Sometimes, Education Trumps Photography

by Jim on 2014/12/07

[Jimbaux hopes to fight the good fight, even if there are better fights to fight.]

Warning: Not Even Close To Being My Best Pictures

There is an optimistic saying among railroad photographers that “there are good days, and then there are learning experiences,” but this is true for so much more than for railroad photography!  Of course, learning experiences can be good, positive, and fun too, but it is important to see the value of those experiences which are not necessarily enjoyable or materially (or superficially) productive.  Such was the case today, Sunday 07 December 2014.

Together, the photographs in this piece are for more educational than they are entertaining; they aren’t particularly educational, which should serve to warn you about how unentertaining they are.  Still, there is important information to go along with the pictures.

Bogalusa Fail

The ostensible mission today was to see and photograph the switching operation at the big International Paper mill in Bogalusa.  The Canadian National Railway does the switching, but this is scheduled to change after December 31.  After then, a WATCo operator is supposed to take over switching of the mill.

So, I wanted to document CN switching the mill while CN still switches the mill.  Sadly, primarily due to my own late start due to back issues (more on that at the end of this article), to the clouds, to the fact that access to views of the switcher are limited, and to the fact that it wasn’t doing much when I was there, the efforts largely resulted in failure, though, as suggested earlier, there were many important things learned in the visit; there will be more on the things learned at the end of this article, but those of you who follow the foamer e-mail groups probably already know what they are.

Those of you wanting more background on this line can see the pictures from my first visit in December 2008 and the pictures from my second visit in January 2009.

Louisiana Fail?

So, for awhile, I sat in my truck south of the yard and waited for the switcher to pull out onto what remains of the mainline south of the yard.  Six years ago today, I foamed on the day after a great electoral upset in New Orleans, and now, as I sit with a view of the yard, we have this.

I frequently discuss issues, ideas, and ideology on this site, but I essentially never discuss politics, and a main reason for that is the result of the fact that far too many people confuse the former for the latter, causing the latter to undermine the former.  The mere identities of those who support X issue or those who are against Y issue should not at all matter, but to far too many people, they do, and this has a huge negative effect on discourse and on progress.  Whether, for example, President Clinton (or anyone else) agrees with a specific piece of legislation should not in any way affect whether you agree with it.  This is a big reason why statements like “I agree with you” and “I disagree with you” are so destructive and toxic, and why they should be replaced with “I agree with what you are saying” and “I disagree with what you are saying”; that may sound pedantic to you, but to frame one’s position as “agreeing with” another person – as opposed to an idea, a belief, a statement, etc. – is to promote tribalism, and that is not good.

WWL Radio, which is good at doing this, since it agitates the masses, which is good for selling advertisements but bad for discourse, did this a few days ago when it asked on what should have been a question about the Eric Garner case if its readers “agree with Glenn Beck.”  What in the heck does that mean?  Why does it matter who said what Beck said?  Why not ask your readers if they agree that the officer should have gone to jail?

So, I post what I am about to post here with some reservation and hesitation, and I trust that the sober, rational readers here will know better than to conflate me – and, therefore, my ideas, which is the point – with any particular politician or party; elected officials do matter, since they are agents of direct change, by they are only reflections of the ideas of the populace, and I prefer to – and generally think that it is more productive to – discuss and debate about ideas than discuss and debate about politicians.

Here is a brilliant essay that I saw a former colleague – The Grifter – post to Facebook on Friday.

I don’t usually post political viewpoints on Facebook because most people tend to be set in their beliefs. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen a mind changed about something of substance by a Facebook post, but I feel very strongly about this so I’m gonna go out on a limb because it’s about the future well-being of our state, and I apologize in advance if this isn’t the irreverent, fun-loving gold I usually post.

It’s important that we vote Mary Landrieu back into the Senate.

Bill Cassidy has been bombarding everyone for months with misleading and sometimes outright fraudulent claims, and has offered nothing of substance about who he is or what he stands for. All I hear from this guy is “Obama, Obama, I’m not Obama,” and when you combine that tired refrain with the massive amounts of money he’s gotten from national interests, I can only assume he doesn’t have an opinion of his own until the national GOP tells him what it is.

