Chip Retired and People Assuming The Worst In Others

by Jim on 2013/02/11

[Jimbaux would like to remind you that it’s in our nature to kill each other, in our nature to destroy, in our nature to kill, kill, kill . . . . ]

We’ve Got Some Catching Up To Do

Yes, to all of you out there in Jimbauxland, we really do have some catching up to do.  I haven’t really posted much new material – especially the news shared in this post – in several months, as I’ve mostly published stuff from late 2007 and early 2008 recently.  The December archives is a good start if you want to see that stuff.

Chip Retired

That’s right; Chip Ledet, the long-serving conductor of Southern Pacific’s Morgan City Local and Union Pacific’s Morgan City Local after the merger in 1996, and who went to work for SP in 1968 and has been known for his smile, has retired.

On Thursday 27 December 2012, as I was on my way from bayouland back to Woadieville, I got my first pictures of the LLD51 since Chip retired, and it just was not the same.

First, Some Iconic Sugarmill Pictures, And An Encounter . . .

Many of you have already seen the picture of the sugarmill, sugar truck, and railroad crossbuck posted on the Facebook fan page, but now I will show you some more pictures from that scene and tell you about an encounter that I had there with someone questioning me about my taking of these pictures.  All of these images from this day are presented in chronological order, as is my customary fare, hence the sugarmill pictures preceding the train pictures, though this actually is a railroad-related picture if you consider the dormant ex-SP Lockport Branch in the foreground – which hasn’t seen a train since the spring of 2009, more than a year after Valentine Paper closed – and the fact that the mill is still served by the Louisiana & Delta Railway today, as loads of molasses leave in tank cars.

I was trying very hard to time these shots just right so that the big “R A C E L A N D 1892” on the stack would not only be fully visible but also be fully lit with sunlight, something that proved to be very difficult with the wind blowing in my general direction, and you can see that I failed in that endeavor in the above picture.  Furthermore, I wanted a cane truck to be crossing the track – and not blocking the view of the bottom of the stack – when all of these other elements came into place.  This, of course, required my constant attention through the viewfinder, and that’s when I was distracted by a woman approaching me to ask me questions.

She was on the other side of the fence that surrounded the Waste Management facility, and she was apparently an employee there.  I had to maintain my position so that I could get these shots as I wanted to get them, and I therefore could not get any closer to her; also, with The Duke following behind me with some piece of furniture for my crib, and with me not wanting to make him wait but also with me wanting to shoot the de-Chipped Chip Local along the way, I did not have time to mess around.  Well, I managed to get almost the entire stack in sunlight, but there’s no cane truck here.

So, this woman starts asking me if I’m trying to catch speeders.  Really?  I’m dressed in my typical T-shirt and jeans (I may have been wearing a jacket), hardly looking like an officer-of-the-law, and I’m standing next to my filthy truck, but you’ve somehow determined that I’m apparently out to catch people in some punishable act?

The truly observant among you will have already realized that what is significant here is that she did not simply ask me what I was doing or why I was doing it.  At least she didn’t go so far as Reed St. Pierre did almost a year before when he totally decided on his own without any evidence what my reasons for making the photographs were and that I was “wit’” someone.  At least she asked first, but her questions were based on the assumption that I was attempting to do something that would cause some grief to the subjects that I was photographing, as her next question reinforced.

Here’s the shot of the day, an iconic scene of an empty sugarcane truck emerging from the sugar mill, with dried out cane stalks on the side of the highway.

The woman asked me next if I was with the Department of Environmental Quality, trying to get some information on all of the smoke exhaust coming from the sugar mill.  WTF?  Geeezz!!!!!!  What in the hell is it with human beings? always thinking that whatever it is that you’re doing, your intent must be to cause some sort of harm to or get in trouble the subjects that you are photographing or observing?  Why can’t a guy just be taking pictures to record a scene for its own sake, as I was doing here?

Again, had I not been paying such close attention to the automobiles moving and the smoke blowing through the air as I looked through the viewfinder trying to snap pictures at the right moment, I might have engaged in more dialogue with this woman, but her two questions to me were of asking me if my purpose in photographing whatever it was that I was photographing was not only something specific, but also for the specific purpose of “catching” someone or some business in a punishable act!!  Why?

