Bayou Des Allemands, A Perilous MAVBT, And The Return Of Chip

by Jim on 2012/07/11

[Jimbaux knows that the highway song is as lonely as the road he’s on.]

On And On . . .

The Time Is Drawing Near, Oh, Baby, I Wish You Were Here

Hey, everybody!  I have some bayou pictures and sugarcane field pictures for you, and some Chip pictures, all taken during the Friday afternoon drive from Bayouland back to Woadietown on June 29.  While I often lament the fact that my life has been ‘reduced to’ having to make this weekly drive, I learn to make the best of it, and the images that I take along the way, such as are presented here, are my way of my expressing the gratitude that I have for my life, in spite of whatever I might not like about it.

The Chip Local

We’ll start our afternoon in, appropriately, Schriever with, appropriately, the Chip Local.  I mentioned recently the last time that I showed you this train that I had made a misleading statement when I wrote back in early May that my images then of Chip were likely the last I’d ever get because of his apparent retirement.  Well, a few weeks later, again on a Friday afternoon, I catch Chip coming into Schriever like so:

Yeah, the lighting is poor, and the composition is not that great, but work with me here, since things will get better – perhaps much better – before too long, okay?

Do you see Chip in the above picture?  He’s on the ground as his short train goes into the siding for a westbound BNSF train, and he will “restore to normal position” the west siding switch for the mainline once his train is in the siding.  Below, now that the train is in the siding and Chip is back in the cab, it slowly rolls eastward.

The dispatcher had asked Chip to stop on the siding at Schriever next to the Louisiana & Delta Railway’s small office to see if the water hose from that office was long enough to extend out to the mainline.  That seemed odd, but the reason for that was that the MAVBT train (a westbound Union Pacific train that I’ll describe more later) that had just left Avondale was having some big mechanical problems.  One of its locomotives was out of water, and another had a battery that wouldn’t work, meaning with three locomotives, it only had one engine running and was hoping to take on water at Schriever.  (What, is this a steam locomotive?)

Look, It’s Chip!

Here’s Chip, a 42-year-railroader, emerging from the HLCX 3855.

I hope that Chip never retires.  The MudBug Sub would not be the same without him.  I’d also like to thank the Lovin’ Louisiana page for spreading the word about this unheralded railroad celebrity, and for bringing a few new readers to Jimbaux’s Journal in the process.

While this happened, the westbound BNSF train on which Chip was waiting passed.

(I’m having great difficulty telling the M-CSXLAL apart from the M-NWOLAL lately.)

Friday Afternoon Happy Hour At Raceland

That’s right, kiddies!  It’s Friday afternoon, and you know what that means!  Stop at Raceland, park your truck, and you’ll get two trains for the price of one!  It’s our sometimes-weekly Friday afternoon happy hour special here on Jimbaux’s Journal.

Before we get our first drink, though, an officer-of-the-law has to come and make sure that we are not underage.  More specifically and more literally, a deputy of the Lafourche Parish Sheriff’s Office stopped to talk to me.  This is the second time that this has happened here.  I was acting like I didn’t see him because I didn’t want to draw his attention.  He just stopped, rolled down his window, and asked me if I was okay.  I said, yes, raised my camera so that he could see it, and he went on his way, perhaps not even seeing my camera.

As my opening remarks stated, despite whatever troubles there are, I’m grateful for a great many things in this world, and I’m also grateful that despite the fact that there are a few bad apples out there, some with whom I hope I’ve helped you to learn how to address, there are many, many good and noble officers of the law, and I’m grateful that this sheriff’s deputy stopped to ask if I was okay.  Thanks, LPSO.

Anyway, where were we?  Oh, yes, Friday Afternoon Happy Hour At Raceland!

First, I’ll pour you an MAVBT to get you going, but unfortunately, and maybe our taps aren’t working, or something, this MAVBT is not as strong as most are, for reasons I’ve already told you.  Once you gulp down this MAVBT, though, just let me know, since I’ll pour you a Chip Local right from the siding a mile west of here.

The MAVBT is a manifest train from Avondale, La., to Beaumont, Texas, but it is essentially UP’s “super local” on the Lafayette Subdivision providing UP’s only other local service (besides Chip’s LLS51 train) between Lafayette and Avondale.  A major portion of the entire train (as it leaves Avondale) consists of one big setout for New Iberia (where it also makes a pickup) for interchange with the Louisiana & Delta Railway.  The MAVBT also has a Beaumont block and an Englewood block.

For the last few years, the MAVBT has been a thrice-weekly train, but a decade ago, it was daily train (or maybe six days per week.)  There are essentially two reasons for the halving of the frequency of the MAVBT, the first being the fact that the BNSF Railway, which actually owns the line, has won plenty of the local carload business away from Union Pacific, and the second being the Great Recession of 2008ish.

While I like the compression in the above image showing less of a wedge-like perspective on the train, the below image has the advantage of showing not only the edge of the sugarcane rows but also the inclusion of row lines at the far left to give the vanishing-point perspective that the above image lacks.  Think about that as you take another big gulp of the MAVBT, and then let me know what you think.

Are you buzzing yet?  I hope so.

