Crystal Ball And Chain

by Jim on 2020/12/22

Jimbaux is all alone and trapped in time.

Won’t You Tell Me Please, Before I Go?

Today, for the first time in my life, I photographed a moving Acadiana Railway train, the Crowley Branch train. I scoped out this area for the first time on the Monday after Thanksgiving.

I learned from Donovan that the train follows a Tuesday-and-Thursday schedule, and I planned for this day, my day of traveling west for Christmas, to be the day that I made my first chase of a train on this line. I wanted to get this done in 2020, the same year that I permanently leave New Orleans, the same year that I got some shots in southern Mississippi and that I got some shots in southern Alabama while I still had a base of operations in New Orleans, the same year that the rice mill in Abbeville closed, the same year that I photographed the last trains to and from the rice mill in Abbeville.

So Many Things I’ve Got To Know

My notes for this morning, Tuesday 22 December 2020, are full of details about when I made the many turns from one road to another or passed some other marker on the many-roaded journey that Google suggested to me as being the quickest way to get to Eunice from the homestead.

Anyway, here we go.

At 8:22, I arrive in Eunice where the locomotive is parked at East Magnolia Avenue, and I see men on the locomotive in the engine compartment trying to turn it on.

At 08:42, they turned on the locomotive!  I could not have timed to my arrival here better!

This truck and this man appear to have been working on the locomotive, the AKDN 4106, an old Canadian National Railway GP9.

Then, it was time for the locomotive to do its work, and there was about 40 minutes of switching to do.

Then, at 09:10, the train is moving.

Donovan has gotten many pictures here.

He has even, more recently, gotten a good drone picture here!

This is almost like street running, and the street is South East Street.

I’d love to know more about the large structures seen in these images and to have seen what railroad cars been spotted there looked like.

I just worry, as I mentioned last time, that I idealize the past in this process.

This second going-away shot – the picture itself, not the view of the scene that I made when I was there – made me notice something that I had never before notice.

Look at the little reflective tape on the end of the boxcar. It looks like the marker lights on a caboose! Is that what it is supposed to copy?

Here is the next shot, at Sittig Street.

The trash is part of the scene!

Wow, there is a tree tunnel on this line!

This is at Highway 3123.

So, this line goes into rice country, but it gets there through the woods!

We are, as you can see from the object at the left in the above image, at milepost 574, which means 574 railroad miles on the old Gulf Coast Lines route from Brownsville, Texas.

This line does have a neat history!

Next, we are at Highway 370 in Bates.

Approaching this position, the train is passing the Acadia Power Station, which formed the background of a recent Donovan picture.

Here comes the train.

I like the farmland broadside view of a shortline train with an old locomotive with farm structures in the background!

I had to try to blot out that damn graffiti.

Next is the only view that I did at the Mowata Highway.

Next, I found a spot just off of Highway 13 far from the track to get some broadside views.

It’s okay, but I’d prefer better cars, like the ones that would have been here 20 or even 10 years ago.

Heck, I want to see what this line looked like 40 years ago!

Next, we are at Ellis Road. While I was waiting for the train, an old white man in a busted-up sedan stop asked if I needed help. I told him, no, I was waiting for the train, and thank you.

Damn, modern boxcars are rather boring, and the graffiti makes them worse.

Here, again, I’m trying to do the rural-road broadside shot.

Okay, next, we are at probably my favorite shot location of the day, at a neat place that is just past the home of some obnoxious Trumper, something that doesn’t upset me as much today as it did a month ago.

I think that these sextet of shots at Stakes Road turned out great.

I also thought that the mixture of the Chicago & Northwestern locomotive history of this railroad along with the Chicago & Northwestern looking paint schemes here along with the very grassy brightness of the foreground is so nice.

I mean, other that the flatness of it, which is flatter than the Great Plans, doesn’t this look like South Dakota?

The graffiti somewhat spoils the images, but you can see the potential here!

This is a rural branchline train in 2020!

A half hour later, I am in town, in Crowley, at Grady E. Poullard Street, and there is a dude walking on the track in front of the train.

I am now, as you can see, on the other side of the train, where there is less graffiti, for the first time today, as, not only has the sun come around farther to the west, but, after a curve north of here, the track is oriented so that the train is going a little bit eastward as it goes southward.

I like it!

I wish that the boxcars were old style, and not these “hi cubes,” but it’s 2020.

Next, I am a few blocks to the south, as far as I can legally and safely go in an automobile before the area around US Highway 90.

At around this time, I had an interesting experience of hearing an eastbound train on the BNSF Railway mainline tooting its horn as it moved through town as I also heard our Acadiana Railway train tooting its horn, too, and I’m thinking of how cool that is hearing railroad horns coming from different directions. I don’t really experience that anywhere except New Iberia and I guess New Orleans in a few places but even it’s not that common in New Orleans either somehow.

Here we are at Highway 90.

The AKDN 4106 breaks off from its inbound train to go across the BNSF Railway mainline to the mill to grab the outbound loaded cars.

Somewhere around here, the BNSF Railway does or did interchange with the Acadian Railway, though I don’t know much about the local train that BNSF runs or ran in this area.

Here are some stored hopper cars on the old Front Street trackage.

I can imagine how old Missouri Pacific Railroad trains on this line would have looked.

Here, the AKDN 4106 is moving eastbound on the BNSF Railway mainline going toward the Supreme Rice mill.

There are plenty of cars at the mill!

Here are a few cars parked to the east of the mill.

I like railroad-owned hopper cars.

There is a lull in the action at this time.

Photographing the mill being switched is difficult, as the lighting is poor.

So, the best that you can do is hang out a street to the east of the mill and get shots of when the cut of cars is long enough for it to drag out this far.

