Foamy Finals Friday

by Jim on 2014/05/09

[Jimbaux must have been . . . high . . . he must have been . . . so . . high.]

Getting High Is Not Necessarily Reckless

Hello.  How are you doing?  Here are some pictures that I took today at different times during the course of the day in New Orleans, probably my last such set until the weather cools, and not just because of the weather.

We start our morning in the rain in front of the LSU Dental School on the NS Back Belt, as I hoisted myself atop my truck under light rain with one or two seconds to spare as CSX job Y305 with the CN transfer moved eastbound as it normally does at around this time of morning.

That is the same 2522 that we saw a few weeks ago, and, look, it really has its ditch lights on this time!  This train had 34 cars.

Wow, the wind did not blow me off of the top of my truck!  Imagine that!  I must have the best luck in the world after all these thousands of times that I have stood on top of my truck and not fallen off!  Sheesh.  Hey, fearful and judgmental – and assuming – people, getting high is not necessarily reckless.  Getting high can help you perceive things in ways that you otherwise could not perceive them, and that is why I sometimes get high.

Coming Down Off That High – Back To Real Life

After this, I had to depart to get some responsibilities done, knowing that I’d be able to get out a little bit early on this day, and that was I soon did hours later.

When I was able to get back out, NS train 345 was parked at I-10.  I took no pictures of it, though.  I then went east, which is usually a winning strategy, and today was no exception, as you shall soon see.

My First Post-22Q Shot of the 355

That sounds ridiculous and weird; it is.  The 22Q and the 22R were Norfolk Southern’s pair of intermodal and auto-rack trains to and from New Orleans, but they were abolished last summer, and the containers (and maybe sometimes auto-racks) were put into train 355, which is the super-local between New Orleans and Birmingham.

The 141 was in pieces and stopped to enter Oliver Yard, and I heard Oliver Tower talking to the 355 at NE Tower.  I then heard Oliver Tower talking to a train on the Chalmette Branch about coming into the yard after the 141 and the 355; well, we’ve got some action here!  This gave me time to do something that I think that I have done only once before: climb the Almonaster Boulevard overpass.  Coincidentally, that was on 11 September 2011 when I photographed the 355 and the 22Q!

I did a slow jog up the bridge, but this did not last very long, as I’m still so out of shape from being sedentary because of back surgery.  I got to the top of the bridge just in time to get this shot.

Isn’t that a neat view of a neat train?  You can see the CSX mainline crossing in the back parallel to I-10.  My grand-master plan for improvements to the New Orleans railroad gateway would include a connecting track (or two connecting tracks) in the northwestern quadrant of that interlocking.  The track going off the right frame is the track entering the Auto Lot, which is the only auto-rack facility in the New Orleans area, receiving only Fords and military vehicles.

A few seconds later, we see the below shot as the train is a little bit closer, and, look; the leader is an ex-Con!

Conrail, which NS and CSX split in 1999, ordered its GE wide-nose locomotives with the numberboards on the nose instead of the more common location above the front windows; so, it is fairly easy to tell former Conrail locomotives on NS and CSX.

Check out these NS-family ballast cars at the end of the train.

Turning in the other direction, we see the 355 going into the yard in a view that shows both Oliver Tower and the Crescent City Connection bridges.

Epiphanies Induced By Being High

While I was standing atop this overpass while I was waiting for the next move to be made and while the wind was picking up from the approaching storm that drenched the city tonight, I suddenly realized that I was at risk of being blown off of this overpass!  I’m not even holding on to the railing!  I mean, if I’m at a significant risk of being blown off of the top of my truck a mere six feet off of the ground (as I learned nine days ago as described in a comment I overhead as described in the previous post), I suppose that I’m just asking to be blown to the ground – or the surface of the overpass – when I stand on a 30-foot overpass!  Oh, gosh, I am so stupid and reckless!  I need to stop getting high!  Although I am an adult and am safety-conscious, I apparently don’t know what the heck I am doing, and getting high is automatically irresponsible and stupid!


A History Lesson

Anyway, while we wait for the Arabi train, which paused at Louisa Street as instructed by Oliver Tower, let’s have a longer look that shows the train and the bridge over the canal that it just crossed in the distance.