Seriously, I ask you, why?  Those of you who are new to Jimbaux’s Journal will hopefully have already seen that this is primarily a photo essay personal blog site, but such photography comes with its occasional encounters with people wondering why it is happening, including encounters with law enforcement, some of which can unfortunately be very negative and disturbing, and that has been a big theme of this site too, a way of helping other photographers cope in these situations.

The incident with this woman at the Waste Management facility is not something I include in the list of harassment or some such, as other incidents are rightly described, but the mindset that her questions revealed shows some common themes.  She didn’t harass me or wasn’t rude to me and apparently didn’t “report” me (she walked away from the encounter before I finished taking my pictures), but she made unwarranted assumptions about my motives.  Why?  Why couldn’t she have just asked what I was doing and why I was doing it?

Unfortunately, for far too many people, when there is no obvious explanation of why something happened or is happening, they make up their own.  (You could even say that this dynamic is the basis for many religions, but that’s really not a discussion that I care to have right now or here, as, despite that, religion serves an important role in societies and for many individuals.)  You do not have to search very far for examples of this unfortunate dynamic.  Look in the comments section of any article about any person, whether it be a politician, a celebrity, a suspected criminal, or a private person who made the news without any effort.  Have you ever had motives ascribed to your actions that were not true?

Among photographers and specifically railroad photographers who discuss issues of being questioned by private citizens and law enforcement, I have heard some lament of being asked by a police officer, “what are you doing?”  That’s actually the most fair question that a police officer – or anyone else – can ask!  That question presumes nothing of you.  That’s the way that it should be, isn’t it?


I asked you why people so easily assume that you have harmful intentions, but I suspect that in general – as opposed to this woman specifically – that it’s simply an evolutionary survival mechanism to treat everyone as a threat or at least a potential threat.  I’d say that such behavior has no place in a civilized society, and I do believe that, but, like it or not, we are competitors, each out to fight for ourselves and our close friends and family, and it’s therefore apparently okay to assume the worst of what are essentially harmless people.  Such is humanity.  Now you may have some idea to the reasons for the selection of today’s song.  (You’re not listening to it?  Click on the link under the headline of this post.)  The idea that we live in a “civilized society” is somewhat questionable as well.

I’m starting to think, too, that even had I had the time and space to talk to her more one-on-one and had explained to her that I wanted to get a shot of the mill in operation with the smoke away from the stack so that the “R A C E L A N D 1892” on the stack could be visible all while a truck left the mill and crossed the track with strewn cane in the foreground by the side of the road (as I explained above) she may have still followed up that explanation with a “why?” and may have still thought that my intentions were to do something to the subjects of the image that they would not enjoy.  I don’t know.  I mean, as someone who is often thoroughly disgusted by humanity and mass culture, I can understand why someone would suspect the worse in someone else, but, again, how bout simply ask what I’m doing before asking if I’m doing specific things?

Anyway, let’s move on to more pleasant topics.


Yes, I left the scene because I was hoping to intercept the Union Pacific train LLD51 – I’m not sure we can call it the Chip Local anymore – for the first time since Chip’s retirement, knowing that it just wouldn’t be the same.

Chip retired on Friday 30 November.  His last day on the train was the previous day.  That means that the pictures that I took of him working on his birthday were the last-ever pictures I got of him in action.  Chip turned 63 years old on Tuesday 13 November, meaning that he had been eligible to retire for three years, but he just kept going.

Those of you who have followed this site in the last year-and-a-half have gotten to ‘know’ Chip from my pictures.  I returned to Louisiana in the mid-summer of 2011 after a six-month hiatus, and I set about photographing the man who had been on the Morgan City Local train for as long as I could remember.  Like with many things and with many people in general, we in the world or railroad enthusiasts have a tendency to not appreciate things until they are gone or are almost gone, and I recently posed a question about this to my readers.  While I’ve photographed the Chip Local ever since I started photographing trains as a punk little teenager in the very late 1990s, and I have some black-and-white pictures of the train powered by GP15-1s as well as some color pictures of it with clean SP power and little UP B23-7s, it was only in August 2011 that I finally began to photograph Chip himself, 15 months before his retirement.  I’m glad that I did.

Thanks for so many great memories, Chip.

