Clairvoyance And Focus

by Jim on 2019/07/25

Today is Thursday 25 July 2019, three days after I got some post-Hurricane-Barry pictures with the shrimp boats at Intracoastal City. I am still waiting to hear back from that job interview that might save my life, but it is looking hopeless; so, too, therefore, is my life.

I went out looking for the Abbeville Branch train, which runs only sporadically, having a hunch that it might run this afternoon.

As I crossed the track at South Grosse Isle Road at 15:58, I saw a headlight in the distance off to the east. Train!

How did I know?

I guess that part of the reason was that the last train was one week ago today.

I intercept the train as it is arriving at West Erath, on the Louisiana & Delta Railroad’s branch to Abbeville, and I hop atop the truck to get this shot.

Wow, two locomotives!?! What is happening here? I have never seen two locomotives on a train on this part of this branch!

Also, look at how shiny those boxcars are!

Also, look at Peartree getting out of the cab and then setting out the first boxcar as a cloud patch moves overhead, somewhat muting the vibrant colors of the scene.

All of the cars at the the train except for the tank car are bound for the Planters Rice Mill in downtown Abbeville, the only reason that this railroad line, which once served many more customers, including a liquified-natural gas loader at this location, still exists.

Most of the loading spaces on the tracks in the mill are set up to load hopper cars, not boxcars. So, the mill can take only a few boxcars at a time, hence the reason that one is being set out here.

Below, Peartree, a veteran railroader who started his railroad career with the Southern Pacific railroad nearly a half-century ago, lines the switch to set the boxcar out in the West Erath track.

Remember how I noticed how shiny the boxcars are? They were build this month!

This is almost certainly their fist assignment! Isn’t that neat?

Peartree looks onward as he heads back to the locomotive after setting the boxcar out.

He sees me and waves at me.

He is quite a jolly character.

If how his presence on a train improves the train-watching experience carries over to having to work with him, I imagine that he has a positive influence on his colleagues.

I am surprised that I didn’t know until recently about this shot at South Grosse Isle Road, but this is the first time that I do it.

Maybe I should get on the other side of the track.

Look at that beautiful jointed rail! I love it!

I also love the tree-tunnel effect at this location, and there really aren’t other places on this line with this same effect to this degree.

This activity – me chasing and photographing the train – makes me feel somewhat alive, and it helps me momentarily forget about all of my troubles, my feelings of powerlessness.

Ten years ago today, I had a similar feeling of excitement, as I visited BNSF Railway’s Northtown Yard north of Minneapolis for the first time, as I was on my way to western Canada.

Seen below, the train is passing the location of Coastal Chemical, where there is a tank car and where the train will set out the tank car that it is pulling on the return trip.

I cross the track. Immediately west of Coastal Chemical is – or was – some business that shipped or receive something, I am told drilling mud or fluids, by rail, I am told in boxcars, and the track, which hasn’t been used in, I’d guess, three decades, is still there.

Moving on, I come to one of my favorite photo locations on this line: South Hospital Road.

This location is also known as Youngs, and I am told that rice was once grown in the fields here that now grow sugarcane.

That sugarcane is now growing where rice once grew – that the total acreage of land under rice cultivation, or at least the proportion of cultivated land used to grow rice – seems to have decreased over the last couple of decades is another reason that this railroad line is threatened, another reason that I focus so intently on photographing the sporadic trains on this not-all-that-long-ago busier line.

A decade ago, there were usually three trains per week on this line.

Now, the train is coming into town, through a residential area east of downtown and the mill that reminds me of my early childhood, and this is the view from South Lamar Street.

Next, we are one block to the west at South Miles Street.

Next, in a scene that has become familiar for me, the train has arrived the runaround track at the end of the line.

The main mill tracks are at the right, just past the right frame of the picture, and you can see, at the right frame of the picture, the frame of the loading mechanisms.

The next order of business is for the locomotives to decouple from the train and then “run around” the train to enter the mill tracks to grab the cars that it will take from the mill.

The structure behind the train is the remains of the hull loader, which shipped rice hulls, but that operation stopped nearly three decades ago, and the track there was removed.

In the below image, you can see, in the road, the track to what was the packaging plant but is now used to load hopper cars when there isn’t enough space in the tracks at the main mill complex.

In the wider view below, you can see the tracks at the main mill complex and the three hopper cars sitting in them at the main mill complex at right. The crew will swap the cars that it brought to town (except for the tank car) with the cars that you see at right.

