KCS Business Train and President Haverty Cross Mississippi River – 6 January 2008

by Jim on 2013/01/06

[You are Jimbaux’s sunshine, his only sunshine.]

As it often does, and as it did in three years before, the Kansas City Southern Railway’s business train visited New Orleans for one of the college football bowl games played in the Louisiana Superdome (either the Sugar Bowl, the BCS Title Game, or both), and on 6 January 2008, the date that these pictures were taken, the train was in town for the BCS Title Game.  Here we see the train descending the Mississippi River Bridge into Baton Rouge, a sight that was common until the Southern Belle passenger train between Kansas City and New Orleans was abolished in late 1969.

The track going across the frame underneath the river bridge – but over the lanes of US Highway 190 – is a small remaining remnant of the Illinois Central Railway’s line from Baton Rouge to Vicksburg and ultimately Memphis.  It only sees local traffic for some industries a few miles north of here.

I’ve been on this KCS business trains a few times, the last time in early 2012 four years after these images were taken as KCS’s official photographer for the party that it had aboard the train in New Orleans, and I’m always struck by the dedication and professionalism of the crew, some of whom are seen here.

(EDITOR’S NOTE: Jimbaux is a holder of shares of common stock of the Kansas City Southern Railway.)

Here we see KCS President and CEO Mike Haverty at right, the visionary who took over the KCS in the mid-1990s and helped make it into the powerhouse it is today, and Willis Kilpatrick at left; he’s the Director of Heritage Operations, meaning that he’s in charge of this sleek train that you are seeing.

Five years to the day before I took these pictures, I was in Monterrey, south of the border, photographing Haverty’s KCSdeMéxico on 6 January 2007 as part of my epic 2006-2007 time in Mexico.

The train stopped at the KCS office at the KCS yard in Baton Rouge – which is right next to the Governor’s Mansion – to pick up Gov. Kathleen Blanco.  That might clue you in on the reason for the selection of today’s song.

Three Months Later, This Was ‘Illegal’

Yes, it was three months after these pictures were taken that my infamous detention by the New Orleans Police Department and the Amtrak Police took place for photographing this very train in its next visit to New Orleans.  You can see that from these pictures, the skies got dark as the train was leaving Baton Rouge, meaning that the shots that I really wanted to do of it in New Orleans were impossible.  Let’s see, NOPD undercover officers, the president of the railroad standing on the back platform of this train didn’t have a problem with me taking a picture of this train, and on a bridge crossing the Mississippi River, so why did you?

Despite the complete absence of anything illegal or nefarious about what I did in April 2008, my detention by the NOPD for photographing this train from public property was highly embarrassing, and I did my best to keep KCS people from learning about it.  Afterall, these are the dangerous “if you’re getting intense attention from the police, you must be doing something wrong” and the “if you’re not doing anything wrong, you have nothing of which to worry from the police” mentalities, all too common.

However, obviously, in September 2011, as the aforelinked article (see previous paragraph) shows, I finally got over that embarrassment and published the story in the hopes that it would help others, to realize that there really should not be any reason to be embarrassed.

Furthermore, as I type this five years after these pictures were taken, that incident, as humiliating and troubling as it was, has opened several doors for me and has actually led to some new friendships.  We must all make the best of every situation, whatever the “best” is.  How are you making the best of your situation?




1 George Grassby January 6, 2013 at 15:21

Were you charged with “being out and about in daylight” or something worse? I hear that NOLA police do not have a reputation for being the brightest and the best, so to speak. But many PDs have something vague to use when common sense is lacking.


2 Ray Duplechain January 6, 2013 at 20:35

I believe your personality, avocation and professional attitude is key to your sucess in your noted ability to photograph and report on your favored subject; “Railroading”. You have learned thru experience; by the way that is the best when dealing with railroad personel. Keep up the good “work”; as you mentioned, each incounter is a learning experience.

