April 2014 Sampler

by Jim on 2024/04/01

Greetings, and welcome to the April 2014 Sampler essay. 

The Same – And Different

While this sampler essay is structured in the same way in which other sampler essays are structured, and while it naturally follows the previous sampler essay, the “March 2014 Sampler” essay, in that it is of similar subject matter and in a similar mood as the previous month, I wish to also connect it to the month of which it was the tenth anniversary.

April 2014 is when I wrote and published my “New Orleans Introduces To The World” essay, which is a decennial retrospective on a significant day in my life 10 years before, on Saturday 17 April 2004.  The subject of that essay is difficult to determine, as it covers so many topics, but it’s largely about that particular day, my decision to move from my homeland of bayouland to New Orleans and how it was inspired by the events of that day, my decision to spend that summer in Mexico, Hurricane Katrina and how it affected me, and the book Confucius Lives Next Door, which I had recently read prior to that day, and how it affected me.

I read that book again 10 years later, right before publishing that essay, meaning that I had just read or was reading that book when I made the images in this essay, and I read the book again – a third time – 10 years after that, meaning that I have just read the book a third time as I compose this essay in the spring of 2024.

I described all of this in the “April 2004 Images” essay, which was written on Easter weekend of 2024 right before this essay was written and published right before this essay was published on the morning of Monday 1 April 2024.

My purposes in saying all of this are, first, to direct your attention to the much-deeper-and-more-detailed explanation of all of this in the “April 2004 Images” essay linked in the prior paragraph and, second, to convey to you the frame of mind in which I made the images that you will see in this essay.

This essay has 11 images, meaning that I made at least one presentable DSLR-camera image on 11 days in the month of April 2014.  This is down from 18 in the previous month, but 18 was rather high!  I was, at this time, experiencing a photography renaissance that would end at the end of the year – or end on the following January 7 after a three-week dry spell between December 15 and January 6.  In 2015, I took amazingly few pictures after January 7! 

I suppose that the renaissance was a function of the optimism that I was feeling about life at the time, which would be dashed before the end of the year.  I also had a very informal DJ-ing gig at the college radio station, which was a source of hope and joy, but that, too, wouldn’t last for long.

So, all that I have said here is the context in which these images, all made in southeastern Louisiana, were made.

Wednesday, The 2nd

This was an interesting day!

Railroadingwise, it started when I saw a westbound BNSF Railway train with a solid Superfleet power consist led by a faded (as most Warbonnets are) BNSF 633 sitting at I-10 on the NS Back Belt in New Orleans; the second locomotive was one of those SD75Ms.  The train had about 4,000′ of empty container wells at the rear.  There was a block of plate steel loads, and the train would later meet the M-DYTCSX (its eastbound counterpart) on the Back Belt. 

At this time, there were what we thought were some new auto-rack trains that BNSF and the Norfolk Southern Railway were interchanging via the New Orleans Gateway, but these eventuated to be temporary, possibly detouring from their normal routing.

I checked out Avondale that afternoon, and, while I did see the M-CSXLAL, only the 633 was on the front.  The SD75M was gone.  I did not see or hear anything about the train leaving.  I also caught Union Pacific Railroad train LLD56, the Luling Local, leaving the yard with 54 cars, having to talk by the work trains laying ballast and rebuilding the closed crossings in town behind the GMTX 2123 and UP 554.

Now, here’s where the subject of the one image from this day comes into the story.  I had to go back toward home, because because, and, at some point, I caught up with a weird westbound manifest train.

The weird train had only 24 cars, 14 of which were eight-axle flat cars loaded with wind-turbine nacelles.  The remaining 10 cars were mixed lease hopper cars and tank cars.  That’s weird, because it’s almost a unit train, but it also makes sense that some “shorts” cars would be added to it somewhere. 

I photographed it around Saint Charles, west of Raceland, and, then, somehow, I caught up with it to get the Thibodaux Junction shot – well, the one that I could still legally do at the time, which isn’t the same as the one closer to the track that I did often in early 2004 – in time to get this image.

As I would later learn, this train originated on the CSX at Laurel Point, Florida, was interchanged to the BNSF Railway in New Orleans, and rain as a unit train until CSX Gentilly Yard in New Orleans, where the 10 non-wind-turbine cars at the end were added.  I wouldn’t be surprised if part of the reason that it was done was to add braking capacity for the train that was about to both climb and descend the Huey P. Long Bridge.

The train was behind UP’s IAVLBB, and both trains met BNSF’s M-BNTNWO in Schriever.

Saturday, The 5th

Here I am at Schriever, on the north side of the track, a place from which, for the gigantic quantity of pictures that I have taken at Schriever, I have not taken that many pictures, as we see the westbound Amtrak Sunset Limited approaching at 10:33 CDT.

A half hour later, at 11:03, UP’s ZATLC, led by CSXT 968, passed this same location, and the train would meet its eastbound counterpart, the ZLAJX led by UP 7990, at Berwick.

