They Could Have Just Scrapped The Tank Car

by Jim on 2020/05/14

Today is Thursday 14 May 2020, and, today, for the first time since April 21, a train went through the communities of Delcambre and Erath and into the eastern fringes of Abbeville, but not into Abbeville proper itself, to get the tank car that was delivered to Coastal Chemical on April 15.

Let’s recap. For the last year or so, I have been documenting activity on a railroad branchline, owned and operated by the Louisiana & Delta Railroad, that stems from the BNSF Railway’s former-Southern-Pacific mainline in New Iberia, Louisiana, more than 21 miles to Abbeville, Louisiana, a railroad that remained active due to railroad shipments from an old rice mill in Abbeville. Starting in late July 2019, I was able, through a twist of fate that is both sad and fortunate, to see, chase, and photograph almost every train to and-or from the rice mill. Part of the reason that I devoted so much time and attention to the line is that it’s the last remaining branchline that is still this rustically neat, and another reason – a very related reason – is that, due in part to the anemic sizes of the trains and the sporadic nature of service on the line that once had regular thrice-weekly service, I feared that the opportunity to see such neat-looking (for 2019 and 2020) trains on such a neat-looking railroad were fading. Afterall, I’ve been through this before with the Supreme Branch and the Lockport Branch.

My hunch was correct. In early March, shortly before the March 9 train to the mill, I learned that the mill would be closing in a few weeks. I missed a train on the evening of March 20 that I feared would be the last train, because it came with no cars and pulled all three that were at the mill.

On April 1, we were blessed with a train of six empty hopper cars arriving at the mill, and, two days later, another Friday-evening train bringing one more car came to spot that car and pull three from the mill. On Thursday the 9th, a train came that escaped my notice, but it brought only a tank car to Coastal Chemical and pulled one hopper car – the one brought on April 3 – from the mill.

On Tuesday 14 April, I learned that another train was coming to the rice mill, and, for whatever reasons, perhaps partly the fact that the mill was to official close that week, I got the impression that this would be the last train to the mill. I photographed it, and it was a memorable afternoon indeed. Further giving me the impression that this was the last train to the mill, after pulling the three cars from the mill and spotting the two that it had just brought to town, the crew tied down the locomotive in Abbeville to return the next day to pull the two just-spotted cars once they were loaded that morning. So, the locomotive and five cars left Abbeville for New Iberia on Wednesday The 15th, and I had the impression that that was the last train from the rice mill.

On the evening of Monday The 20th, however, we got a little surprise! The LDRR 1717 had brought one hopper car to town and spotted it at the mill. This was the real last train, and, the next day, the 21st, the 1717 pulled that hopper car after it was loaded and took it to New Iberia, ending railroad operations at the Planters Rice Mill. That train grabbed one of the two tank cars that had been at Coastal Chemical, the one that was brought there on the 9th, but the April 14-15 train, too, had brought a tank car to Coastal Chemical, and it was still there, the only reason for a train to move on the line.

By today, it was time to move the car, but, as you will see, this presented some problems!

Now, let’s get to the pictures from today.

First, let’s look at what I pulled off of my plants this morning.

Yum!

Anyway, the big problem here is that, due both to the cessation of railroad operations to the rice mill and the recession that has hit due to the coronavirus pandemic, the first couple of miles of the branch past I&V Junction was being used to store cars. So, any action on the branch requires at least two crews, one to operate the train on the branch and the other to move the storage cars and then shove them right back once the Abbeville train passes in either direction.

The LDRR 1703 was designated to go and get the tank car. First, it shoved two pipe flatcars down the Pesson Spur.

The LDRR 1707 was assigned to pull the cut of about 113 storage cars past I&V Junction so that the 1703 could go to Abbeville, reoccupying the space on the Abbeville side of I&V Junction while the 1703 was on the branch, and then repeating this process on the return trip, a very labor-intensive move, and all just to grab one empty tank car!

“Yeah, we all follow you on Facebook,” is something that I was told while I was standing at the beginning of the Pesson Spur while waiting for the action to resume after I arrived on the scene.

The impression that I got is that I shouldn’t be surprised that they know who I am. Damn, I am a paparazzo who is more famous (that’s really a relative term here) than his subjects; I damn sure wish that there was some fortune to accompany this fame.

Oh, well.

The 1707 was down coupling to the storage cars past the “Church Road” there, and the crew there was having airhose problems.

So, we wait.

Then, we go to I&V Junction.

Let’s see a cropped view of what is happening here.

Yes, like the military, the railroad world is full of “hurry up and wait.”

At milepost 6, the two men with the 1707 are having trouble getting the cars unstuck, but it’s really not a job that an additional person would be able to assist with doing.

And, so, as the old saying goes, “you get what we have here.”

Well, we did have a good time.

One of the men here is a trainee.

Still, that’s six men and two locomotives being used for the purpose of going get one empty tank car more than 10 miles away, which does not portend well for the future of operations on this line if someone doesn’t buy the rice mill and restart operations there within the next year or so.

Here comes the 1707, making plenty of noise, with that cut of more than 100 storage cars.

This is actually one of my favorite views of the day! I had never done this shot before, and I actually couldn’t do the normal shot from up by the crossing at Peltier Road unless I wanted to get blocked in for a while, which is why I scurried out of here, beating the train to the crossing, as soon as I got the shot.