A Trademark Protection Car

Well, perhaps to compensate for the fact that this MAVBT emerged from Avondale’s tap weaker than usual, it was spiked with a Cotton Belt trademark protection car, this one being bound for the rice mill in Abbeville to be forwarded there by the Louisiana & Delta Railway.

That carbon black car on the right is empty and bound for one of the carbon black plants in St. Mary Parish.

Can anyone tells us more about UP’s practice of using the logos of predecessor railroads on a select-few of its cars?  Do y’all remember that almost exactly five weeks before these pictures were taken that I caught that nearly-extinct Cotton Belt GP60 in Avondale?

Drink # 2, Chip Style

Here’s your next round, but you need to swivel around on your bar stool and orient your body in the other direction for it.  I did an unusually large amount of mixing this cocktail in Photoshop before I served it to you, but I still don’t quite like how it tastes.

Yeah, that’s what I thought, but, in this case, I don’t think that you have the option of sending it back.  Hey, now that you’ve sucked some of it down, I might be able to try to add some better-leveled ingredients to make this glass of the Chip Local at Raceland a bit more palatable.  Is this better?

That fiber-optic marker of a toothpick is part of a drink.  You’ll just have to remove it yourself if you want to avoid swallowing it.

Well, at least these kinds of drinks don’t leave you unable to safely or legally drive afterward.  Since Chip and I are going in the same direction, let’s see what else we can do with him.

Bayou Des Allemands

This is essentially a new shot.  I’ve done this shot once before, but it was lame (due to it being more dark than the shots below), and I didn’t publish it.  Also, this shot does not work well when there is more than one locomotive on a train.  Below is just a broader preview as Chip has to stop and flag the bridge for some reason, hence the headlights of the train being off.

Des Allemands is an interesting place.  As some of you already know or have already ascertained, the community’s name is the French term for “the Germans,” and a check of the telephone book there even today reveals why.  Although some Cajun names can be found east of here in St. Charles Parish and into Jefferson Parish and into New Orleans, I consider this bayou – draining Lac des Allemands – to be something of an eastern boundary of Cajun country, though my lower Atchafalaya and St. Mary Parish associates probably would not agree.  (Some don’t.)

Do you see Chip standing on the bridge in the below picture?  He’s getting back onto the locomotive.

I’m actually barely standing in the bayou to take these pictures, and I would soon pay more than I had hoped to pay for this decision.

What do you think of these shots at Des Allemands?  It’s a neat place, but this might be the first time that I’ve had any success photographing from this side of the bridge.

It was after realigning my own body back to normal position from taking that picture that the process of doing so apparently caused me to slip with my rear end falling right into the bayou.  Yes, I properly cradled the camera, and it surely survived for me to get up and shoot this parting shot of of the sun setting over Bayou Des Allemands.

I set some towels on the seat and got back into the truck laughing at myself for what I had just done.  At least a shower had been in my near future anyway.  Ah, the things that some of us do to get pictures!  Don’t laugh too hard, or, if you do, not in a ridiculing way, if you still enjoy the pictures!  That’s what it takes to get them some time, harassment, threats, and normal earthly physical dangers.  Try walking in the photographer’s shoes, or, in this case, flip-flops.

An Anti-Climactic Encore

That sunset shot should have been the end of it all, but since, again, I was still going in the same direction as Chip, I pulled over on the old highway in Paradís to get one last shot of him from my front window.  Had I had more time, I’d have gotten him a little further back from this locatin with the telephoto lens, but this is what I got.

That, my podnuhs, is really all there is to it.  What you have seen here are the results of one man making the best of his life situation and expressing his gratitude both for it and despite it.  Don’t focus too much where you are on your path.  Just remember that wherever you are and in whatever moment you are, bring fascination and curiosity to yourself, and pay it forward.




1 Catina July 11, 2012 at 22:57

Really enjoyed this post and its pics. Glad to see Chip again, thought that was over, I’m happy to see it’s not. His smile while he works is a true inspiration to me. Sorry to read that you fell in the water to get the pic but on the bright side, the pics are nice.. And, I cannot lie, I did laugh, out loud.. More I think cause of the way you told the story than you actually falling in. Couldn’t do anything but giggle and shake my head; more of a “poor you” kinda thing though, lol..
Thanks for mentioning my page too! I like to hear that the pics I shared brought you some new readers. And some real attention to something so simple and sweet, yet such a huge blessing, as Chip’s amazing smile. I appreciate you bringing him to my attention a while back , also for taking those pics! I will never forget the pics you’ve taken of him and that smile..
Until next time, take care and be safe……
Catina Joy

2 Howard Bingham July 11, 2012 at 23:55

Wonder what CHIP was doing with that water hose…

BTW: nice pink feet in flip-flops would make a good target for an alligator’s lunch, sure hope no snapping turtles are in those waters too..!

Howard in Houston 😉

3 Randy July 12, 2012 at 16:36

“Wonder what CHIP was doing with that water hose…”

Water the “horses.”

4 John July 12, 2012 at 07:29

Great bayou pictures that were worth a wet butt. Water shots are always like a 2 for 1 since the reflections (clear or not) add another dimension to the shots.

