Lame Pictures And A Grade Crossing Collision

by Jim on 2021/01/15

Jimbaux knows there's indecision when you know you ain't got nothing left
When the good times never stay
And the cheap thrills always seem to fade away

Today, Friday 15 January 2021, for the first time in my I-now-don’t-want-to-admit-how-many years of watching trains, witnessed an often-discussed railroad phenomenon: a collision between a train and something that is not supposed to be on the track, in this case, as in so many cases, an automobile.

I went this morning to the AT&T place – or the FedEx place – to drop of the unopened replacement Samsung Galaxy tablet that AT&T sent to me after I reported mine missing on January 4; remember that? Well, fewer than 48 hours later, the day after I did my tabletless foaming eastbound back to the homestead, I noticed the missing tablet in the back pocket of my camera bag! I had not looked there when I was searching for the tablet because, as I said, I have never used that pocket, even though it is the perfect size and shape for the tablet, but, once I found it, I vaguely recalled having put it there two days before.

So, I dropped off the replacement tablet, and then I went seek trains.

My target – and, today, it was a target, not what I call “incidental foaming” – today was the Louisiana & Delta Railroad’s “BR Job” based in Lafayette, Louisiana; actually, I think that the crew shows up for work at the L&D office in New Iberia and uses an automobile to come to Lafayette, as there is (as far as I know) no L&D office in Lafayette.

While I have occasionally photographed parked L&D equipment in Lafayette over the years, I cannot recall any time that I have photographed action on this job other than the first and, until today, (I think) only time that I photographed action of this job on 4 January 2009, more than a dozen years ago.

A big reason that I hadn’t again photographed this job since then and since my forced relocation to this area a year ago is that I’ve been busy with other things like the Abbeville Branch that is now dormant but for which I had to process many images, the Acadiana Railway job to Crowley, Lake Charles trains, visiting DeQuincy, and a host of other real-life time-consuming things, but also that this train is relatively difficult to chase and also moves through mostly uninteresting scenes.

A big reason that I wanted to photograph it today is the likelihood that I will be forced to move again, this time to Calcasieu Parish, making me want to get Lafayette-area stuff and stuff east and north of Lafayette while I still can.

I first went and checked out the usual location at which the locomotives are parked by Southpark Road, but I found no sign of any activity there or at the industries on that spur, nor did I find any activity at nearby Elks.

I then went and checked out Lafayette Yard, but I still didn’t find any sign of the L&D job.

Only once I went out on the Breaux Bridge Branch, and not very far onto it, did I find the train making its way back to Lafayette, which I found to be strange given that it’s only mid-morning, and I got back to the mainline just in time to photograph the train coming off of the branch at South Pierce Street.

There were CNIS, WC, SSW, and SP reporting marks for each of the four boxcars on this train bracketed by LDRR 1850 and LDRR 1717.

I think that the SP boxcar is the only car, loaded, that came from the salt mine on the Breaux Bridge Branch, while the other three boxcars seem to be empty cars that are coming from the International Paper place.

This job uses two locomotives due to all of the direction shifts that this job must make, not only because there is no runaround track at the end of the Breaux Bridge line.

I watched the switching at Lafayette Yard, where the 1717, the locomotive on the western end of the train, pulling the train into the yard from Breaux Bridge, break off so that the LDRR 1850 could set out the three boxcars for BNSF interchange and pick up L&D-bound interchange cars.

Damn, Whataburger food is getting expensive! I need to get over Whataburger.

More than an hour later, the two locomotives – or, really, just the 1850, probably, are pulling the one SP boxcar from the salt mine and then some interchange cars, most or all of which will be forwarded to New Iberia, by the Amtrak depot.

Yeah, the light was not good.

Anyway, that was the first time that I photograph L&D action in Lafayette proper. Next, I am at American Blvd – it’s not a boulevard – photographing this local action for the first time.

It was the return trip across this crossing that would be an incident that required a visit from the police.

So, here, with poor lighting, is the LDRR 1850 switching this International Paper place.

Yes, I am sorry that this will get repetitive, but I’ve never seen a train here before!

I’ve barely been here before, either.

I’d known of this place for many years but had never photographed anything here until now.

It’s almost time.

Done switching, the 1850 came forward with some cars, and that’s when it happened.

As the train approached the crossing from the south, I walked eastward, away from and with my back to the crossing, to get a better view for when the train crossed the crossing.

