A Lighthearted Encore – The Real Last Train From the Planters Rice Mill in Abbeville

by Jim on 2020/04/21

So, something really weird happened today, Tuesday 21 April 2020.

Last week, one week ago today, the 14th, what I thought until last night was the last train to the Planters Rice Mill in Abbeville came to the mill with two hopper cars, pulled the three cars that were there and put them on the runaround track, spotted the two that it brought, and spent the night with the pulled cars on the runaround track. The next day, Wednesday the 15th, what I thought was the last train from the Planters Rice Mill, the same equipment from the day before, pulled the two cars brought the day before and left town.

I got many pictures of the inbound train on the 14th, and I got many pictures of the outbound train on the 15th.

Well, yesterday, Monday 20 April 2020, Terry sent me a message saying “I hear a train” at 13:31 CDT. I didn’t see the message until more than two hours later.

The LDRR 1717, my favorite locomotive on the roster, came to town to spot one car, one clean, graffiti-free Union Pacific Railroad hopper car, at the rice mill.

Apparently, there was one more car to come to be loaded at the now-officially-closed rice mill, and it must have arrived in New Iberia on Saturday; apparently, the train that I saw, photographed, and emoted over last week is not the last train from the mill afterall.

I wrote to Terry later last night, “Well, that screws up my big story about the train last week being the last train!”

“And, now, I have to photograph this thing tomorrow!  I am almost upset that a train came to town!  Imagine that!”

There go my plans to cook vegetable soup, cook chicken, wash clothes, do the 21 April 2019 blog article, and work on getting the carport clean tomorrow, I thought last night. I had a good shave and somewhat screwed up my haircutting, but it’s okay.

Yes, I feel fortunate that I can actually do this, even if that opportunity is itself due to some misfortune.

“I don’t see how this could be anything other than the loading of some rice that didn’t make it into last week’s cars, like the mill underestimated how many cars it would need,” I said, but, actually, it’s probably me who did the underestimating, because I was told that those six cars that arrived on the first of the month were the first six of an order of 10 cars, and, unless I missed something, this encore car should actually be the tenth car.

“Well, I guess that I have my day planned out for me tomorrow, and I am almost upset about it!  This railroad has sucked up so much of my time and attention lately!  But I like the 1717, and I like that this train will have no graffiti on it.”

I recently learned that the L&D is getting a new-to-the-property locomotive, the LDRR 1536.

I said to BD at 22:09 last night, “I find myself in the really strange position of being almost upset that there will likely be a train tomorrow on my favorite still-active (even if not active for much longer) branchline in the world, partly because all of this time and attention that I am giving it is sucking the life out of me, and partly because, thinking that last week’s train was the last one, I kind of already mentally said goodbye to it. “

At 22:14, I added, “The other reason that I am almost upset that a train came tonight is that I made such a public display about the train last week being the last run! “

Anyway, thanks for the nice feedback that I have received on the pictures and video so far.  This little branch, like the neat old mill itself, is such an anachronism two decades into the Third Millennium, and I hope so desperately that this isn’t the end, that someone buys the mill and successfully operates it, but that is unlikely.

So, anyway, last night, I set the alarm clock for 04:00, because I wanted to get some night shots before dawn and didn’t want to do them last night, both because I didn’t want to make two blog posts out of this event and because I also wanted to be there shortly after dawn to get shortly-after-dawn shots, but I have been mostly awake since shortly after 03:00.

So, here I am at the rice mill before dawn, this time, for real, it’s the last train, the last railroad shipment from the Planters Rice Mill.

I keep saying the official name of the business that is running the mill now, as if the rice mill here might one day operate again under new ownership, with a different name.

The brightness from those lights is really bothersome.

Obviously, I wish that there were more cars at the mill, for multiple reasons.

The sky is starting to get bright!

Okay, so, at 06:40 on the morning of the 21st, after getting some predawn night shots at the mill, I am feeling better about the chase today because, since the train last week was emotionally the last train, today’s chase will have a levity about it!

I already mentally-emotionally said goodbye to this neat operation last week; so, this, today, will not be the somber occasion that last week was!

Wait, does that mean that I might actually have fun today?

As I mentioned last time, getting static shots of the locomotive even once the sun rose here is worthy, since this kind of lighting is rare, because the railroad serves this mill in the afternoon.

So, a locomotive being here just after dawn presents opportunities that don’t exist once the sun swings over to the southern side of the track and then to the west.

Let’s move closer to the track.

Hey, that is a self portrait!

Isn’t that old rice mill structure neat?

There is plenty in the picture, even if nothing is happening, not even the loading of the car.

I hope that someone buys this place and makes it operational again, but I fear that that is unlikely.

Let’s climb atop the truck to get a few scenes, including a self portrait.

These views would not have been possible, not lit like they are, close to the winter solstice.

Well, I guess that that is all that I can do here.

So, I returned to the homestead for a while after getting some gasoline for today’s chase.

I returned to the mill at midday and, under the tree north of the Masonic cemetery, saw this high-sunny view.

Really, everything that dies touches me.

The L&D crew arrived by 13:34.

It’s about to happen.

JB is there getting the 1717 cranked up.

I really miss the silvery grey paint that Genesee & Wyoming had for the ventral parts of its locomotives.

Yes, look at those midday shadows.

I am about to go into photographic hibernation; the light is getting bad, this neat operation is about to stop, and I just need that time for other things!

And, so, we have movement.

It begins; JB is riding the point into the rice mill.

Again, these views have been made possible by the recent opening up of that lot at right due to the dismantling of the neat old store building that had been there for so long.

Again, that reddish building at left was the old school and is now an administrative building for the local school system.

Riviana is the company that owns the operation, even if the Planters Rice Mill is the operator.