CTC Live Oak

I heard the LLD51 get a warrant, and I decided to set up at CTC Live Oak.  When I got there, there was a road train parked on the old Texas & Pacific mainline.  The former SP mainline is at the right foreground.

That train turned out to be the MAVAX (Manifest – Avondale to Alexandria), which confused me since it had solid NS power and since I had recently ‘learned’ that CSX train Q605 – which used to become UP train MCXLI – now becomes the MAVAX.  I don’t know.  You foamers out there who hold Jimbaux up to be an authority of UP operations and train symbols in the New Orleans area can let go of that idea right now, since I apparently don’t know squat; furthermore, since these pictures have been taken, I haven’t been foaming much at all.  So, my information is even more outdated than it was when I took these pictures.

The MAVAX got moving.

As I’ve stated before, that crossover track (and another one going in the opposite direction behind me) was installed in the mid-1990s when the UP-SP merger took place and when BNSF entered southern Louisiana.  All BNSF manifest trains (and maybe the intermodal train too) go through that crossover, and most southbound UP trains crossover from the other direction to take the ex-SP mainline at right, as seen with the QLINSL the last time that I photographed here.  I know that it still does happen, but I have not seen a westbound/northbound UP train take the ex-SP line out of Avondale in several years.  I just see southbounds and eastbounds there.

Here It Is, The De-Chipped Chip Local

Here it is, my friends, the first time I see the Chip Local since Chip’s retirement.

That one hopper car did not look like it was the type to go to any of the customers on the train’s route.  I correctly assumed that this was a “spacer” car to serve the hazardous cars at the Discovery Gas Plant, and I further correctly assumed that the gas plant was as far as the train would go on this day.

Dumb Driving

Right after I took this picture, a truck waiting at the crossing decides to go around the gates.  Now, I normally don’t expose the identities of people who do such things, since I can understand why someone would want to get around a big, long, slow moving train, but if I could see that this train was as short as it was, so could he!  Furthermore, you moron, if you get smashed by this train, you could potentially kill me too, since I’m standing on top of my truck on the side of the road on the far side of the crossing.  So, yes, I just have to do this:

Oh, and, hey lady at the Waste Management place in Raceland, if you’re still listening, here you go, Jimbaux actually taking a picture with the knowledge that it might get someone in trouble, as you thought I was doing all along while I was photographing the sugarmill.

And just to show you how stupid this is, remember that these images are all presented in chronological order, and I quickly turned back toward the east and once again recorded the one-locomotive-one-car train for which this motorist could not wait.

Seriously?  You couldn’t wait for that train?  I wouldn’t have posted your picture if you had gone around the gates for a regular train of more than a mile length, but this?

The non-Chip conductor of this train was either happy that I had recorded this motorist’s actions, or he was amused by my presence.  Well, that’s what I assume (yes, I know) from this gesture that he gave me:

Well, for the first Chip Local – uh, I mean LLD51 – that I photograph in the post-Chip era, I surely got a good smile from the conductor, didn’t I?  Maybe some things about this train won’t change afterall.

Here’s a largely useless going-away shot.

Well, do we have time to go west?  Apparently, we have a little bit of time.

Another Day . . . For You And Me . . . In Paradís

And, unlike the English word used in the Phil Collins song, in this case, it actually does rhyme with “me.”  Here is the locomotive running around the cover car:

I’m told that the conductor here may actually be Chip’s nephew.  If so, that would be three generations of Ledets working on this train!  Here we see the conductor and the trainee riding the point of the HLCX 3858 as they close in on the cover car before going into the plant.

And, here they are crossing the old highway and going into the plant.

Although Chip may have retired, it’s nice to see Engineer Boudreaux – another SP veteran and another son of an SP employee – still on this train!

The gas plant employee at the far right is giving the UP crew some spotting instructions.  Three months before, I got a nice shot of Chip riding the tank car into this plant the day before my grandmother died.

The plant has a capacity of 32 large tank cars, though it hasn’t been at capacity in a long time.  I am told that in the SP days, there was a job out of Avondale to serve just this plant and that it routinely had 32 cars.

Back To Whoadieville

After The Duke and I conducted our transaction at the crib, there was still some daylight left to get out and see a few more things by the tracks.  Here, we see an empty CSX coal train parked at Central Avenue.

