the above picture.  The crew is preparing to set out the lead tank car.  I’m not sure why, but maybe it was bad-ordered.

Under Way

After setting out the tank car, the train leaves, soon to snake its way under the cypress trees in McDonoughville, this old part of Gretna.

In the background in the above picture, you can see the floodwall on top of the levee of the Mississippi River.

The Clouds Get Me Again

Milepost 0 of the Sunset Route of the Southern Pacific Railway was in Algiers, the part of the city of New Orleans west of the Mississippi River.  Again, the part of the NOGC (actually, the UP’s Gouldsboro Sub) along 4th Street is the only former SP trackage east of the Huey P. Long Bridge, the construction and completion of which in the 1930s made the Gouldsboro Sub a branchline, that still exists.  (You can see both the ex-T&P and the ex-SP mainlines farther to the west, along with The Chip Local, here.)  Lately, you’ve seen many of my pictures from Chacahoula, at milepost 61.35ish on the ex-SP Lafayette Sub, and below we see two more shots of the street-running in Gretna, where the clouds fouled my hopes yet again, along the single-digit milepost section of the SP.

The train had around 60 cars.  You’ve seen that one of them is a pipe gondola bound for Marrero.  There were two lease covered hoppers far to the back, likely coming from the Chevron-Texaco refinery at Oak Point south of Belle Chase.  Aside from those three cars, the entire train was made of tank cars, by far the most common piece of rolling stock found on this line, and sometimes the only kind of freight car parked in Gouldsboro Yard.  Yes, I’d love to see some boxcars or centerbeam flatcars on this line.  Oh, well; here’s a going-away shot:

Off in the distance just before the billboard (behind the traffic lights) is the edge of the Gretna city limits.  Harvey is the next community, and at this juncture just before the billboard, 4th Street moves to the left a bit, and the railroad  abandons the former SP right-of-way and rejoins the former T&P, former Missouri Pacific.

What Happened To The Switchers?

Seeing the four GP38-3s in action while I saw three GP7s parked (only one of which you saw) and not seeing any of the NOGC’s yellow ex-UP switchers (MP15s and SW1200s) anywhere led me to wonder if they’re even still on the property.  I fear that they may be gone, and I really did miss those things and hoped to see and photograph them again.  Are they gone?  Does anyone know?

That’s all the railroad-related stuff for this post.  Thanks!

Time For Beer, NOLA Style!

My real plan for Thursday evening was to cover an event for the NOLA Post, and that’s right where I went after the above pictures were done.  I went to The Bridge Lounge on Magazine Street because it was National IPA Day, and NOLA Brewing was having drink specials.  It also meant that I got to see my friends Kirk and McKenzie, seen below, for the first time in six months.

Yep, she’s as much of a firecracker as she looks, and what’s even better is that her husband Kirk, the founder and owner of NOLA Brewing, is, while I wouldn’t call him a foamer (and, being a brewer, “foam” means something different to him), someone who likes trains and railroads!  He asked me plenty about trains that night.  We talked about beer and trains for awhile, and I interviewed him and took more photos for a story on the event.

For those of you who are arriving at this posting from one of the railroad-related internet forums, I don’t post all of the posts on this site to the forums, especially those forums specific to a certain geographical area or railroad.  So, if you want to keep up with what is happening on Jimbaux’s Journal, the best think to do is to click on the below icon while you’re logged into Facebook and then click the “Like” button once you get to the page.


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Mubarak On Trial

One very good example of the non-railroad-related quality material on this site are my pictures from a peaceful demonstration outside the Egyptian embassy in Washington, DC, in late January.  Stuff like that is what attracted me to DC in the first place, and seeing Mubarak on trial this week made me think of that, and those good times again.


As always, questions and comments are welcome.  The e-mail address you use to post a comment will not be displayed, and it may be a disposable one.  Thanks!


{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

1 John Sita August 6, 2011 at 23:51

I really like that photo under “Under Way.” Very nice.


2 Lee A. Gautreaux August 7, 2011 at 09:44

James, those locos sure look like GP40’s to me, three fans on the top rear of the long hood. I remember the tracks in place as far south as Port Sulphur and evidence of them in Venice.


3 Lee A. Gautreaux August 7, 2011 at 09:47

Okay further reading revealed that you called them GP38-3’s indicating rebuilding. I like the terminology of functional GP38/externally GP40. Lots of Frankenstein locos out there, even on the SP itself.


4 EDITOR - Jimbaux August 7, 2011 at 10:08

Lee, I’m definitely no expert on spotting the different spotting features on various locomotives. That I called them “GP38-3” stemmed from the fact that that’s what I read on the side of the cabs!


5 Wayne Miller August 12, 2011 at 13:09

Great photos, which really captures the essence of the area with the railroad sharing the streets with car traffic.


6 Daniel September 12, 2011 at 16:38

Dude i work for this rail road currently and the sw 1200 and 1500 are still currently in working order also the gp7 are still running just are being used in a diffrent area and those are in fact gp38 we had just got them and they are still leased shows you how great this company is lol they are using money to paint leased loco.


7 PPA (Mid City Marine) August 10, 2012 at 11:51

I did a research paper back in 2003 on the former versus current miles of mainline trackage in the NOLA area. I recall that the line once extended as far downriver as Venice, but was curtailed northward several times over the years. It was a Missouri Pacific property up till 1977, then UP, then New Orleans & Lower Coast Railway (don’t know when they took over from UP), then NOGC.
As a child (circa 1975) I remember my parent’s car almost getting hit by an MP geep as we were crossing Belle Chaisse Hwy (LA 23) in Terrytown. The loco missed our car by about two feet. Sitting in the back seat, face against the window, I got to see the geep’s pilot and coupler much closer than I would have liked. For one of the first times in my young life, I yelled in anger at my mom: “Don’t you see the train ABOUT TO HIT US?!?” With the least bit of concern, she said “Oh well, it didn’t.”


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