More Gifts And Gratitude At Gulfport, Hattiesburg, and the Gulf – 9 January 2014

by Jim on 2015/01/09

[Jimbaux is no longer afraid of the gift you have given him.]

All of these pictures were made on Thursday 09 January 2014, and all are presented in chronological order.

Retry

I still had a window of time to get over to Gulfport to chase the KCS Hattiesburg Turn, and I now knew that I needed to do this on a weekday, having failed at my attempts on Saturday 4 January 2014 to chase the turn (even though I was therefore able to successfully photograph the Delisle job for the first time), since it apparently does not – or did not at the time – run on Saturdays.

For the second consecutive trip, though, I was the victim of faulty intel, but this is not a big problem in the grand scheme of things, and we will see an example of this shortly, perhaps two examples of ths.

The Arrival

I decided to take US Highway 90 to Gulfport from Bay St. Louis, and I was able to get a few pictures along the way.

That’s okay.

Okay.

I arrived in Gulfport.  Predictably, I went to Whataburger.

That’s two honey butter chicken biscuits and two taquitos!

As it eventuated, this was too much food, but, as it eventuated, this would be necessary.

Faulty Intel

The apparently faulty intel that I received suggested that the yard crew brought the train to Saucier at night and that the road crew went on duty at 09:00; minus the on-duty time, which was probably earlier than 09:00, all of this might actually have been true, but my departure from Whoadieville and my visit to Whataburger were all scheduled with the idea of getting to Saucier by 09:00, where I expected to see the train parked and possibly the road crew boarding.

Let’s see.  Having been under the impression that the train would leave Saucier – or wherever it was parked – no earlier than 09:00, I made no effort to get there earlier than 09:00, thinking that that was the time that the crew would get there, and no telling how long they’d jack around before they actually left.  I arrived in Saucier and saw no train.

What Now?

I somehow did not trust that the train got to Saucier yet in the first place, and I doubled-back all the way to Lyman to look for it.  Of course, in retrospect, this put me and the train much farther apart.  At the time, though, I was also thinking that this whole outing was a waste of time and money and that I should be home doing something else, something more productive and less costly.  Little did I know that I was about to suffer through an event that greatly reinforced that perception.

The Wreck

It was when I was coming back north through McHenry, following the track, that the wreck happened, right in front of the fire station.  An old woman in a white Chevy Malibu was making a left turn eastbound-to-northbound on the old highway, and I was going northbound and turning left, but it wouldn’t have mattered, apparently, had I been going straight.  She was not looking to her right at all.  I guess I could have stopped in time, but I figured that, as often happens in situations like this, that she’d take one more look to the right – or one look to the right at all – before fully  pressing past the stop sign.  Such was not the case, and by the time I realized this, it was too late.

The Frustration, The Anger

I was really pissed off.  Here I was, already here and not finding the Hattiesburg Turn for the second time in a week, and now I am in a wreck and don’t know how I’ll get out of here.  I was shaken up, like when getting hit when playing football, with my left shoulder hurting probably from the seat belt.  I got out and surveyed the damage, figuring that it would be bad because I heard many things crack and crumble.

Here’s a shot of the front of the woman’s car.

Here are parts of my truck that fell onto the road.

I called 911, and and a sheriff’s deputy and some firefighters were on the scene within about three minutes (before I took the above pictures.)  The officer pulled up and told us to get off the road and pull into the fire station, saying that she had already seen enough of the scene to figure out what happened.  It was then that I realized that at least my truck was drivable.  Apparently, turning my wheel helped a bit with that plastic being pressed into it.  I guess that is the benefit of driving a truck; she just basically went under the metal of it, meaning that she only hit my plastic and tire sections.

They checked to make sure I was okay, if I needed medical help.  I was just shaken up, and my back hurt, but I told them that I already had a herniated disc in my back.  From my experience with these things, you can feel worse after you leave the scene, but it usually does not last.  So, they got all my information down and gave me a card where to get an accident report.  I have to call there week-after-next.  I guess the woman was issued a citation, but I never saw it, and I surely was not issued one.  They would soon turn me loose, and I was already thinking, “now what?”  My truck was apparently easily drivable with little or no noticeable effects from the collision.  It would veer off to the right if I let go of the steering wheel, but I’m due for a front-end-alignment anyway, and it may have something to do with tire pressure too.

