Four Railroad Lafayette Sub Afternoon – 26 November 2008

by Jim on 2013/11/26

[Jimbaux was spending his time waiting for the one . . . or the four . . . or the five.]

Another 2008 Thanksgiving Week Day on the Mudbug Sub

We are back where we were yesterday, with local trains and such on the Lafayette Subdivision, and, yes, we have more from Death Magnetic.


These pictures are not my best, but the set of them shows something interesting and valuable – to those interested in railroading and railroad history and operations and economics – about the BNSF Railway’s Lafayette Subdivision: the fact that four railroad companies operate on its tracks.  The BNSF owns the mainline, even though neither of BNSF’s predecessor railroads owned the line; this is due to the competition that was lost in the merger between Union Pacific and Southern Pacific, as the new UP would own two mainlines into New Orleans, eliminating the number of connecting carriers from the west.  So, BNSF got control of the line some time in 1995 or 1996, with the UP having trackage rights.  A decade before, the Louisiana & Delta Railroad was formed to work on SP’s branchlines in the area, and it got trackage rights on the mainline between the places where its branches were.  With BNSF by 2002 contracting all of its local work in the Schriever area to L&D, the trackage rights were extended to Salix.  Also, as in many other places, Amtrak runs trains in this area too, specifically the thrice-weekly Sunset Limited between Los Angeles and New Orleans.

So, in a rare situation, the Lafayette Subdivision is a place where you can see trains of four different railroad companies – each with crews employed by those respective companies – using the same mainline track in the same day.  This is not the same as the Norfolk Southern Back Belt in New Orleans, where crews of NS, CSX, UP, and BNSF use the route, since that is a terminal railroad; this, the Lafayette Sub, is a non-urban mainline.  For those of you knowledgeable of railroading, I will ask you if you know of any other place where a situation like this exists.  Please post your answers in the comments section; the comments thing asks for an e-mail address, but your address will not be published, nor does it even need to be real!


We will both start and end the day with two-in-one shots.  Here is the starting shot, showing the UP’s Morgan City Local – the LLS51, the Chip Local – on the mainline passing L&D’s Schriever Job working in the siding after both trains had come from the east.

It looks like Chip has a boxcar today, meaning that he will be going to Tuboscope at North Boeuf, but I’m not sure of the reason for the plate steel, unless maybe he didn’t have time to spot it in Waggaman.

Chacahoula, Take One

Ah, yes, it is my ‘famous’ Chacahoula tele-wedge shot, and I’m standing on the ground today for some reason.

How is that?

Chacahoula, Take Two, With Train #1

I don’t know if I stayed put or went somewhere and returned, but 33 minutes later we are back at Chacahoula (or still at Chacahoula) as the westbound Sunset Limited blasts through.

Once again, I’m on the ground; I wonder if I wasn’t feeling well that day.

A Pumpkin Presence

With the below picture, we will have photographs of all railroads that use and serve this line, as BNSF train M-NWOLAL stops to make a pickup, a pickup that would presumably include the cars that the L&D had just brought in from the east just three hours earlier.

All BNSF pickups in Schriever are made by westbound trains, and all BNSF setouts in Schriever are made by eastbound trains, regardless of where the cars are originating or terminating, as the switching and blocking are done at Lafayette.

Ah, the depot is the place of many good memories.

Ending The Day With Maintaner G

I guess he had just gotten off of work, but he came and hung out with me at Horseshoe Road as a westbound UP autorack train pulled up on the siding alongside the M-NWOLAL, fulfilling the promise to end the day as we started it with a two-in-one shot, as seen in this heavily-cropped view.

Yes, I need a 300mm lens, surely.  I wonder if that will be the “day that never comes.”




1 Bob November 27, 2013 at 09:01

Nice work, all of them. I really like the moody depot shot. I’ve only been there once. Saw two SP trains meet there and someone on the head end of one asked the crew of the other if he could bum a smoke and they did a rolling hand off (no pics of it thou). One or more of the crew members involved was named Boudreaux (of course!) (sorry can’t spell it, not from there myself, LOL).

2 Christopher Parma November 30, 2013 at 01:12

Nice shots! You got some neat effects with the low sun!

And I actually do know of a location similar to yours, where 4 railroads operate on mainline trackage outside of a terminal. On UP’s Glidden Subdivision (ex-SP, part of the Sunset Route) between West Jct and Tower 17 (About 25 miles running from the southwest side of Houston to Rosenberg, TX), 4 railroads daily send a parade of trains running alongside US 90A.

UP owns the track and hosts BNSF trains running from BNSF’s Yard and the Port of Houston to Tower 17, because the cutoff along the UP is much shorter than the normal routing south to Alvin, TX and then back north to Rosenberg (The cutoff saves about 30 miles, and the trackage rights date back to the ATSF).
UP also hosts KCS, who runs their trains along the UP from Beaumont to Tower 17, where the KCS trains head southwest along the ex-SP ‘Macaroni Line’ to Victoria, TX, and then on to Laredo, TX and Mexico. KCS rebuilt the Macaroni Line in 2009 to shave off about 90 miles of trackage rights on the UP. However, KCS trains still use trackage rights along the UP Glidden Subdivision from West Jct to Tower 17.
The last railroad to use this section of track is Amtrak, with the Sunset Limited coming through 6 days a week. Train #1 comes through in the evening, and #2 in mid-morning.
And a bonus is a large frequency of trains along this 25 mile stretch of track, with about 60 trains a day. Traffic is so heavy that UP is currently adding a 2nd Main Track to help ease congestion.

For reference, here’s Tower 17: 29.560579,-95.81269
The UP (Sunset Route) runs East-West (with BNSF/KCS/AMTK trackage rights to the east), the BNSF runs Northwest-Southeast, and the KCS runs to the Southwest.

And here’s West Jct: 29.653255,-95.449889
All the trackage here is owned by UP, with BNSF/KCS trackage rights east to BNSF’s New South Yard and the Port of Houston. To the north is the Terminal Subdivision (Sunset Route) with KCS/AMTK trackage rights on the UP.

3 Jimbaux November 26, 2014 at 11:07

I see what you are saying, and it makes sense, but the segment that you are describing is only 25 miles of a much longer mainline subdivision; in the case of the BNSF Lafayette Subdivision, four railroads have the run of nearly the entire subdivision.

What you are describing is not much different than how FIVE railroads have the run of seven miles of the NS Back Belt trackage in New Orleans (that I very frequently photograph); both of those situations are part of a ‘terminal’ area, whereas the BNSF Lafayette Subdivision is a real, extended mainline away from terminals.

Oh, and I have been to Rosenberg, by the way, and I’d like to return!

4 ray dupe November 30, 2013 at 22:24

Reading this presentation (a good one too!) I miss the old references to this section of the former SP, T&NO, ML&T. A few years have passed since the SP “evaporated” and I am sure the present employees of those companies operating over this trackage are not aware of the history of this once proud Lafayette Division; Avondale Sub-Division.

5 Kyle Graft November 26, 2014 at 22:35

I used to the the Director at Avondale for the UP from 2000 to 2004 and i really enjoy seeing you post these pictures….Ray Dupe its good seeing your comments you were great to work with when you were running the NOPB..

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