Peartree rides the platform of the LDRR 1708 as the power set moves past the switch of the runaround track.

I learned that the reason that there were two locomotives on this train is that one of them had just been released from the shop and that the other was along for the ride just in case some malfunction happened with the discharged locomotive.

I need to take a weed whacker to that rtack.

This is a neat area.

Below, we see Peartree riding the platform of the 1708, with CV now at the controls of the 1710, as the power set moves past the derelict old grocery store across South Jefferson Street into the main mill tracks.

There is so much happening in the world now, and Peartree would remember the lunar landings, the first of which happened 50 years and five days ago.

I walked over to South Washington Street to get an unusual view of the three outbound cars, which were brought here one week ago today, being pulled from the mill.

The traditional view, which would have me standing to the left of that white building on South State Street, as I did 16 days ago, would be terribly backlit under these lighting conditions.

This view, which has its own limitations, shows the inbound cars at left and helps tell the story another way.

Also, yes, look at that badly-tagged car with the big three-decade-old “COTTON BELT” lettering still on the side! It’s too bad that one of the rare cars still with that old lettering is so badly graffitied. I wish that all of the hopper cars still had lettering like that.

Peartree has apparently decided that, instead of putting the three pulled cars on the runaround track, uncoupling from them, and then grabbing the inbound train and shoving and spotting it, he will just couple the three outbound cars to the inbound train and then just shove he whole thing into the mill.

I guess that you can do that when you are pulling only three cars from the mill.

Here comes the shove of inbound cars, protected by Peartree.

Below, Peartree has to check his back on that sharp-angled crossing for anyone coming from the east on Railroad Avenue!

He has to look in four directions for oncoming automobiles!

Here is the iconic scene of this operation.

That is railroading.

That is Peartree.

That is the Louisiana & Delta Railroad serving the rice industry in southern Louisiana.

Now, he is looking southward on South Jefferson Street.

The coast is clear!

You can now see all the way back to the tank car.

Look at how new this Mexican-built boxcar is!

Okay, with that, there won’t be much more time until the train leaves to make its way back to New Iberia, and there aren’t any more chances for decent photographs here at the mill.

So, it’s time for me to leave the mill to head east to set up for any shots I can do under these now-bad lighting conditions, now bad because the train will now be going away from the sun.

The world is an interesting place, but I wish that it were less stupid.

We can and should do so, so much better.

I am at South Bailey Street, overlooking a field that once had a railroad customer, either a beer distributor or a drilling mud place, toward another customer, that big rice dyer in the background.

Look, below, at the hump in the train as it crosses a street! Also, at the far right of the image, you can see rails still in the field, for whatever customer was here.

The tank car, seen at the end of the train in the image above, that the train brought to Coastal Chemical is GATX 31723.

In the image below, the train is stopped at Coastal Chemical to set out that tank car. There is another tank car there, RACX 51435, that apparently wasn’t fully unloaded to pull.

While we are waiting, let’s look westward toward the West Erath track and the boxcar there.

I like that.

Here comes the train.

I like that, too.

I also like those old ACF hopper cars that were once so much more common, and I also like the SSW, remnants of which are fading from the scene.

Let us see a cropped version of the image above.

It is fleeting, all of it.

The train moves from Abbeville to Erath.

Okay, the lighting is getting poor, the one thing that I don’t like about this branch and its service patterns. On a sunny day, the return trip usually has the train with the sun almost directly behind it.

Here is the train coming into Erath.

Here is the train coming out of Erath.

This is interesting, but I doubt that I will do this view again.

Yes, that is a sugarcane field in the background in the below image.

Yes, the lighting here is not working.

So, as the train moves into Delcambre, I am breaking off of the chase.

Okay, I am going look at that boxcar.



There is this small business, I believe a hair place, in Erath next to the track, and I don’t know what its story here.

So, now that the action is done, let’s take a step back and inspect the less-than-a-month-old boxcar sitting in the West Erath track.

This is interesting, that these very new cars came to this dusty railroad branch.

I like the below view, not just because the lighting is right for it but because the boxcar, most of the West Erath track, much of the gas-loading facility that is the reason for that is the reason for this track’s existence, the old highway into Erath, and even the bridge in Delcambre.


Okay, that is all for pictures for the day. I hope that you enjoyed the long, short journey today on what remains of the old Southern Pacific Railway Midland Branch.

Now, please, let us build a better world.

We are so, so very short on time.

Thank you, I love you, and that is all for this post.

Jbx

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