I then went to the “Church Road” crossing where I found Peartree waiting.

The track in the background is what remains of the Avery Island track and is now used for car storage. What I love about these views, and made many from here today, is that they show both lines that diverge from I&V Junction.

Below is an eastward view from the crossing.

Below is the westward view from the southern side of the crossing.

Yes, we are just east of, just shy of, milepost 6.

Peartree is there because, after the 1703 passes, he will need to protect the shove of storage cars back to where they were west of the crossing, and then they’ll leave in the sedan.

Here comes the 1703.

We’re getting double protection here.

Peartree started railroading in 1973!

Nobody can smile all the time, but Peartree smiles often enough!

The 1703 stopped just past the crossing because, due to the distance between here and wherever the 1707 was, the handheld radio that Peartree had couldn’t connect with the engineer on the 1707.

So, the 1703 momentarily acted as a repeater tower, another cost in this really labor-intensive operation today.

Now, Peartree is protecting the shove of the storage cars.

In a sense, by standing in the middle of the road, I am assisting him.

Here come the cars.

I like how you can now see cars on both tracks here.

Well, it’s about time for me to roll out.

So, that’s what I did. Here is a shot that I have never done before, at Lee Station Road.

Man, a real train there wouldn’t look bad!

Here we are at Poufette, where and when light rain started to fall.

I’ve never done that shot before, nor have I done the next one, at Longside Road, because this non-train train is lame for photographs, which means that this is a chance to experiment.

This really isn’t cool, I don’t like this, I came here to see it pull a tank car, I am really thirsty and don’t have anything to drink with me, I really need to shed a huge amount ballast, the wet ground makes doing that outdoors really problematic, and now the skies are starting to rain really hard. So, I went to the homestead to handle all of that business and get a break from the rain.

I got done just as the 1703 coupled to the tank car at Coastal Chemical, and then I hurried back onto the scene. I got there just in time.

Yes, I like this!

This is what I came here to see!

This is repetitive, but this is one of the best places on this line, especially now that there is no longer a freight reason for any train to cross any crossing west of this one.

Forgive the repetitiveness, but it has its purpose.

Next, it was time to head to Mack, but, this time, with only one car on the train, and with the one car on the train being dark, I elected to not do the highway-swoosh shot and elected to do something new instead, which I discovered would have been great for longer trains with hopper cars!

Damn, really, I should have done this shot before today.

Okay, if the rice mill ever resumes operation and has the same light-grey hopper cars serving it, I will do the highway-swoosh shot when there is no bad graffiti on this side of the cars and do this tighter shot when there is bad graffiti on the cars, which would probably be most of the time anyway, and, considering how cool I think that this view is, that’s fine, I guess.

There is potential here, even if there is no potential here, if you get what I mean.

Somebody, please, buy the rice mill and resume rice-milling operations there and ship by rail!

This view really has potential! Imagine a train of 10 hopper cars right here.

Well, that was worth the effort, I think, but I really can’t justify continuing doing this.

I guess that I’ll get him at Jude Road.

The reason that I am continuing chasing this thing at this point, even as I won’t get a better train image than the ones that I already got, is that this chase has, for me, become more of a social occasion.

That really enriches the experience, I think!

This isn’t better than the rice mill being served, but this is cool.

I really should quit this chase, but I won’t do that just yet.

I wonder what the regular people think of this.

It’s good to have people, even if that means being had yourself by people.

Next, we are in Delcambre.

I continue to try to make this not a waste of time and energy.

I continue to try to make it more than just pictures of a train.

Next, the train was stopped to wait to align the Delcambre Canal lift bridge for railroad movement.

Yes, this view is not nearly as neat as the views that I did here on April 21st.

Homie stopped to talk to his father and his kids, who were out to watch him here.

Now, with the bridge lined for railroad movement, it’s time for the train to cross the canal.

Next, with the canal crossed, we are at Bob Acres.

Here is the train, and it’s the first time that I do this shot, because it’s a shot that is good only if you have a train that isn’t more than 150 feet long.

Next, we are at Leleux Road.

I love that name.

Well, I got to Emma, and I see that the LDRR 1707 is still parked with the long storage cut of cars.

Here is a sugarcane field south of the track at Rynella Road, which is the “Church Road” to the railroaders.

Below is the view southward to the cars stored on the Avery Island track.

Here is the 1707 with no crew aboard with the storage cars that need to once again be moved so that the 1703 and the tank car – and the two men aboard the train – can get back to New Iberia.

The 1703, the tank car, and the two men aboard would have to just sit there for a couple of hours. It wasn’t until 21:45 that they started moving again, and I was long gone from the scene!

So, another crew had to taxi over here just to do this dance with the 1707 and the long cut of storage cars again.

So, that’s probably more than 40 and maybe as many as 50 man hours spent, not to mention diesel spent, just to go and grab one empty tank car; I wonder if just scrapping the tank car would have been cheaper.

So, that’s all from this very rainy day. Homie reported late at night after he clocked out that some parts of the highway “have water damn near on the road.”

I’m glad that I did this, and I am glad that it’s over.

I just wish that the rice mill would resurrect. Oh, well.

Jim

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