I mean, I can do this view, which shows more, but it isn’t lit well.

I guess that it can be done better on a cloudy day.

This is an interesting town.

So, here, the locomotive has shoved some outbound cars onto the mainline and is back to grab another cut.

Here is the other cut being shoved.

There is a “trackmobile” thing here.

That would be a decent shot without that pickup truck there, and look at the trainman at the far end of the cut, hanging off of the boxcar, protecting the shove.

The Shuttlewagon thing moves to get to work after the locomotive and outbound cars leave.

Now, a few feet to the north, with that truck out of the way but with switch stands in the way, we can see the outbound cars being shoved to the west.

On the other side of the mill, we see the same move in the same direction.

This is an obsession.

Here we are at Highway 90, and the outbound loaded cars are being shoved across the highway.

The 4106 has to get those cars just past the southern switch of the runaround track to be able to grab the inbound cars.

I then get closer to the track, and, below, you can see both the outbound cars, on the left track, and the inbound cars on the right.

Here, the 4106 is pulling the inbound cars to the mill, now that it has made space there to spot them.

I love the SSW, though not really outside of the SP context!

Now, the train is on the BNSF Railway mainline.

Do you like Metallica?

Here is a familiar scene, now with the cars being inbound.

There is the truck!

Don’t tarnish your own legend.

I sat here for a while and walked around and read, and, after several minutes, I realized that I hadn’t heard any train sounds for a while. Apparently, the work was done, as all that the train had to do was set out the empty cars.

So, I departed!

Next, something unexpected happened, and, even though I had never photographed action here before, I had the sensation at the time that I was witnessing something unusual.

The 4106 and crew are going east on the Front Street trackage.

They are going to grab the storage cars!

These same cars were here when I came here a month ago!

The crew discusses what to do.

I did post some video of this movement on Facebook.

With all of the dust broken free, the AKDN pulls the 15 cars forward and crosses US Highway 90.

We are at the Dr Martin Luther King Jr Community Center here.

A young man and what appeared to be his young son were here shooting hoops, and there were no other human beings here.

This is interesting, being something in addition to the norm on this railroad, but it’s lease hopper cars, many graffitied, on a line where I came to see railroad-owned cars carrying rice.

I also got video of this movement.

Next, I went to I-10, where I had to wait a long time for the train to show up!

The conductor has to flag the crossing here!

So, next, we are north of town, among rice fields and crawfish fields, as this train of 31 cars – 15 storage hopper cars (presumably empty) and 16 loaded cars, hopper cars and boxcars, from the rice mill – is moving north across Stakes Road.

Even though I have never seen a train on this line prior to today, I knew that I was seeing what was, by far, an unusually long train on this line.

It’s been a long time since I got a broadside shot like that!

I am on Hetzel Road here.

At around this time, I turned on the radio for the first time today, turned on Eagle 98.1. Is that still even a thing? Is this 2000?

I heard the song “Crystal Ball” by Styx, which I guess is appropriate. This is both what I can accomplish and all that I can accomplish. Furthermore, this huge, colossal amount of pictures is added to my backlog, giving me more work to do that prevents me from accomplishing so much more.

Such is the story of my life now, but I hope that this ends soon, at least once the weather gets warmer.

Next, I was at Thevis Road, where I had a really long wait for the train on this 10-mph branch.

The long wait allowed me to take some different pictures, like that of the old jointed-rail track.

This is some 1940 rail!

Next is the view north, toward the Mowata rice dryer.

Here, 47 minutes and only about six miles from the last shot of the train moving, here is our train coming.

This side-lit telephoto view allows us to appreciate the length of this unusually-long train for this line and the jointed rail, too!

I really like this view, despite its side lighting.

I’m sorry that I am being repetitive here, but, again, I like this view.

I wonder what Missouri Pacific Railroad trains on this line 40 years ago looked like.

I wonder what Union Pacific Railroad trains on this line 29 years ago looked like.

I would like to see that instead of these bland lease hopper cars, though this former Canadian National Railway GP9R is interesting.

Here is a going-away shot, showing some of the railroad-owned hopper cars carrying rice from the mill, with the Mowata rice dryer in the background.

I like the end of the covered hopper car, the view of it, and I like this view, in spite of the damned graffiti.

I made my last stand here with a broadside shot from Hetzel Road just south of Mowata.

This was a real railroad enthusiast moment for me.

At some point in the long time that I had here with this slow train, I put the camera down and just enjoyed the sights as they met my own eyes.

That’s how it started all those many years ago when I was so small, in that old house by the sugarcane fields.

The train stopped at Mowata, and there was a hose running from the elevator office to the locomotive, which reminded of when Chip stopped at Schriever to check for water on 29 June 2012.

I saw an “autism mom” sticker on the back of the automobile in front of me at the Taco Bell drive-thru in Eunice. Poor kid, I thought.

At 16:50, west of Elton, I encountered an eastbound manifest train. It was relatively short. It was rather boring. It had the usual tank cars and lease hopper cars, with a few mildly interesting gondola cars.

At 17:00, Union Pacific 693 was switching cars at the UP yard in Kinder. It had a block of about 5 or so loaded centerbeam flatcars, and I wonder where these are originating going. Also in the yard were a bunch of cars that look like the kind that go to the Crowley rice mill. I wonder if these cars are bound for that mill. They appear to be empty. Maybe the car is also for the Lake Charles mill, though.

I then got to Lake Charles, and the mill there, the Farmers Rice Milling Company, has a couple of old-school Railbox boxcars! I arrived at Lake Charles house at 17:41, with plenty of pictures and experiences.

I hope that this was educational and entertaining for you!



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