I looked behind me and saw a sedan approach the crossing from the other side (the western side) of the track, slow down right by the track, and then, even as the train is blaring the horn, move forward again.

In all of my years of hanging out by railroad tracks and hunting and seeking trains, I had not witnessed a grade crossing collision until today.  I quickly noticed that it appeared that the engineer, on my side of the track, had not noticed that he had struck anyone, and the conductor, who was hanging off of the rear platform of the engineer’s side of the locomotive, was in no better position to notice what happened. 

Though not a screamer, I screamed “YOU HIT SOMEONE” several times, and the conductor dismounted, I am not entirely sure why, and approached me, and I said, again, “you hit someone,” to which he responded, “we hit someone?”

He quickly turned around and walked back toward the locomotive.

The driver, the sole occupant of the automobile, was not injured.  I never spoke to him, and he never spoke to me, but the engineer told me that the motorist told him that he was listening to his music loudly and didn’t hear the train horns, even though he was basically looking right at the train.

So, telephone calls were made, as the MofW crew was already on the scene.

So police showed up, and then L&D management showed up. 

Especially as I was the only witness (again, not even the crew witnessed the incident), I was asked to give, and I gave, written statements to both.  The one specific thing that they asked me was whether the horn was blowing prior to the collision.

I needed a flat surface on which to better write (the clipboard wasn’t enough); so, I took the liberty to walk down the track from the crossing and walk over the track past the end of the train, which gave me an opportunity to see the damage.

The sedan was basically curled around the switchstand.

While at the truck, I put down my DSLR cameras – I had both of them hanging from my neck at the moment of the collision – and then grabbed my tablet computer, which barely fits into my pockets.

I needed to walk back across the track and hand the paperwork to the police officer, and I didn’t want all of that excess baggage.

So, in what is an unusual move here on the blog, all of the next 10 images were made by my Samsung tablet computer.

I went back to the eastern side of the train.

The next image is my shot of the day, made with a tablet computer!

If one image summarizes the day, that one is it.

I told friends and family that I had been “tangentially involved” in the incident “per one person’s claim”; the reason for that assertion is that, as the conductor later relayed to me, the motorist claimed to have interpreted the sight of me on the other side of the tracks – even though I had my back to him, had no yellow reflective vest on, and had two cameras hanging from my neck or shoulder – as being some sort of railroad flagman who had walked away from the track, apparently giving permission to cross it, which, of course, is weird and which, as best as I can tell, nobody there thought was credible or an excuse at all.

And it’s not remotely credibly, because a flagman would be gesturing to motorists one way or the other (either to proceed or to stop), which I was not doing and would not have done! 

Again, I had my back to the motorist and turned around to look only right before the collision.  Furthermore, if I would be a suspect in such an incident, then so, too, would be any person near any railroad track at any time that a train passes.

But, for years, ever since I started taking pictures of trains basically 20 years ago, I have always had some fear that I would get blamed for my presence near the railroad ‘causing’ a distraction that is a factor in some accident, and I generally have that in mind when I am out and about in the field.  

So, essentially, that happened today, but nobody got hurt (except for the young man’s ego, as he appeared to be arguing with the acquaintance who came to pick him up after his sedan was towed away), and nobody actually blamed me. 

At this point, as you can see in the next two images, the train finally is allowed to pull away from the accident scene.

The motorist may have said that he interpreted me as a flagman not guarding – and, therefore, permitting passage over – the crossing, but, as far as I know, he didn’t claim that that interpretation was justified, that it should absolve him of culpability, nor place any culpability on me, and it apparently was not a concern for the police officer.

Furthermore, “I thought that that guy was a flagman” is the kind of thing that just about any person would say shortly after doing something dumb, costly, dangerous, and embarrassing, and seasoned railroaders and police officers are probably accustomed to hearing stuff like that.

So, with that done, the train and I returned to Southpark Road, and it seemed, in an almost funny irony, that the motorist from the collision was a passenger in one of the automobiles waiting for the same train that struck and could have killed him earlier.

By about 14:30, having been delayed by almost two hours due to the collision, the crew ties up at the spur for the day.

Well, I started today intending to cross a target off of my list of targets, and I ended up having a very different, but still railroad, first.


I was really beat with all the light today; it really wore me down.

I then went to New Iberia and got food from Raising Cane’s, and I didn’t feel like waiting to photograph anything there, though the LDRR 1536 was by the shop. I need to eat better.

That’s all for now. I need to quit foaming, or something.


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