More recently, you’ve seen my shot of a pair of empty NS grain trains parked here.  You also saw several trains here – including Illinois Central locomotives, KCS locomotives, and CSX locomotives – in one gluttonous morning last May!

NOPB GP40s at KCS’s West Yard

You enthusiasts of locomotives will probably like what I caught parked at the KCS New Orleans Yard this evening, the three GP40s of the New Orleans Public Belt Railway.

NOPB power often ties down here for some reason that I don’t know (and, as per themes discussed above, don’t want to make up on my own.)  Perhaps crews doing interchange frequently hog-law here, or maybe the pickup from KCS isn’t yet ready when they get here, but those are just guesses.  I don’t know.

The road in the foreground is L&A Road, named for long-time-ago KCS predecessor Louisiana & Arkansas Railway.

Let’s head into the city to see what we can see.

Always A Reminder Of One’s Good Fortune

Scenes like that which I saw under I-10 at City Park Avenue always remind me that for whatever numerous problems I might have, it could always be much, much worse.

I had nothing to give.  I don’t eat out as much anymore; so, I don’t have leftover Subway cookies or chips in the truck, which is the only thing I give out to beggars.

Sunset At Bayou St. John

That sounds much more romantic than it actually is or was.  This is just a mostly useless picture of a stack train crossing Bayou St. John, but if you live in the Atlanta area and buy anything that is made in the far east, this is probably how it gets to you, this train, Union Pacific’s KLBNO out of Long Beach, Ca., now with a CSX crew.

And that, mes amis, is a wrap.


Speaking of the Malicious Nature of Humanity . . . .

I haven’t really offered any thoughts on the tragedy that took place in December at that elementary school in Connecticut, but part of my reticence about that stems from the fact that it’s almost as if we are all issued some obligation to say what we think feel about it, each person falling over himself to express more outrage and disgust than the previous person.  What do I have to add to that?  For that matter, what do you have to add to that?  Why should we feel some obligation to say what we think feel about the incident if we weren’t within 500 miles of it?  Does it make you feel any better to know that I, too, think that it was tragic and terrible?  Am I special or unique because I think that?

I got a very angry response yelled at me in December when I simply made no mention of the tragedy and said – when asked – that there was nothing that any of us could do about it.

Do people not realize that that feeling of obligation to comment on these tragedies that are far beyond their control and their geographical area are exactly part of what causes these tragedies to continue to happen?  Does the President of the United States and all of his handlers not realize that taking time out of their busy schedules to visit the scene of a local tragedy perpetuated by a single person and calling it a “national tragedy” when it has nothing to do with government or the administration thereof only elevates the spectre of what happened, elevates the power of the person who did it and whoever is likely to do something like it in the future, and makes something like it more likely to happen again?  I can’t really fault Obama, though, because if he did not go, both the media and his political opponents would fabricate outrage and a story based on that outrage for him not going.  Still, that’s not really Obama’s fault, and it’s not even the media’s fault; it’s your fault, since the media can only do what it does with your consent.

The Grumpster published his thoughts about the issue shortly after it happened.  I agree with some of what he says, but definitely not all of it.  I am posting here the parts of his essay with which I am in agreement.

Yes, the media is in yet another feeding frenzy, raking in countless millions of dollars in advertising revenue, all thanks to a crazed lunatic and his guns. No doubt directors, producers, and ad men everywhere are thanking Jesus for the blessings bestowed upon them by this special holiday tragedy. But don’t fret, these people are doing everything they can to ensure that another, even greater, tragedy will be soon to follow. [ . . . ]

And while the ignorant masses wander around dumbfounded, asking how such a thing could happen, those of us with understanding feel only a deep sense of disgust at a system that produces such theater on a regular basis. There is no deep mystery here; everything is straightforward and transparent; one need only open one’s eyes.