The Forgiveness

Some of these first responders knew this old woman.  The old woman was starting to express feelings of distraught at the whole situation, and I am grateful to have witnessed this, because my anger needed to melt.  I mean, she is old, and we’ll be there soon enough.  From within, I felt impelled to do something about it, but what?  I walked over there, patted her on the shoulder, and told her – as the first responders were telling her – that it was okay; I’m not sure that she knew that it was I patting her on the shoulder, as she did not look up, and as I did not want to be too provocative.  However effective it was that the victim of her violation told her that it was okay, I do not know and almost certainly never will know, but, as the emotionally mature among you can probably already suspect, it helped me, for, you must know, forgiveness is what one does for the self.

The Gift

I was freed, both from the scene of the accident and from the anger, though not yet entirely from the guilt; that takes time!  I just hope that that woman was and is okay; now, the reason for the selection of today’s song is revealed (but only if you already know the story of the song, and I’ll leave the details to the ineterested reader, but your own internet searching skills could probably give you the answer.)

So, I continued northward, hoping that the old woman was okay, and now with the train – if it was out there at all – presumably further ahead of me.  Since switching in Wiggins can take an hour, and since Carter reported that the crew sometimes stops the train and eats in Wiggins, I figured that I’d find the train in Wiggins. I was very disappointed when I got to Wiggins and found no sign of the train.

The Guilt

Here comes the guilt again!  I really should not have bothered to come out here at all. Oh, stop!  Stop thinking like that.

I thought about trying my old method at stopping at some trackside business and asking if anyone there saw the train pass by, but you can’t rely on people who don’t care about the train to tell you if it passed.

The Knowledge

Many minutes later, I got to Brooklyn, and there were some men with blowers cleaning the bridge.  I stopped and asked one of them!  He said that the northbound train had passed about 20 minutes before!  Yes!  This was the first seemingly credible intel that I had received all day.

The Find

I might as well go to Hattiesburg.  I finally caught up to the train at the Tatum Road crossing south of Hattiesburg.  It appeared to have been switching at that little track near US Hwy 98, apparently putting all of its Norfolk-Southern-bound pickups from Wiggins on the front end where the NS-bound block from Gulfport already is and its Gulfport turnarounds from Wiggins behind them.

Well, here is the train, and check out those grey SD40-2s!

Hey, look, boxcars and poles!

The first boxcar seen in the above picture is, as we shall soon see, part of the interchange cut to the delivered to the NS.  So, at least the second boxcar and the gondola carrying poles (and possibly the boxcar behind it too) came from Wiggins too and are not bound for NS interchange; they are probably either staying on KCS or going somewhere on the Canadian National Railway which, in any case, means that they’ll leave Hattiesburg on CN rails.

The Yard

I seem vaguely to recall having visited CN’s Bell Yard in Hattiesburg many moons ago, perhaps when TS and I visited the area in April 2007.  So, this must be my second visit to Bell Yard, and we see the KCS train arriving.

This was neat, because of all my trips to the Gulfport Sub, this was my first time witnessing what actually happens with the interchanging at the yards in Hattiesburg.  This is new now that the turn is made in one day, since this would all happen at night (usually) in the old days.

Here the train is passing the CN switcher.

I got a few smiles from the cab, which is always good.

Below is seen the CN yard office.

Soon, the train was separated into two parts, leaving all but the NS cut coupled to the power, and so began the slow process of interchanging with NS.

The NS cut – which is what the train was at this point – consisted of 22 cars.

The first and last cars on this cut were NS boxcars; all in between were chlorine tank cars, presumably from the DuPont facility at DeLisle, which, considering what I saw five days before, I could now appreciate!

On this run, I noticed that there were three crewmen and that one of the crewmen was using an automobile.  That seems to be new.  I suspect that it has plenty if not everything to do with the new effort to make the turn in one day, but I do seem to recall that the train had a three-man crew in the old days.  First, there was not a need a taxi to get the crew from Gulfport to Saucier.  Second, this allows one of the crewmen to get to switches and open them faster and close them without having a walk-back, further speeding up time, which is needed, since the train apparently still had trouble at this point making it back in 12 hours.  Later this year, track speeds increased further, eliminating the need for the train to overnight in Wiggins; I have no idea of the automobile is still used.

The train was basically stopped for these pictures, and I knew that I had time to take these pictures and still get in position for it crossing the very nearby NS diamond(s) because there were some NS trains approaching.

The lighting is not quite like how I would like it to be, but I can’t do anything about that!

Well, it’s time to go to the diamond.

The Diamond

Now, in the below view, we are looking southeastward across both the NS mainline and the NS yard lead (the latter being closer to the camera) as our KCS train waits on two NS trains to pass.

Turning about 90 to our right and also moving south-southwestward to the next crossing, we see in the below picture a south-southwestard view along the NS mainline, which comes in from the left.

The track at right is the yard lead.

Looking to the left here, we can see part of our train.