We’re looking east here down Florida Avenue, the Florida Avenue Canal, and the old New Orleans Terminal Company.  Please keep in mind that today’s NS Back Belt was originally known as the New Orleans Terminal Company and remained a subsidiary of the Southern Railway even as the “Back Belt” name came into use for the portion west of here.  The Back Belt officially ends at milepost 7.6 right behind me in the above picture, but the NOTCo track once went through the left foreground of the above picture, crossing those three NO&NE tracks, and continuing where it continues today where the train is in the above picture; notice how there is a clearing in the vegetation where the since-removed portion of the old NOTCo mainline was.  (The barely-visible track between the NO&NE trio of tracks and the Chalmette Branch is the track into the intermodal yard, but it has not been used in a few years, hence the vegetation slowly taking it over.)  Apparently, a long time ago, trains of both the Southern Pacific Railway and the Illinois Central Railroad accessed St. Bernard Parish via the NOTCo, but you can see now that the line is now only accessible via Oliver Yard.

Here is a bridge that once carried the NOTCo across a canal just west of the NO&NE mainline tracks.

I think that the diamonds here may have been removed as early as the early 1980s.

Here Comes Our Train – A New Shot

Yes, Oliver Tower eventually told the Arabi train to enter the yard, and here is a new shot that I have never done before and am not likely to do much again.

Off in the distance under the Poland Avenue overpass, you can see the New Orleans Public Belt’s eastern line, where I photographed the outbound Arabi job 18 days ago.

This train, just like the returning CSX-CN transfer that we saw this morning, had 34 cars.

Below is a cropped version of the same picture that you just saw.

Notice the milepost just to the right of the train!  We’re just outside of Oliver Yard but already at milepost 8?  That, again, is because this is the former New Orleans Terminal Company from Shrewsbury Junction in Metairie.

Of those first 11 hopper cars, maybe one was not an NS family hopper, and most of them still had “Norfolk & Western” logos!  That is so cool, that more than 30 years after the creation of Norfolk Southern we still have so many cars still painted for predecessor railroads.  What are these cars carrying?  and what do those gondolas carry?

Look at how barren the intermodal yard looks.

Food – And Another Epiphany

I was really hungry.  I decided to treat myself to the Popeye’s by the track that I mentioned (and showed from a distance) in the recent post with the NS GoRail locomotive.  I had not yet been there in 2014, and I’m not even sure when I went there in 2013, which is weird, considering that I called it my favorite Popeye’s in the world; I occasionally eat at (or from the drive-through of) the one in Boutte on my trips to bayouland.

It was good to be back.  While I was chewing down on my three-piece mild with coleslaw, UP train AARWX – Automobile, Arlington, Tx., to Waycoss, Ga., CSX – passed.  As I was finishing my meal, BNSF’s M-CSXLAL slowly rolled by in the other direction.  Then, it stopped, as I was about to depart.  There was a red signal at the Paris Avenue signals, and the conductor dialed up the NO&NE dispatcher in Birmingham to get talked past the signal.  It was upon hearing this that I had an epiphany.

Recently, The Vault asked me about why some southbound/westbound trains on the Back Belt screech to a halt over I-10 – making plenty of noise that bothers the nearby neighbors – and why others have a more slow approach.  Here is what I told her.

Ever since you mentioned the engineers making the too-sudden stops at I-10, I have been paying more attention to the phenomenon, and what I have since noticed has confirmed my earlier barely-conscious hunch: it seems to be only NS road crews (from Meridian) that do it.  I don’t know why, but maybe the simple fact that they are the only ones who enter the Back Belt at any appreciable speed in the first place has something to do with it; again, I really don’t know, and I am just guessing.

In response, she asked why is it that only NS road crews enter the Back Belt with appreciable speed such that they must screech to a halt, jolting all of our houses?  I told her:

I don’t know.  I can only hypothesize.  The primary reasons seem to be a combination of that they are road crews at all and that they are on their home road.  I guess NS understandably gives preference to its own trains on its own track (though “trackage rights” arrangements with other railroads require NS to allow those railroads to use the Back Belt west of L&N Junction so that CSX can access and be accessed by other railroads.)  The road crews are already on a moving train and may not have stopped since crossing the border into Louisiana (or even, theoretically, since leaving Meridian), whereas the yard crews are coming from . . . well . . . a yard; they therefore don’t have much momentum built up on their trains.  The road crews are on trains that don’t have to stop at any yard (in eastern New Orleans.)  I’m not sure if CSX still uses road crews west of Gentilly Yard, but even if it does, most CSX trains in New Orleans have to stop in CSX’s yard to do work anyway.  Even if CSX road crews are on Back Belt trains, it is not as often as NS road crews, and so maybe CSX crews just aren’t confident enough in their abilities to bring a train to a halt that quickly; that’s just a guess, though.