At a fundamental level, the cause is simply human nature, exacerbated and amplified by the media whores. As everyone who cares to look in the mirror knows only too well, we are not benign creatures, but are instead psychotic apes motivated primarily by greed, fear, laziness and ignorance. And that’s all of us, not just the mass murderers. Each of us, given the same circumstances, behave very similarly; it’s a simple matter of genetics. [ . . . ]

I’ll call a timeout in my excerpting of Grumpy’s narrative and point out to you what to me is an obvious connection between what he is saying and my commentary on human nature following the questioning that I received by the woman in Raceland at the Waste Management facility for taking the sugarmill photos, how she just basically decided that whatever the reasons I had for taking pictures, it was to get someone in trouble.  Do you see the connection?

Continuing with Grumpy’s post . . .

Even the lowest among us know that their name can live forever and all they have to do is kill a few people, for the media will immediately make famous anyone who enables them to sell their next billion in advertising revenue.   [ . . . ]

I’m sure the networks have no end of moronic talking heads blaming violent video games, violent movies, inadequate gun control, the public schools, Obama, etc., but you’ll never hear anything even remotely close to the truth.  [ . . . ]

As the story goes, “I shouted out, who killed the Kennedys, when after all, it was you and me”. Grumpy out…

So, yes, there you have it; every time you post on Facebook your horror about some school shooting that happened a thousand miles from you (if it happens close to home for you, that’s a completely different story, I should say, but should not have to say), you’re only feeding into the frenzy, into the madness.  Having said that, I should add the obvious that the responsibility for murder is still, despite all other factors, the responsibility of the murderer.

If you want to read The Grumpster’s full post, including the things he says with which I disagree (he seems to assume the worst in all journalists), see here.

The week after the shootings happened, school principals and school district superintendents a thousand miles from Connecticut were going out of their way to express their “shock” about what happened and what they could do to “prevent” such a thing from happening at their school, all the while parents suddenly got concerned that their children could be victims of a school shooting.  The fact that you or I or your kids could be the victim of such a thing is not news; the only thing that is news is that you’ve apparently finally figured it out.  Your child’s school is no less safe – and no more safe – today that it was last year or last decade.  Shocking?  The fact that the incident happened in your town is, yes, shocking, but the fact that it could happen anywhere should not be.  All accidents are preventable, but a society can’t prevent all accidents, and neither can a railroad company.  Let that one sink in for a little while.

I know that it is difficult, but we must accept that there are some things that we truly cannot control no matter what and that trying to control them will likely, if you push it far enough, only make all of us less free.  The days after the shootings in Connecticut eerily reminded me of the post-9/11 time of erosion of freedom and personal liberty all in the name of security.  The fear itself was disturbing.

Grumpy is spot-on about the media’s role in all of this, but his answer is incomplete, the truth but not the whole truth.  Why?  Because you can’t just blame the media!  I’ll remind you again that the media can only do what they do with your consent.  How else do they get away with all of that sensationalism?  If you’d demand better coverage by either changing the channel or turning the damned machine off, maybe the coverage itself would change.

How much do you really need to know about the school shooting other than that it happened, where it happened, when it happened, who is accused of doing it, the disposition of the accused, and how many people died?   After that it’s just entertainment, a way of capturing your emotion to sell more penis pills and whatever else is being advertised on the television.  People are far more likely to spend money when they are angry and-or fearful; so, that’s really a good time for the advertisers to have you in front of the television, and they’ll prolong the story with “new developments” for as long as they can to keep you glued to the television.

Do you need to stay glued to the television for a week afterward on the “developing story,” as CNN called it?  What is “developing” about it anyway?  I only know that because CNN was on in the weightroom, and I couldn’t help but catch glimpses of that.  I don’t even have cable at home anymore.  What use to you is anything beyond the basic information?  And can’t you decide for yourself that it was a tragedy rather than have CNN – or FoxNews, or MSNBC, or whoever – continue to tell that to you?  And do you really need to publicly express your horror (that you legitimately feel) about the incident so that people can rest assured that you have a heart and soul?  How will that really help or “support” anyone at all?

If you live near a place where a school shooting happened, even if you didn’t know anyone who was killed or who was at the school, then, yes, I can understand you being overcome with grief.  I would not criticize that, and I’d probably be quite shaken myself were I in that situation.  Other than that, however, please stop allowing the media to make you feel an obligation to be overcome with grief and to “show your support” for something whose victims you really can’t support at all.  While you’re at it please stop allowing the media to make you feel outrage at all; the only thing for which you should feel outrage is their attempts at making you feel outrage.

All for now . . .