3 Alex January 6, 2013 at 23:30

i’m surprised you didn’t get more pictures of the engines

4 Donovan January 7, 2013 at 18:16

I was in Lobdell last month with an objective to photograph at least one of the detoured oil trains UP was rerouting on the KCS. After hanging around with a grain train that went down the Anchorage Sub, i went and found an area by Lobdell Junction where i was going to sit and wait, hopefully, for an oil train to show up.

I had just got off of work that previous night so i had the seat kicked back and was just letting time go by. I was there for about an hour when my friend noticed a cop coming down the road. There was a KCS radio tower right next to where i was sitting with No Tresspassing signs on the fence, but, the area i was in by the tracks didn’t have such. I was off the road and out of the way, so i wasn’t worried about anything.

Nevertheless, i knew this cop was going to stop and ask questions. He pulled up next to me as i got up and rolled down my window. He procceded to ask how i was doing when i noticed another cop pull up behind me and another one coming down the road. I was suprised by the attention i was getting. The first cop then asked what i was doing in the area and i told him i was here to photograph rerouted oil trains that usually pass through Livonia but for now are coming through Port Allen. He was cool about it and didn’t give me any trouble. However, his buddy wouldn’t stop asking “why”. I never did answer him as i was already talking to the first guy.

I was told by him that someone from one of the houses down the road called in a suspicious vehicle sitting by the tracks. All i said after that was i was going to sit here until a train showed up, hopefully, and get my pictures. Then i would leave.

After that he simply said have a nice day and they all left. My friend was shaken up and was asking to leave but i refused. I wasn’t doing anything wrong and will not net them scare me. I sat there for a little and did eventually leave but only to go to the store. I returned as soon as i heard over my scanner the train calling out the outbound crew at Lobdell Junction.

5 JIMBAUX January 18, 2013 at 14:16

Thanks for sharing this story, Donovan. It seems to me that in this incident, overall, every participant handled himself well, and I’ll even include the person who called you in in that assessment, since, for all we know, the person just thought that you were “suspicious” and not necessarily that you were doing anything wrong. Home is supposed to be a place of safety and refuge, and it’s understandable that people would be concerned with what is happening near their homes. Of course, you weren’t doing anything wrong either, and even if your presence bothered some people, it’s really their choice, since it’s not like you were bothering them by playing loud music or something like that.

The incessant “why” that you got from the second officer is typical and may seem a bit irritating or even invasive, but I don’t think that it is wrong. “Why?” is a very fair question, and it shows that he isn’t assuming anything of you; in other words, he isn’t making up his own reasons – his own “why”s – for what you are doing. In my incident in Baton Rouge in October 2001, however, the repeated “why”s that I got from the second officer in that situation were accompanied by facial scowls, as if to suggest that something was wrong with me for even wanting to photograph what I was photographing.

Right, of course you should have stayed put afterward; after that incident happened, what more could happen there?

6 Tom Beckett January 22, 2013 at 15:06

Nice photos of the train on the bridge-it looks impressive from any angle.

As to Donovan’s episode, my fear is always that the answer to the question “why” will not be viewed as sufficient by someone with a gun and badge, mostly due to lack of understanding, but still just opens up more questions. Not the position one wants to be in at this time in history when paranoia is so rampant. The thing about a lot of hobbies is that to an enthusiast, no explanation is necessary; to a non enthusiast, no explanation is possible. Nobody questions someone with a fishing pole on a river bridge, or a guy in camoflage sitting in a cornfield with a shotgun-after all, fishing and hunting are “normal” activities, though a guy with a shotgun near the tracks could potentially be a greater hazard than it would first appear-but it’s just assumed he’s a hunter with no nefarious purpose. People understand that. Train photography?? Not so much, especially since it could be viewed as suspicious activity by some. Sounds like the first officer had some sense. I’m not sure I’d want the second cop in the lead if I were being questioned. Everyone handled it well in the end.

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