Okay, here comes the first of two trains on which our KCS train is waiting!

Now, we turn around and look to the north.

At left, you can see the connector track from the NS mainline (but from the yard lead off of the mainline) to the CN mainline, with the NS mainline at right; of course, too, you can see the passenger depot!

Let’s go walk over to the mainline and have a look in almost the same direction.

Downtown Hattiesburg is a hip (I don’t want to say “trendy”) little place; I’d like to spend more time here.

Let’s look north again, this time with a telephoto lens.

Looking to the east, we can see part of our train still parked in waiting in the same place where we first photographed it 34 minutes before.

Apparently, there is plenty to do here.

Well, finally, here comes our local train!

Well, no, it’s not our local train, as we are here to see the KCS in action, but it is another train, and it’s a local; so, that’s cool.

When I show two pictures like this instead of picking one, I favor education more than entertainment.

If you claim that I was being redundant there, I shall not argue with you.

I guess that all of those cars are coming from the plastics place in Picayune.

Note the conductor riding the rear car in the above picture, apparently so that he could close the switch of the yard lead behind him (which he had already done) and possibly to close whatever switch through which he was about to pass.

The Arrival

Five minutes after the NS local pulls into the yard, the train that we are here to see and on which we have waited for 45 minutes finally shows up!

I am pleased.  In the old days of the crew needing to lay over in Hattiesburg, this would work would usually have occurred at night.

Now, the world is finally getting to see this!

Below, the train shoves around the connecting track, the track connecting the NS mainline and the CN mainline.

Now, just clear of the switch, and with the rear end of the cut hanging out onto the NS mainline, the train can begin to move forward into the yard.

The below image is one of my favorite of the day.

Isn’t that neat?

The Interchange

Now, we see the KCS crew working in the NS yard, preparing to swap cuts.

The two boxcars seen to the right of the train in the above picture are all that it will be picking up from NS on this day, and they are seen being picked up in the below image.

Now, here comes our outbound train, well, at least the part of it that comes from NS.

Tucker thinks that the boxcars might be carrying paperboard for export.

Now, the train shoves back around the interchange track to return to the CN mainline, leaving NS rails for the day.

That’s all for the NS interchange!

Returning to Bell Yard

Now, the train was returning to Bell Yard to pick up the rest of – most of – its train, and I raced ahead to get set up just in the nick of time for this shot.

Here the train is in Bell Yard, shortly before stopping to get the CN and KCS cars.

Well, all that I can do now is go to Palmer’s Crossing to catch the departure of the full train.

The Wait

On my way there, something caught my eye.

I admire passion.

The train shows up, but then it stops.

One of the three trainmen – the one with the automobile – was absent, and was so for several minutes.  I was a bit dismayed that the lighting was fading fast, that I wouldn’t get much in the way of shots out on the line, with all of the time that the train spent in Hattiesburg.

I had a real hunch about why the train was sitting here and why the automobiled trainman had not come straight here after leaving the yard.  Sixteen minutes elapsed between the first image here (two above) and the image below.

My hunch was confirmed when the automobile came, and the trainman got out with bags and cups!  There would have been as many as three meals in the bags.

Please note the sixth car in the above image, a lease hopper car.  I had yet another hunch, that this was bound for a plastics place just south of here, and that the train would stop to set out the car.

The Departure

Now, at 15:29, about 25 minutes after it arrived here and more than three hours after we caught it for the first time here, the train departs.

I like this, though it is tame.

Okay.

The Overhead

The train did soon come to a stop, apparently to set out that plastics car, and I got to the big highway in just enough time to try something new.  First, note the dual mileposts, the old mileposts from Jackson and the newer mileposts from Gulfport.

Then, we see the train accelerating from its stop.

That’s not great; maybe it would work in better lighting conditions.

Getting Jacked By Canon

Now it’s time to launch into a tirade about Canon, since Canon really jacked me out of the shot that I wanted here.  Yes, the shot seen below is not that bad, but it is also not what I wanted, and I could have gotten the shot that I wanted had Canon not jacked me out of the shot that I wanted by repeatedly – and on this day – assuming that I am a novice at photography.

This location is very close to the previous pictures, and I arrived on the scene with no time at all to spare.  I turn the camera on, but then I had to switch the settings dial back to manual because, as occasionally happens, it slips to either of the next settings in either direction on the dial.  This should be a simple matter of a split-second turning of the dial to “M,” but Canon apparently has to be difficult.