{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Catina Joy February 12, 2013 at 00:17

Glad you introduced us all to ‘that smile’ Chip had before it was too late!! I will always carry that with me, it inspires me to remember what’s truly important in life:: the little things that money can’t buy. When I’m down, I sometimes go back and look at your pics of Chip and ‘that smile’, it’s contagious and always warms some lil spot in my heart, helps me through those ‘not so great’ days. Hope he’s enjoying his retirement!! Thanks for showcasing him in your photography!


2 Barry Gilbert February 12, 2013 at 05:20

Always insightful. I only hope that my 12 year old son can walk down a sidewalk or tracks without interruption as I have enjoyed in my life. Freedom seems to be a fleeting thing.



3 jim usegar February 12, 2013 at 09:13

Blah blah blah. Thankfully your rail photography is halfway passable. Your endless pontificating reveals a mental illness that might or might not interfere with your art.

You must me insufferable to be around in person.


4 JIMBAUX February 12, 2013 at 12:36

Really? How about you provide a single fact to back up your assertions? And are you incapable of commenting on the arguments and content presented here – any specficis at all – instead of engaging in ad-hominem crticisms?

In a very indirect way, you’ve basically proven some of the points that I’ve made here (via your complete reliance on an ad-hominem method of criticism, in case you can’t figure it out, which you probably can’t, since you’d otherwise not do it) about human nature. Thank you.

“Mental illness”? Why? Again, can you present any facts? You’ve also basically proven the point that this author was making in this piece:

I am not “anti-authority” as the headline of the piece suggests, but I’m definitely against “illegitimate authority” as the body of that article describes, and the mass media is the illegitimate authority whose – to use your word – “pontificating” I mention in my post here. However, you label me as mentally ill, all because I don’t conform to a society that itself is highly ill. Who is the ill one, really?

“Insufferable to be around in person”? Yes, if you yourself are part of the insufferable masses! If you lived around here, you might think that I’m “insufferable” because I would not be willing to engage in this behavior:

Just because I’m the minority – or, perhaps, silent majority – of people who don’t care to engage in that maddening behavior, doesn’t mean that you get to label me as “insufferable” for not being around a crowd that several of us would ourselves find to be insufferable.

I’m actually delightful to be around in person until you try to force me to act the way that the masses do. Once you try to do that to me, then, yes, your description of me is spot-on. Thank you.


5 BisonBill February 16, 2013 at 13:08

Jim, with that attitude, peraps you should change your name to Jim Vinager. I agree with Jimbeaux that it is those who resort to ad hominem attacks who are insufferaable. Especially those who begin with ad hominems an go downward from there. My anly caveat regarding Jimbeaux is don’t let him drive if you are within 100 miles of a train track. I recall a harrowing ride on SK 724 just outside of Maple Creek, Saskatchewan in which Jimbeaux was driving at about 120 kpm with his head out the window looking through the view-finder trying to catch an eastbound CPR!


6 Random_Acts February 12, 2013 at 12:27

I keep reading articles which seem to go viral about “Random Acts of Kindness” – and wonder why kindness should be something that goes “viral” when someone does something that should be expected. Then I jump on blog pages and read commentary such as “Jim” leaves behind and can see why.

Why would writing on your OWN page that you pay hosting for and put out there – your own thoughts and emotions be considered a “mental illness”- Please explain to me? My assumption is people who troll pages to say rude things, must be the insufferable ones. Just because we have the “internet” and you can be an asshole anonymously to someone you may or may not know doesn’t mean that you should.

Just because you are opinionated and your opinion differs from what the mainstream is does not mean you should not state it. In fact that means you should state it, because perhaps you can change how someone thinks. You can’t argue reason with the unreasonable. You also can’t argue reason with emotion.

I believe that the sensational aspects of the media push people from one sensation to another, either that or people do not “feel” in real life or have little contact – the emotional aspects of a horrible tragedy are only played up with media and the consent of the people who tune in and the advertisers who shell out the money for the rating. Have a Coca-Cola with your tears and drama. I do not feel empathy for tragedy on the news often – while being left feeling empty because I cannot relate the way the “television tells me to.”


7 alex February 14, 2013 at 22:27

not that it matters but i’m 4th generation railroader.


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