Another factor could very well be the differences in how different types of crews are paid.  Typically, on most railroads, road crews are paid either by the trip or by the mile.  Inasmuch as I try to infer emotions of strangers (something that I do not like to do), I get the impression that NS road crews get cranky if they have to sit at, say, Bayou St. John for a half-hour so that they can move the train up to Marconi or I-10 once that spot clears.  That usually doesn’t happen; NS is usually very quick to get its own road crews off its own road trains, but if it knows that it will be just about 20 minutes before the train ahead moves, it’ll usually leave the road crew on to wait to move the train up; the point is that the crew is not theoretically making money during that wait time.  In this case, both the crews and the railroad have plenty of incentive for the crew to get off of the train quickly.  The faster that crew gets off the train, the faster it can be brought to the dormitory at Oliver Yard and get to sleep, the faster it can wake up, the faster it can get on a northbound train after at least a federally-mandated minimum 10 hours of rest, and the faster it can get back home to Meridian, and the more time it may have before the next run to New Orleans and back (as the cycle repeats itself.)

I say “may” have before the next run to New Orleans because I don’t know if NS tries to keep the same crews starting at the same times every time out of Meridian or if it calls crews for the next available train.  In other words (and let’s keep this simple using 10-hour blocks of time), if the crew leaves Meridian southbound at 07:00 Monday, arrives in New Orleans shortly before 17:00 and gets to the dormitory at 17:00, it may get called out as early as 03:00 the next morning, meaning (keeping our 10-hour blocks) that it could arrive in Meridian as early as 13:00.  At this point, instead of having some time at home and waiting to leave on a train around 07:00 the next day like it did 48 hours before, the crew could actually leave Meridian on a southbound train around midnight that night.  I have been told by crews that when it gets busy they will get called out with no more time than the minimum rest time (which was eight hours until about three years ago) regardless of whether they are at home or at the away-from-home terminal.  (That is one of many reasons why I don’t want to be a railroader.)

Yard crews, by contrast, get paid by the hour; so, they often have incentive to drag stuff out timewise, follow the rulebook to the letter, and be very deliberate with their movements.

However, my Popeye’s epiphany was a much simpler reason, albeit very much related to – and dependent upon – the fact that these are NS road crews.  Since the NO&NE dispatcher in Birmingham controls all of the signals and switches on the Back Belt just like she (it seems to be a she more often than a he) controls all of the signals on her namesake NO&NE – that is New Orleans & Northeastern, the original name of the railroad and now the name of the NS subdivision (of the Alabama Division) between Meridian and Oliver Yard – she would already have the signals and switches on the Back Belt lined for the movements of the southbound trains that she has already been dispatching since they left Meridian, which is not true for any other trains that use the Back Belt; in other words, she knows that they were coming onto the Back Belt long in advance because she naturally monitors their movements for nearly 200 miles before they reach the Back Belt.  Since I’m neither a railroader nor an NS insider, all of this is just a hypothesis.

Another Chance – To Get Some Shots – And To Get High

I was content to just watch the M-CSXLAL pass me at Popeye’s, mainly because I would have had no choice had it not had to stop, but the fact that it had to stop and the fact that I was done my meal anyway gave me a chance to get to Bayou St. John for my shot there, and I got there and hurriedly hoisted myself atop the truck with no time at all to spare.

Dammit!  Come on, guys!  Okay, I really don’t want to talk about that anymore.  Just flip the switch!

Anyway, this a shot that I did for the first time in December 2010 that was a variation – further back – of a shot that I had done for a few years before.

Apparently, the top of my truck is not a high enough place to stand to avoid the view of the train being blocked by that growing crepe myrtle tree, but I guess I had a little room to the left that I could have moved.

The train got closer.

The train stopped at Marconi.  The NS 345 that I had seen nearly two hours earlier was still parked at I-10, though Oliver Tower revealed that a UP road crew was now on board the train, which implied that the train would depart soon.  However, my hunger satiated, it was time to visit The Feather.

A Friend, Her Dog, Some Cats, Houses, Trees, and Rain

So, it was time to go visit The Feather at her house.  I had not seen her in too long.  We got caught up, and it was so good to chat with her.

As the visit was ending, I got some fauna pictures, including this grey feline.

Isn’t that a cute grey kitty?

It was time to go.  I was tired.  The Party Party called; we talked.  Then I got some more pictures.

I love all my whoadies, and I love Woadieville, even if I don’t always like it.  Absence has made the heart grow fonder, but time will tell how sustainable acting on that fondness is.

I be frontin’ right now, and I don’t like that I be frontin’, not now.  I hate frontin’.  I hate it.

The rain started to pour as I took this picture.

We got torrential rains tonight, as much of New Orleans has significant street flooding.