When turning to manual focus on the camera, a message pops up, reading “Manual exposure” “Set shutter speed and aperture manually for greater freedom of expression in shots”; no kidding!  I knew that already, and I knew it long before there was a such thing as DSLR photography.  Why do I need to be told it every freakin’ time I switch into manual focus?  Can’t there at least be a “don’t show this message again” option like there is for so much on the computer and on the internet?

The huge problem here is that this message displays for about three or four seconds (each time), and in this case, that made all the difference between me getting the shot I wanted with the lead locomotive at the point of tangency and in focus and the too-far-into-the-curve and out-of-focus shot that I got here.

Damn you, Canon!  You jacked me out of the shot that I wanted, you presuming and insulting jerks!

The need to constantly remind me of what manual focus – something that did not happen on my previous Canon DSLR – must be a part of what Gene Poon described as the “dumbing down of photography in general” in his comment in a discussion on the matter from my May 2012 article that included some similar it-doesn’t-have-to-be-this-way problems with modern DSLR cameras.

Anyway, my tantrum done, you can see in the above image that the hopper car is no longer there.

Now What?

I was dismayed by the fact that it was, by now, essentially dark; even though the sun was still out, the long shadows cast by the tall trees along the right-of-way – there are no fields out here – meant that the track was in the shade.  I had to think of the one place where I could get a shot that wasn’t too far away that the sun would really be down by the time that I got there.  There really wasn’t such a place, but I was determined to get one shot anyway, lest all my shots of today’s train be essentially in Hattiesburg.

The Finale – For The Train, At Least

The open grassy corridor in Brooklyn was not today far enough away from the track to preclude the shadows from falling on the rails.

So, I went to the bridge just south of town and got this not-so-grand finale of our train, which was really moving fast!

Yeah, it’s okay, but not what I had hoped.

The Assessment

In addition to being bummed about the wreck, I was a bit bummed that essentially my entire experience with the KCS today had to have taken place in Hattiesburg, as I got no out-on-the-line shots like in the old days.  However, not only did I drive away unhurt from a wreck, but not getting out-on-the-line shots of the train was the price I paid – and an acceptable one – to what I got in Hattiesburg, seeing how the interchange takes place.  I’m pleased!  What think you?

I guess to get good shots on out-on-the-line, the time around the winter solstice is no longer the best time to be here, as an Aaron Von Amburg shot from later this year shows.

After what happened last Saturday, I was reminded of why I quit foaming – or, more specifically, quit these day-long distance trips – more than a year ago.  This takes so much out of me, but especially now; I don’t have the energy that I had in my 20s.  Real life – and a new real life – beckoned soon, but I planned to do the Bogalusa line two days later and get that, like the Gulfport line, out of my system for a good while.

The Determination

It was now dark.  Instead of breaking off at Wiggins to head west to catch I-59 to head back to Whoadieville, I pressed on southward further along US Highway 49 toward Gulfport, paralleling the train, even though I was no longer really interested in the train.

Why?  There were at least two reasons for this, one of them being the continued honoring of a silly food tradition, even at a place that I had already visited on this same day.

Yes, I know that it is ridiculous, and I myself increasingly find it to be ridiculous, but so be it, at least today.  It was good!

The second reason that I came this way was that I wanted the experience of driving the coastal roads on a cold night.  Acting upon this desire would yield two unexpected gifts, one of them downright spiritual.  First came the relatively insipid experience, still illuminating in its own ways.

The Bay Bridge

I had never seen the new Bay St. Louis bridge at night!  I had no idea that I’d bust out my tripod today, especially for something not railroad related.

Wow!  This bridge was completed I believe in 2007 as a replacement for the lower bridge that was washed away by Hurricane Katrina’s deadly storm surge.

Among other things, it is a testament to hope and perseverance, the spirit of succeeding beyond mere survival.

I have no memory of the circumstances of this picture, but I apparently engaged in a bit of photographic psychedelia here.

Oh, and while I was here, an eastbound CSX train made its way across the bay.  The below shot was the best that I could do in rendering it.

Okay, let’s have some more views of the bridge on this cold night.

I did some carpentry work on a house near here in the summer of 2007.

During the time prior to the new bridge’s completion, some school children had to take a long and circuitous route to school via I-10 several miles north of here.

This was a neat way to ‘end’ an interesting day, but it would not be the end.

In any case, we can enjoy one last view of the new and inspiring bridge on this cold night so close to the Gulf of Mexico.

Lovely it was.

The Humbling By The Heavens

Next, I went further down Beach Boulevard (which is not a boulevard) toward Waveland, not really knowing what I should expect, not having taken the road as far as it could be taken before.