As far as Democrats go, Mary Landrieu is one of the most moderate in the country, and has consistently put the state of Louisiana’s interests ahead of those of the Democratic party. Cassidy would have you believe she’s a blind follower with no regard for what her constituents want, but one look at her track record debunks that theory. With David Vitter pulling out of the Senate to run for Governor, the state of Louisiana will be left with not a single shred of the clout we’ve so desperately fought for if Bill Cassidy wins.

I ask the Republicans on my friends list: Is voting the party line really worth sacrificing the future of our state in favor of a bunch of national puppetmasters who really don’t care what happens to us down here? I urge everyone to make time to vote tomorrow and cast a ballot for someone who has spent 12 years fighting for us and making a difference. Don’t let a bunch of billionaires pull the wool over your eyes. Vote for Mary Landrieu.

/rant over

Wow.  I’m not endorsing any candidate (and the election is over anyway) by sharing what I think is a brilliant essay, but I wish to point out that The Grifter does a great job of pointing out a few things:

  1. that Cassidy didn’t seem to have a message other than “I’m not Obama, and Mary Landrieu is,” and that, sadly, so many people fell for that (which doesn’t mean that there might not have been rational, substantive, issues-based reasons to vote for Cassidy, but which does mean that “I’m not Obama, and Mary Landrieu is” is not one of them),
  2. there is not (necessarily) much to the idea that Landrieu has not served her state’s interests well, and
  3. there is not much to the charge that Landrieu equals Obama, since she was first elected Senator long before most Americans had even heard of Obama!

Animated Geoff wrote a brilliant comment to The Grifter’s post

This is my favorite part of this article:

“Landrieu backed all 185 bills that were signed into law by President Barack Obama, while Cassidy voted against only four of the bills — a support rate of about 97 percent. He was also absent for four of the votes.”

But yeah, he’s nothing like Obama.

Yes!  Wake the heck up, people!  Remember that a big point of my “You See Only What Only You See” article is that you should recognize that there are things that you do not see; the logical next step to that is that you are more or less duty-bound to at least attempt to see what you do not yet see if you wish to make decisions that will affect people whom you do not even know, which you are doing when you vote.  Ultimately, it is not about candidates, or even political parties; it’s about the effects that all of them have on the rest of us.

Go West, Young Man – Compare, Contrast, and Hope

After this, I decided to take a break and take some hilly state highways westward to Franklinton, simply because I had never been there before.  There in Franklinton, I got gasoline, got food, and noticed something; although both cities are in Washington Parish, Franklinton looks very different than Bogalusa!  I hate to say this, but Bogalusa is somewhat depressing, with blighted housing being a big problem; there are dozens of abandoned and unoccupied homes and properties that I saw, and there must be more of them on the city streets that I did not see.

There is an industrial park north of town that has railroad tracks no longer connected to the mainline.  We will see this in a photograph shortly.  I just wish that some railroad customer could come there, add a few carloads per week to the railroad, and add a few decent jobs, and some hope.

The thought then occurred to this Cajun that maybe there are deep-seeded cultural reasons for this problem; this caused another thought to occur to me, that being that more good jobs would not necessarily solve the problems.  The thought then occurred to me that I should parachute an army of enterprising young hipsters into Bogalusa to revitalize, rebuild, and rehabilitate it, all in a way that would help to displace negative cultural features with more valued cultural features.  The problem is that I do not have an army of enterprising young hipsters at my disposal, and that I don’t have much ability to assemble one; oh, well!

Boxcars And A Ballpark

With hope of getting a decent shot fading as fast as the sunlight, I could only pop off a shot of the ballpark with the yard in the background.

A drone would really be helpful here!

Possibilities And Pointlessness

Having given up on getting images of the mill switcher in action, and having little else to do, I went north in the vain hope that I could set up for a shot of the inbound Ferguson Turn, assuming that it was anywhere at all.  You might remember that in January I successfully chased the turn from Bogalusa to Ferguson.

Well, in many ways, this shot shows what might have been – and what could still yet be – where the spur to the Bogalusa Business Park once connected with the mainline.

After a little while of this, I saw a headlight!  I waited for it to show up.  I waited some more.  It seemed to not be moving.

Finally, I got frustrated, with the skies getting ever darker; so, I went north, hoping to catch something lame rather than nothing at all, and it ended up being a fortuitous decision.

