Winter Solstice Consolation Prizes – 22 December 2003

by Jim on 2023/12/22


My goal – and my deep hope – for Monday 22 December 2003, the day of the winter solstice, was to chase the Lockport Branch train, the train serving my favorite remaining railroad branchline in the world, a branch on which I had not photographed action since July.  Why, if this was my favorite remaining railroad branchline in the world, if I lived near it, and if I took plenty of train pictures in the meantime, had I not photographed action on the line since July?

The answer, as described in greater detail in the Decembre 19 post that you should read to get the full background of what you are about to see here and for the rest of 2003, is that the line was almost always served only on weekdays when I was at work in my day job.  My goal and my hope over the Christmas-New-Years break was to get chase all trains on this branch and get as many images as I could.

Again, please read the beginning of that December 19 post for the full background.  The facility in Valentine was not a “paper mill”, with inbound pulp and outbound bales or spools; it was more of a recycling facility that received boxcars of paper that have been rejected by mills from across the continent, which made the trains on the branch really interesting, because they were of boxcars of various railroads across the continent.

Operational patterns for as long as I had a driver’s license while the branch was functioning had the branch being served by the Louisiana & Delta Railroad’s Schriever Job, train SC1, on most Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.  So, my expectation and my hope on this first Monday of the winter holiday, three days before Christmas, was that the branch would be served on this sunny winter-solstice day.

To my great frustration, this did not happen. 

You Go Where The Traffic Is And When It’s There

Although there were four empty boxcars to pull from Valentine Paper in Valentine, there were no loads to bring to the paper plant, the cement facility in Raceland, or Raceland Sugar.  There were loads to bring to Morgan City and Boeuf; so, the train went there instead.

So, we start our pictures this morning in Schriever, and I may not yet have learned that the SC1 wasn’t going to Raceland and Valentine today when I made this picture at 08:10 CST of the LDRR 1850 switching cars by Old Schriever Highway before departing.

Radio chatter indicated that an eastbound train was coming, and, being young and adventuresome, I went west to scoop it.

Three Shots Of The P-LACNWO

Here I am doing the Chacahoula broadside shot at 09:30.

This is BNSF Railway train P-LACNWO1-18, an intermodal train from Los Angeles to New Orleans, but it had some carload traffic in it, too, 37 cars, to be exact, including some new Canadian National Railway gondola cars. 

Typical of BNSF stack trains on this line at the time, it had two locomotives.  The locomotives were BNSF 4563, a GE C44-9W in the Heritage 2 paint scheme, and NS 8655, a GE C39-8; the train had 260 axles.

Here it is in the siding at Schriever at 09:45.

Before this train departed the siding, a westbound train led by UP 9483 and with more than 500 axles passed, and, behind it, the SC1 departed for Morgan City with six hopper cars and two boxcars.

At 10:17, I got my third shot of the P-LACNWO today, this time at my new Thoroughbred Park shot.

That’s cool! At the time, I thought that it was a big deal that I had photographed this train in three distinct locations, calling it a hat trick.

I remember one time I tried to chase an eastbound train, I recall it being a BNSF Railway intermodal train, from around here all the way to Boutte, and ended up getting no shots of it anyway.  This may have been that time, but my notes don’t say anything about that, which would make sense, because, not only would such a thing not be noteworthy in documenting any trains for that day (because no new information is gleaned from it), but that also is something that I would be embarrassed to admit even to myself!

If I didn’t chase this train eastward, I either went back to the house or went to work in the classroom.  In any case, my next picture is nearly four hours after my last one.

A Timeless Louisiana Winter-Solstice Scene

At 13:51, here is Amtrak’s westbound Sunset Limited just shy of milepost 50.

That, mes amis, is sugarcane growing on the old Melodia Plantation.  The lead locomotive of the train is AMTK 60, which led the eastbound Sunset Limited into New Orleans the night before.

Don’t Try This At Home

At 15:03, I photographed UP’s unit tank-car train for Monsanto coming through the Lafourche Crossing, between mileposts 51 and 52.