5 PPA (Mid City Marine) July 12, 2012 at 09:18

The first pic of Des Allemands is my favorite of the set since it contains three of my favorite photography subjects – the train, the bridge, and the nature setting. This makes me miss home 🙁

6 John Austin July 12, 2012 at 12:28

So was Chip able to water up to other two locos on the MAVBT and bring them back to life?

7 EDITOR - Jimbaux July 12, 2012 at 13:03

No, as I wrote, he was just asked to stop (since he was already in the siding anyway) to see if the hose was long enough to reach the mainline for whenever the MAVBT would come. As you saw for yourself later in the piece, Chip met the MAVBT in Raceland. Also, lack of water was the problem on only one of those two locomotives.

Actually, I forgot to mention this, but I think that MAVBT was to stay in the siding for the eastbound SUNSET LIMITED. Furthermore, I think I heard the dispatcher later that night send a crew van to Raceland. So, it may have died there. I don’t know if it actually took on water in Schriever.

8 Tom Beckett July 12, 2012 at 17:12

You’re lucky those drinks you served up did not go to help the alligators wash down their lunch!! I have to agree with Howard about the snapping turtles too.

I liked the second shot of the MAVBT(UP seems to have adopted C&NW train symbolling practice) better. Less clutter from the power lines, and the rows of cane complement the train nicely. Likewise the more side lit shot of the Chip local looks better-less glint, better color saturation.

Not sure what UP’s approach on the “trademark protection” cars is, though it may be as simple as that. They already have that fleet of heritage units-which, while I’m sure they see the PR value, is more to cover their butts on trademark issues. It would make sense they do it with rolling stock as well. Railroads have also been known to use different reporting marks they own to separate fleets for accounting purposes as well. I think that had something to do with IC cars carrying WLO(Waterloo) reporting marks for as long as they did. Still, you have to love the old style Cotton Belt herald. Maybe we’ll see MP, C&EI, MKT, RI, etc as well. Keep in mind also, UP is the road that wants to license their image to anyone who models their equipment, so that may really be your answer.

I did have to laugh, though, at your mishap in the water. About 20 years ago, I was shooting a fantrip in Jersey, and set up at the end of the bridge over the Rariran River in South Amboy. Had a good time there, shot a NJ Transit train or two, a Conrail freight, and the fan trip. I was there maybe 90 minutes. What I did not consider: it’s tidal. When I arrived, I could walk to my spot. When I left, well it was a lot more interesting!!! Fortunately, no alligators!!

I have to find the shot of the fantrip itself, it ran with a pair of E8’s repainted Erie.

Stay dry!!

9 EDITOR - Jimbaux July 12, 2012 at 17:27

Guys (Howard and Tom, specifically), please, I swam in these bayous plenty as a child, as did my cousins, and as do the young people of today. Yes, we swam among the turtles, which are terrified of humans. I’m noticing that only the not-of-the-area commenters are the ones raising these concerns! I know for a fact that both Johns, Catina, and The Mid-City Marine are from southern Louisiana. Alligators are not found in bayous nearly as much as they are in swamps. Stagnant water is a much easier habitat for them than water that flows. They also generally don’t approach people and usually only attack if they feel the nest is being threatened (or if the human being stays in one spot for a very long time.)

Of course you had to laugh at me falling in the bayou! I did not need to include that part of the story, but I did! You don’t think that I’m embarrassed by it, do you?

10 Tom Beckett July 16, 2012 at 17:06

Thanks for a basic explanation on the habitat of turtles and alligators. As a yankee, I don’t truly understand all the nuances of the swamp/bayou environment. To be honest, ALL of those waters seem not to move!! But that’s just my untrained northern eye, I suppose. I forget, too, that in much of nature, the “flight or fight” instinct is almost always flight first, fight as a last resort, to be done only if trapped. In any event, it’s a funny story. If we didn’t have these mishaps while out railfanning, it would not be nearly as much fun 🙂

11 Steve Laser July 13, 2012 at 01:27

2nd shot of the MAVBT is very nice! Also I like the last shot of the Chip Local – maybe for you it was sort-of a grab shot but I like the ambiance. An enjoyable collection of photos. Thanks for sharing!

12 Donovan July 1, 2013 at 06:33

It is thanks to the Chip local that MI Swaco is able to get so much product down to Port Fourchon where we use extremely large amouts of Barite that is used to weigh up drilling mud. Last year, the company made record profits and a total of about 2 million barrels of drilling mud was mixed. Most of it was water based mud, which uses the most Barite. About 4000 sacks!

On my way home i can see the large amount of cars at the grinding plant in Amelia. It is from there that Barite is transferred to barges which then travel down the Intracoastal canal to Larose and down Bayou Lafourche to Fourchon. The railroad play a big part in getting our product to us and it is thanks to Chip and his train in being a big part of that.

13 shantele June 29, 2014 at 13:56

.Just love seeing the pics of the train coming through Des Allemands. Really makes me want to move back. I miss it alot. My dad lives probably not more than 150 yards from where you are standing. Im sure I’ve stood in the same spot before. Its really awesome to see this when i cant be there….thanks Jimbaux

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