That is all that we have for pictures this episode.

Who Are You To Wave Your Finger?

Now you will figure out the real reason for the selection of today’s song.  I vacillated plenty about including in the previous post that overheard dumb comment which I referenced several times today, and I may still remove it at some point, since it does, as some have suggested, detract from the overall great message and great sentiment of the day.  Still, we all have a duty – and that I perceive such a duty is why I act upon it – to do what we can to make the world a better place, which includes working to rid the world of unnecessarily judgmentalness (sometimes, being judgmental is not necessarily unnecessary) and bigotry, specifically, the automatic assumption of the worst in people.  You might think that such is harmless when it is in the form of a stupid-but-innocuous comment about how likely I am to be blown off of the top of my truck by the wind, and you would be right, but this same mentality is used to oppress people worldwide, and including here in our great “free” country of the United States of America.

The so-called “War on Drugs” is a most excellent – and terrible – example.  I was a default prohibitionist until just a few years ago.  Simply, I came to be incapable of defending the practice of arresting and incarcerating people for personal choices and now see prohibition itself as being criminal, and I realized that so many of the arguments that I used to justify drug prohibition – and that prohibitionist still use to justify the practice, arguments that I now can and do debunk – were based on the assumptions of the worst and-or most irresponsible behavior in all people, just like our stupid comment from last time.  Everyone who ever uses any drug that your government has decided is illegal – even once, since the law makes no distinction how often one uses the substance – is an irresponsible person who has personal problems and needs to be punished, or so prohibitionist would have us believe and, unfortunately, have many of us believing and even had me believing for a long time.  Why?  How do we know this?  How could we know all of this?  How do we know the intentions, mindsets, reasons, predispositions, habits, tolerances, and frames of mind of all drug users?  We can’t know that!  So, why do we make blanket policy based on that?

Open your eyes.  I did, and I am grateful for it, but now I see the horrible criminality of prohibition that I did not see before, and how it is based upon, just like our accusatory Wegoite first-responder, that we just have to assume everyone is an idiot despite absence of evidence in support of such a claim.  Yes, about some things, despite what the US Constitution says, we are guilty until proven innocent.  You think that all drug users are deadbeats, drifters, bums, lowlifes, lazy, and leeches on society?  That’s because those are the people who are most public about their use!  The successful, competent, middle-class people who contribute to society and who happen to use drugs have to be – and have the luxury of being – secretive about their use, but why should they have to be this way?  You probably know plenty of these people and just don’t know it.  I knew plenty of them without realizing it.  I can’t justify sending them to jail; how can you?  Spoiler alert: if “because it is illegal” is the only answer that you can give, and it is a pathetic answer, you need to rethink your support of the prohibition laws.  If I asked you why a murderer, a rapist, a thief, a burglar, and an arsonist deserve to be in prison, I’m pretty sure that you could come up with a better answer than “because it is illegal”; if you realize that, as I did, you cannot defend the practice of arresting and incarcerating people for personal choices, especially because you can’t do it if the personal choice is the consumption of alcohol, which is more potentially dangerous than marijuana, then you need to work to get those laws overturned.  You have a moral obligation to do this.

The practice of automatically assuming the worst in others is an evolutionary survival mechanism that served our distant tribal ancestors well – think about how wild animals do this because their means of communication is so limited, and because they are “wild” – but has little or no place in a modern, civilized society.  That’s why the overheard comment was so stupid and insulting, even if I don’t for a second think of myself what the Wegoite first-responder apparently thought of me.  You might think that arguing with such fools is a waste of your own time, but that same mentality is why your rights to personal choice are limited and why harmless people sit in prison alongside murderers and rapists.  You have an obligation to fight the stupids, and you can do this by merely questioning them.

That’s enough for now.


{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

1 Angeline May 13, 2014 at 10:46

I think one of the secrets (and it isn’t really a secret, just common sense) to making the world a better place is simply to make an effort to get to know people on a personal level. Of course, this is not always possible but we can all try to withhold judgement, assumptions, and stereotypes until we at least have more information.

You’re right that assuming the worst is evolutionary and serves to protect a group or society from harm; but when it occurs within a context where there is no threat it is often the cause of conflict rather than protection from it. That being said, it is very difficult to refrain from making snap judgements because it is a part of human nature. It’s not always possible to stop doing this but it would make such a difference if we at least tried. We are all guilty of making assumptions and snap decisions about people at one time or another, so all we can do is try to curb our own impulses and possibly set an example for others to follow.

Nice picture of the cat, although it doesn’t look very impressed with having it’s picture taken :).


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