And, here it is. The final railroad shipment from the Planters Rice Mill is being pulled from the mill, ending more than a century of operation here.

The UP 14032 has the distinction of being the car that transported the final railroad shipment from this neat, century-old mill.


Am I being too repetitive here? It’s the last train!

This short train fits in to this somewhat tight view at South Saint Charles Street.

I wonder if the occupants of the pickup truck know the significance of what they are seeing.

Next, I am at South Young Street.

There had, at one point, been some rail-served industry in the field in the left foreground.

This is it, the last railroad revenue run from the Planters Rice Mill.

I’m so grateful that the car is free of graffiti.

If it has to end, this is not a bad way to end it.

Then, I returned to Greenbriar Lane, for my sugarcane-field broadside view that I love so much.

I am not really somber today like I was for the train last week, and I didn’t kill a squirrel this time!

This train is what we call “lagniappe.”

How do you like the vanishing-point perspective here with the rows?

I cut a bunch of these shots out of this post, and, yet, I am still being repetitive.

It’s a train hauling rice past a field growing sugar.

As I said last time and say often, it’s the westward encroachment of sugar into what historically was rice country that is a sign of the cause of which the rice mill’s closure is another effect.

Goodbye, train. I’ll see you on the other side, of Coastal Chemical!

The hopper car was built in March 1976.

There were two tank cars at Coastal Chemical, and this train stopped and pulled one of them.

I presume that the one pulled is the one brought on April 9.

We are at South Grosse Isle Road here.

Next, we are again at Sanchez Road, where our train more easily fits into the frame than the train last week did.

It’s good.

I am trying to take it easy here.

As the harsh lighting limited my options, and as I wanted to try something anyway given the historic nature of the occasion, I set up by the feed store for something different.

Yes, this place once had railroad service, and I’d love to know when it ended.

Here is the train, crossing, appropriately, North Railroad Street.

That was okay, but, next, I am a few streets over at the Delcambre Canal, and, I must say, I really like how these shots turned out.

Adding the tank car really helped. The quality difference between a two-car train and a one-car train is much greater than that between a three-car train and a two-car train.

There is almost like a two-point perspective in these images, albeit with both points outside the frame, but at least both of the points are outside the frame; at least it has that consistency.

I like it. These are some of the best scenes from the day, and I really think that the addition of the tank car is a critical factor.

What do you think?

I crossed the canal and got set up for the broadside at Bob Acres Road, and some four-legged creatures paid me a visit.

It’s like a divine message, or something.

Here is the train.

It’s going away.

It’s really going away now.

So, then, did I. Just like last time, I didn’t try to get any shots between Bob Acres Road and I&V Junction, which are five-and-a-half miles apart.

So, while waiting for the train to show up at I&V Junction, I make a quick detour to photograph the stored cars on what remains of the Avery Island track.

This are sand hopper cars.

Okay, now, I am going to I&V Junction, and it looks like the cars blocked out by last week’s train are still there.

Here comes the train.

I hope that it doesn’t stop here.

It didn’t. It’s just continuing to New Iberia.

I like that, and I like this shot.

Please note that this is the first time that I am photographing this side of the train.

Please also note that all of these image, including the one below, are taken from the same spot!

I was wearing my “Red Coat Pride 95” shirt for the chase, appropriately, I guess, since that was the year that Supreme Sugar closed, now a quarter century ago; damn, I feel old.

I got set up for a new shot at Highway 90, one that I had spied recently but didn’t have the gumption to do until now, because it does take a little bit of effort and risks compared to other shots.

Here it is.

Yes, it’s also a shot that is good for a train this short.

That may be all that I’ll be able to see of this train, as it will likely stop before I can get a decent shot of it.

So, in New Iberia, I am at the mainline by West End Park, where I see and photograph the job that just came from Cajun Sugar Co-Op, with Jared hiding behind the switch list after crossing over to the side of the locomotive opposite of me.

Oh, well, I must be sympathetic.

The 1708 is pushing and is powering this movement.

They arrive at the interchange yard, where we see the power for the UP local train out of Avondale.

Hey, look, the 816’s number boards have been fixed!

I found our Abbeville train at Robertson Street, sans locomotive, which would have continued on to the depot.

Let’s go by the shops.

Here, the LDRR 1504, or the former LDRR 1504, is slowly being cannibalized for parts.

I really miss the CF7s, really, really do, and the only active one remaining, LDRR 1500, is at left in the below image by the shop, and I fear that it will not be active for much longer.

That’s the LDRR 2009, still in Utah Railway paint, at right, and I wish that I could see more of it in action.

I hope this old Ugly Duckling, as these CF7s were called, gets put back into service, and I really miss the silvery-grey underbelly.

At the depot, the power for the UP local has shown up, apparently to get paperwork.

That’s the LDRR 1717, which pulled our train from Abbeville today, at right.

I guess that today’s UP local won’t pull the UP car pulled from the rice mill today back to Avondale.

I really do like clean UP four-axle locomotives.

Here we are at the interchange yard, where, among sugarcane fields, the UP New Iberia Turn grabs its outbound cars to take to Avondale.

With the demise of the rice mill, the demise of boxcar traffic (or any traffic) to the Port Of West Saint Mary, and the decline in activity at the nearby pipe-coating place, this yard isn’t as interesting as it was 10 years ago.

But this is still interesting, and I am here for it.

I guess that six tank cars is all that the UP is taking from New Iberia today.

Oh, well, that’s all for this memorable day, and thankfully so. This was great, but I am tired, and I am relieved that this is all done and that I’ll be able to get on with life now.

Back at the homestead, a strange coincidence of neighbors meeting all at the same time happened, including this neighbor.

He occasionally bites and scratches, but at least he didn’t vote to systemically harm me, like some of the neighbors, including his owner, did.

That’s all.



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