February 2013 Sampler

by Jim on 2023/02/01

Greetings, and welcome to the February 2013 Sampler essay. As described in the “January 2013 Sampler” essay, 2013 was a tumultuous year for me. February was largely uneventful except for worsening back problems and a weekend event that foreshadowed what would become my new reality in the coming years.

Let’s get right to it.

Sunday, The 3rd

Though it is not immediately apparent, this picture, made at Central Avenue in Metairie, demonstrates the very low water levels in the Mississippi River at the time.

No picture that I took conveyed the effects of the situation with very low water levels in the upper Mississippi River more than this image does. Contrary to the impression that you might get from looking at the locomotives on the train at left and the train at center, these tracks are not the property of the Norfolk Southern Railway. This is the eastern (RR south) throat of the former Illinois Central Railway’s “Mays Yard” just west of New Orleans, today owned by the Canadian National Railway.

CN serves several grain elevators along the Mississippi River between New Orleans and Baton Rouge, but they primarily serve CN’s own trains and many of the BNSF Railway (which usually enter CN trackage in Memphis.) In normal times, any grain trains other than CN or BNSF grain trains are not particularly common here; you will see a CSX grain train or an NS grain train a few times per season on the CN here, but very rarely more than one at the same time.

However, with the Mississippi River shut down to barge traffic north of Cairo, Illinois, when this picture was taken, grain train after grain train after grain train from both NS and CSX were making their way not only to CN Mays Yard in this picture but across the river to any of three elevators served by Union Pacific Railroad there.

This image, taken at 15:26, shows two crewless and empty NS grain trains awaiting crews. The railroads had problems finding crews for all of these extra trains, and an NS crew arrived for the train at the left about two hours after this image was taken. While all of this was happening, I heard the UP yardmaster at Avondale across the river talking to a grain train at Ama, about a dozen or so miles upriver where there is an ADM elevator.

To the far right, the big daily Kansas City Southern Railway train was arriving, with the KCS crew detraining for a New Orleans Public Belt Railroad crew to board.

A scene like the one that you see here at this location was unheard of until a few months prior. In the few months in late 2012 and early 2013 when river water levels were so low, railroad crews worked plenty of hours and made plenty of overtime money with all of these additional grain trains carrying grain that normally moves by barge.

Thursday, The 14th

This was Mardi Gras week, meaning that I was off of work in a job that I had outgrown and from which I would soon take medical leave due to my worsening back.

I was in Schriever on Ash Thursday, I saw a westbound ballast train parked in the siding, and look who is the engineer! It’s Engineer Sean!

This was BNSF Railway train U-AVOHOU. That’s Avondale to Houston.

Friday, The 15th

I have plenty to say about this picture, but I will say none of it here.

I will just say that it signifies the hope that I still harbored back then.

Saturday, The 16th

I’m on my way back to Whoadieville after the holiday, and I get some trains along the way, including this NOPB job passing East Bridge Tower on its way to CN Mays Yard.

That was one of several pictures that I got that day.

Saturday, The 23rd

This was a good day, though it was bittersweet. It was a bit of a rite of passage that wasn’t preceded by more important rites of passage, a sign of my failure.

Before that event, I was at Union Pacific’s Avondale Yard, where I laid eyes on the New Orleans & Gulf Coast Railway GP7s for the last time.

They had just left the NOGC property after being parked in Belle Chasse Yard for about a year or more after being displaced by newer locomotives. I am not sure when they were pulled from service, but the last two times that I photographed any NOGC GP7s in action was in November 2011.

Sunday, The 24th

On this day, I photographed both the NS transfer run from CN Mays Yard and the CSX transfer run from CN Mays Yard at Metairie Road in Metairie on the NS Back Belt. Here is the NS transfer run, on its way back to Oliver Yard.

I have photographed both of these movements many times over the years, but it’s almost always the return runs, because the “to” runs usually happen before dawn.

Monday, The 25th

I have no idea where this was taken, except that it must have been made in the metro New Orleans area somewhere.

It’s some sort of metal being moved by truck.

Tuesday, The 26th

This makes me angry.

That society lets this happen is inexcusable.

Thursday, The 28th

With the amounts of daylight every day growing, I can get shots of some of my favorite targets after work.

Here we see Union Pacific train LLD51 – formerly known as the Chip Local until Chip retired in November after 43 years of railroad service and of being on this job constantly since the UP-SP merger in 1996 – making its way back home at Avondale Garden Road with a mere two empty bulkhead flatcars, suggesting that the train made a rare trip to Metals USA in Waggaman, and further suggesting that that nearby customer was the only work that this train did today.

I like bulkhead flatcars.

That’s all for February 2013. Thanks.


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