The Last Stand

So, here I am at the highway crossing north of town (the same place where my first shots were taken of the train in my 2009 visit, as seen in the aforelinked article), and this is the view that I hope to get with a train, but I’m really running out of light very quickly.

Yeah, you can see how awfully grainy these pictures are, showing how little light we have.

While here, let’s have a look at the only other railroad customer in (or near) town, Miles Lumber, which ships a few cars per week of lumber.

I’d love to see some loaded cars leave that place!

Here comes the train, and it isn’t even a train.  In this view, the locomotive has stopped, hence the ditch lights being off.

The crew tied down the locomotive and hog-lawed here, and it had no cars to bring from Ferguson.

I learned here some information that suggested that CN’s days of running the turn in daylight may be numbered.  Many of us railroad enthusiasts already suspected that WATCo taking over the mill switching is a precursor to WATCo taking over the whole line to Wanilla, Mississippi, and apparently some railroaders think the same thing.  Regardless, I am told that even though CN will run the turn in January, it may be run out of Ferguson and may be run at night.  This means that another more extensive visit to this area is warranted very soon.

That’s all for pictures, but I have something more to say.

Health And The Future

Since the beginning of October, my back has gotten once again worse, just as bad as it was in the summer.  A steroid injection a month ago has helped, and it’s the only thing that has really allowed me to get out and get these shots and even climb on the truck, but that’s a temporary measure, and I am still having trouble standing up straight, especially in the mornings.

So, the time for that dreaded fusion surgery is now; it is scheduled for December 17.  Thanks for any and all well-wishes.

Oh, and since I won’t have anything new to offer for a long time, I should also tell you something else: Merry Christmas.



{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Steve Boyko December 17, 2014 at 07:50

I agree with your thoughts on agreeing with ideas and not people… if that makes any sense.

Best wishes on the back surgery and I hope it brings you relief. And Merry Christmas.


2 Barry LeBoeuf December 17, 2014 at 10:11


Wish you luck on your back surgery. I hope it helps. I was going to say if you out an about on Sunday and see the Southbound Crescent, I’ll be waving at you from the windows of one of the sleepers. Hope you feel better after the surgery, and a Merry Christmas back at you.




3 Hugh R. Harris December 17, 2014 at 17:22

I’m one of those “lurkers” from up north (Marion, Indiana) who enjoys your blogs and posts, obviously I don’t know you other than through your blog and photography. However, I sympathize with you for constant pain – I don’t have a bad back but do have bad shoulders! Please accept my very best wishes for successful surgery and a pain free future.
Have a very Merry Christmas and a great (and painless) New Year.


4 Joy December 18, 2014 at 09:54


I hope you find relief in 2015. I hope you find happiness and what you need in life and I don’t pray but I hope that your surgery does what it’s supposed too and you can heal quickly and lead an active pain free life. Be patient though and have faith. Merry Christmas.

Sometimes documenting is better than getting the perfect shot when your end outcome is education and sharing a time and place that has meaning to you. But it’s so much more meaningful when you get that shot at the right time and place but that takes patience. I’m grateful for the inspiration you have me my first couple of years into photography still. So you have made an impact however small.

Take Care,


5 Ryan S December 18, 2014 at 10:25

It being December 18 when I came across this post, the correct message is that I hope your surgery went well and is successful in making the pain go away. May your recovery be swift!!!


6 bob December 19, 2014 at 14:18

As Ryan said, I hope the surgery went well. I didn’t catch up to here till the 19th, I’d think you are home, in bed, in a peasant artificial slumber, growing stronger. May 2015 bring what you need. And your legacy continue to expand.


7 Trey January 5, 2015 at 08:51

That shot of the IC9574, which was the last GP38-2s purchased by the GM&O before the absorption into the ICG in 1972, is something of value, in my eyes. Whenever I make the trip home to visit family in Laurel, MS, I hardly ever see anything marked CN that was IC or GM&O’s…everything seems to be pure CN or former GTW.

You can look at it this way…you are looking at the former GM&O754, which was the last GP328-2, on the last section of NO&GN rails still in service by the most recent Class 1 that purchased it, right before the Class 1 shed the line (or at least operating it) off. That’s history right there.


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