This is train QLUCB – Quality, Luling, Louisiana, to Chocolate Bayou, Texas.  It had 63 cars, three of which were loaded with the other 60 empty.  The locomotives were UP 756, an EMD GP38-2, and UP 134, either a GE B23-7 or a GE B30-7.

That’s all for the pictures for this post.

After-Dark Action

UP’s Morgan City local train, the LLS51, left Schriever at 16:45 EB with 49 cars (including the carbon black tonnage that L&D brought back Saturday) and two locomotives: UP 244 and SP 7133.  Both locomotives were facing west, therefore they were running long-hood-forward back to Avondale.

The train would meet a BNSF Railway train H-NWOBEL, led by BNSF 4069, at Raceland.  H-NWOBEL would meet a “BNSF 755 east” at Schriever, and the eastbound train will make a setout.

I would have checked this out, but an invitation to have some beers with the posse put an early end to train-watching.  The dispatcher said that there was another westbound train, “a New Orleans port train”, called out of Avondale.

Now, as I had mentioned, the L&D Schriever Job went west on this day instead of its usual eastward run on Monday, which disappointed me, because I had expected and hoped for a Lockport Branch run on this day; however, as per the crew on Monday, the branch was to be served the next day.  The empty cars need to be pulled out of Valentine, and I surmised that the LLS51 brought a couple of loaded boxcars to Schriever, as well as some empty molasses tank cars, on this day.

What really depressed me is that the weather forecast for the next day called for clouds and rain. I was still, at this time, imprisoned by film and, as such, was still of the impression that cloudy and rainy days were bad for railroad photography.

Also, the L&D crew would be off Wednesday (Christmas Eve) and Thursday (Christmas Day), was to go to Morgan City on Friday, and be off Saturday. Now that the cane train no longer ran, the Schriever job will only work five days per week, I guess because a New Iberia crew that had been running the cane train would do eastbound tonnage runs on Saturday.

Well, I think I got some good shots on the winter solstice, a very special day indeed.

Post-Libations Foaming

Look, I was young, dumb, and full of Guinness, but, remember, you can’t really get very drunk off of Guinness, because you get full from it before you can get too drunk from it.

After we downed a couple of pitchers of Guinness, I witnessed a meet at Schriever, milepost 55 of the Sunset Route, just before 21:00.  In the siding, I could see a train with four EMDs led by BNSF 8005. This probably was the NWOPTR.

The eastbound train came in on the mainline. It had an interesting consist.
BNSF 4034 – C44-9W H2
ATSF 651 – C44-9W Warbonnet
MRL 261 –

There had, at this time, been plenty of Montana Rail Link locomotives in our area.  Two days prior to this, I saw MRL 325 on a westbound train in Morgan City, and I it was the first time I ever saw MRL power. Now, on this night, I’ve seen MRL power twice.

The train had some molten sulfur tank cars and a four-car block of WREX boxcars.

The westbound train on the main had another unusual consist with foreign power:
BNSF 8005 – SD40-2 Cascade Green
KCS 610 – SD50???
BNSF 7335 – SD40-2 Heritage 1
KCS 6618 – SD40-3????

A noteworthy car near the front of this train was a 12-axle flat car – QTTX 131140 – loaded with what looked like some large motor of some sort.

Delay time for the westbound was an hour-and-thirteen minutes – from 19:40 to 20:53.

The Lockport Branch The Next Day

This post is published on the 20-year anniversary of the images in the post being made.  With one exception, all of these posts of December 2003 pictures are being made in 2023.  The exception is the set of images made on Tuesday 23 December 2003, images of action on the Lockport Branch that I hoped would happen on this day, the 22nd

The post of those pictures was made on 23 December 2003, the 10-year anniversary of those images being made.  I made that post then because that day was very special for me, as that was my favorite remaining railroad branchline in the world.

That is just soul.  I don’t really understand it, as obsessions are not understood, but I don’t understand why others don’t think it’s so cool and awesome as I do.

That’s all for now.


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