The beaches were so quiet and desolate on this cold January night, as the moonlight illuminated the water for many miles out.  Homes, many of them second homes, seemed unoccupied, perhaps even indifferent, as a more profound sense of solitude – that I am hesitant to call “lonliness” – began to brew within me; perhaps I was becoming increasingly aware of my aloneness.

At some point, near a sand spit sticking out a bit with some vegetation, a few hundred feet from any homes, I decided to stop and get out.

The air was calm; there was almost no wind.  This had the effect of making me very much able to hear what little there was to hear; apparently, this meant that I could very much hear that there was plenty to hear – from within.

What a magnificent contradiction that is!  There is almost nothing to hear and almost nothing to see here; therefore, there is so much to hear and so much to see here.

It’s just the Mississippi Gulf Coast, but I suddenly felt like I was standing on the edge of the Earth, looking into vast abyss.  Yes, I took out the camera, and, yes, I already had the tripod out, but the pictures that I got here do not really do justice to the depth of the sensory awareness that I felt here.

To my eyes, what I saw was darker than that.  As calm and cold as the scene seemed to me then, this was a scene of violence and upheaval in August 2005 when Hurricane Katrina’s storm surge came through here, rising the water level by several feet, and dragging ton upon ton of debris out into the water.

The heavens, too, shined their light – whether benevolent or indifferent – down upon me.

I was alone.  There was no one and almost nothing to protect me.  If something were to happen to me here, I thought, I would have not much of a chance; in some ways, I was taking a bigger risk than being in the worst neighborhood in a big city, for at least there might be someone to come to my rescue in such a place.

Such was not the case here; ’twas just I, along with the indifferent sky and the cold, dark water.

Perhaps it takes being put in a setting of nothingness to make one both lose a sense of his identity and simultaneously give him a greatly amplified sensation of being alive; yes, oh, Mother Nature, I – whoever I am, which does not seem to relevant in this moment, since there is no audience here – must be very much alive to be able to sense this solitude as it is.

I did not consider suicide at all; rather, that it would have been relatively easy and painless to do so here reaffirmed how precious life is, that although I was here surrounded by nothing, I did indeed have plenty to lose, as would all my friends and family.  For this, I was reminded, I had so much for which to live.

Life is beautiful!  I wish that I could tell the old woman who had hit me what was now almost exactly 12 hours before that it was okay! that she was not a bad person! that she just made a mistake! that she should forgive herself! that there was no reason to despair!

And, here on the beach it was, that I was indeed “so afraid of the gift” that I had been given (as today’s song says), but I had, through this unexpected experience, somehow become a little bit better at that gift, the gift of forgiveness, which is itself a gift of gratitude.

I got back to my crib at 22:33, having left at about 06:15; I was exhausted!  The drive back home to New Orleans via the old highways was dark, cold, lonely, beautiful, and peaceful, and I am grateful for all of it.

Peace,

Jimbaux

{ 7 comments }

1 Steve Boyko January 9, 2015 at 07:35

What a great chase! It’s too bad that the light was failing but you have some great photos.

I’m glad you experienced the full range of emotion after the accident. Being left with just the anger is not good.

Lovely photos and sentiments at the end.

2 Hank January 9, 2015 at 09:14

Your experience with the Hattiesburg Turn was delightful, and thank you for it. However your experience on the Waveland beach brought back equally ethereal memories of many nights spent on our boat at and near the Barrier Islands. Thank you.

3 Thad H. Carter January 9, 2015 at 13:55

Jim,
Great shots as always. When I have trouble forgiving I think about Christ on the cross forgiving the soldiers. Makes it easier for me.
Thad Carter

4 Andy Tucker January 9, 2015 at 19:19

Enjoyed the photos and accompanying information, James.

5 Barry LeBoeuf January 9, 2015 at 21:46

James,

Love this post. Especially the pictures of the Hattisburg Depot. I was on the Crescent a couple of weeks ago, so I only saw it from the window of the Dinner…Breakfast on the Crescent…Anyway loved the pictures…later

Barry

6 Nathan Kaufman January 10, 2015 at 00:15

What is that guy riding in your favorite shot? Your caption only mentions the train. He looks like a worker, maybe road maintenance doing stripes or reflectors?

Love the coastline shots. I “accidentally” shot the Orion constellation while hunting for a newly acquired NS SD90/43MAC out in the middle of nowhere. Makes me want to shoot stars some more. Unfortunately there’s no coastline within two hours of me.

Nathan Kaufman

7 A.L.Goodman III January 10, 2015 at 21:17

The guy in the picture is riding on a paint striper. The machine paints the line in the middle of the roads you drive on. Most are mounted on trucks, but small jobs use a machine like this. Note the two gas engines on it with the 5 gallon paint bucket by the front engine.

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