NS Bernadotte Line Served – 26 October 2008

by Jim on 2013/10/26

Classic New Orleans Railroading

Today’s visual trip to the past takes us to the Norfolk Southern Railway’s “Bernadotte Line” that diverges from NS’s “Back Belt” line across New Orleans at a place called East City Junction.  The Bernadotte Line, under NS successor Southern Railway, once had a roundhouse at Scott Street in Mid-City and went as far as Basin Street in the Tremé neighborhood where the Southern had a passenger station that it and the Gulf, Mobile & Ohio Railway used.  The opening of New Orleans Union Passenger Terminal in 1954 ended the use of Bernadotte Line – originally called the St. Louis Branch – for passenger use, but there was enough freight traffic that, at least until the late 1970s, there was a daily job based at Bernadotte Yard.

By the turn of the 21st Century, the line had been truncated to Broad Street, only serving a beer distributor near Broad Street, and a brickyard – Masonry Products – and a steel fabrication place at what was left of Bernadotte Yard.  Shortly after the turn of the 21st Century, the NS abandoned the section from North Alexander Street onward.

In the post-Katrina world, Masonry Products is the only remaining customer on the line.  As such, the line’s existence is now completely dependent on the brickyard’s perpetual decision to continue to receive bricks via rail; as such, the line is vulnerable, and, as such, it has, for all of my time in New Orleans, been a target of my photographic efforts on the rare occasion that a train would serve the line – usually once per week, usually in the middle of the night.  On Sunday 26 October 2008, I got some rare daylight pictures of service on the line, as seen in this post.  I like boxcars and branchlines; so, I really like the Bernadotte Line and am grateful for the times that I’ve seen trains there.

The horns alerted me in the afternoon, and I arrived at “Bernadotte Yard” – which, today, is really just the run-around track at the end of the line, and saw this.

Repositioning myself and climbing atop the truck, we see the NS 5509 running around the one loaded boxcar that it has brought to be set out at the brickyard to the right of the frame.

It may be difficult to imagine, but that weed-overgrown track where the boxcar sits once hosted passenger trains like the Southern’s Crescent and the GM&O’s Rebel!

Before the locomotive can spot the one loaded boxcar, though, it must go into the brickyard to pull the one empty boxcar.

That is One Shell Square in the background, the tallest and highest building in New Orleans.

You can see the conductor on the ground opening the gate.

Now, the boxcar – which you can’t really see – is being pulled.

Now, the train is shoving back to couple to the loaded boxcar.

Below, we see the locomotive, the empty boxcar, and the loaded boxcar.

Now, with the ditch lights on, it is time for the locomotive to move forward.

The train passed the switch and has shoved back into the brickyard with the empty boxcar between the loaded boxcar and the locomotive, as seen here as the sun sets more.

And that was really it.  The loaded boxcar was spotted, and the locomotive and the empty boxcar went back toward the Back Belt, seen here crossing Canal Boulevard.

Here is one last view.

All of this makes me ponder the role that photography has not only in augmenting memory but perhaps even in sustaining and creating it.  I had envisioned something more profound to write on this topic here, but I think that I’ll just end this here now after mentioning that the Bernadotte line has plenty in common – even though it is also very different considering its urban nature – with my beloved Lockport Branch, and my reasons for focusing on both of them, particularly their vulnerability, are somewhat similar.  Less than a year before these pictures were made, I photographed the last railroad delivery to Valentine Paper on the Lockport Branch, and, less than a year after these pictures were taken, the last train ran on the Lockport Branch.  In the meantime, the Bernadotte Line still survives.




1 Ray Duplechain October 26, 2013 at 22:15

Your closing comments in the concerning the Lockport Branch gets me into a melancoly/depressed mood. I have fond memories of all the Branch Lines of Southern Pacific in Louisiana most no longert exist.

2 Dave Redmann October 27, 2013 at 21:18

Really nice shots of indeed a classic operation. On my list to catch one day, but don’t see it happening any time soon. Good pics with good backgrounds. Thanks for sharing.

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