Monday, The 7th

This was an interesting day.  In New Orleans, I saw a BNSF Railway stack train that Donovan Reed had seen earlier; most of the containers in the train were Hyundai containers.  I had learned by this date that the recent BNSF-to-NS auto-rack trains are detours, temporary, and the result of Memphis being clogged; perhaps this intermodal train was running for the same reason.

The novelty and oddness of the detour BNSF-to-NS auto-rack trains with the big white auto racks through New Orleans was enough to get me to take out the tripod on this evening for the first time in nearly three months, but the presence of a fusee being used by a UP yard crew working and industry across River Road from UP Avondale Yard made it a no-brainer!

This was the first shot that I got “of” one of those detour BNSF-to-NS auto rack trains that have been running across southern Louisiana, though it was only of a few of the cars, the likes of which are foreign to this location. You Chicago and Kansas City people may not think that this is a big deal, but this was the first time that I ever saw these new-style whitey auto-racks in the New Orleans area.

Is there a different name for these new-style white, usually-paired auto-racks?

Check out that “KANSAS CITY SOUTHERN” lettering on the rack at the left along with the 125-year anniversary banner and logos at the top right; isn’t that cool???

At right, we see UP 554 parked with another locomotive. The 554 had worked on the Luling Local the previous week, but not with that other locomotive.

Note the lit fusee on the ground next to River Road, and note the UP conductor (or switchman) standing next to it. A yard job was working the iMTT place just across River Road, something that I had never before seen. There was a derailment on that track a few months before.

Things don’t stay the same for long! I was glad that a few followers of my Facebook page heard my radio show that day.

Wednesday, The 9th

This was a special treat that doesn’t seem quite as special in retrospect.  It was an exciting day, especially because my powers of prediction served me well in a way that was also lucky, and I made a good “catch”.  Another reason that it was exciting is that there were some interesting detour trains running through the New Orleans Gateway, which I first erroneously assumed were due to the Memphis congestion that was the reason for the aforementioned BNSF Railway detour trains.

This was the day that the Norfolk Southern Railway’s Go-Rail locomotive was the power for the morningly transfer run that NS runs between its own Oliver Yard in New Orleans and Canadian National Railway’s Mays Yard in Metairie.

On the previous day, there were foamer-forum reports that this locomotive was leading NS train 355 into New Orleans.  I had a hunch that it would be on the CN transfer run the next morning, this day, and sought the train on this day and found it with this locomotive!  I got several shots of it.

According to Tucker, this locomotive led NS train 314 out of New Orleans two days later, on the 11th.  Had I known (or strongly suspected, like two days before) this, I’d have made an effort to shoot it coming across the lake.

Anyway, maybe I am glad that I didn’t.  Since then, I have soured on the locomotive, since it is an advertisement for the propaganda arm of an entity that is justifying some of the more shady practices in which the railroad companies had been engaging and continued to engage, as began to come to public awareness in 2022 and 2023.

As I was driving on I-610 eastbound to get to class a little late after shooting the train with the Go-Rail locomotive, I saw on the NS Back Belt at City Park an odd-looking train that I erroneously assumed was a BNSF Railway train.

It had BNSF locomotives, and it had plenty of CN family boxcars – mostly CN and WC – along with loaded centerbeam flatcars and at least one gondola loaded with scrap metal.  I don’t see such trains on the Lafayette Sub or anywhere in New Orleans itself.  The only car number that I was able to get was TR 150013, a boxcar.

Because of all of the unit trains, auto-rack trains and intermodal trains, that BNSF was detouring through the area at the time, I thought that it might be a manifest that normally goes via Memphis.  In my brief times in Memphis, I had seen trains that looked more like this one.

We learned that there was a service disruption on the CN at Mendenhall, Mississippi, on the line between Jackson and Mobile.  We knew that CN runs trains that have loaded centerbeam flatcars and CN family boxcars between Baton Rouge and Jackson, but it wouldn’t make sense to route these through the NS through Hattiesburg, since Mendenhall is between Hattiesburg and Jackson.

Tucker solved the mystery!  Most likely, this train was CN train 488 train that runs from Jackson to Mobile.  Detouring through New Orleans like this, they would, upon arriving at the CN-NS junction in Hattiesburg, have to run the train north on the CN from the NS and then shove the train into CN’s Bell Yard and then run the locomotives around the train and take it to Mobile.  Well, that makes sense, and I had been wondering what 488/489 looked like.

Thursday, The 10th

This image was made shortly before dusk at Schriever, Louisiana.

An eastbound BNSF Railway manifest train passes the west switch of the siding, where it will meet the westbound UP Z train that is sitting in the siding unseen on the other side of the grade crossing.

Monday, The 14th

This is CSX’s morningly transfer run to CN Mays yard returning to its home base at CSX Gentilly Yard with that day’s CN interchange traffic, most if not all of which comes from some industries that CN serves in southeastern Louisiana.

Since I had made a nice set of images at Thibodaux Junction 10 years to the day before, since those pictures were back home, since I published them in a blog post that – as in, “on this” – morning, and since I knew that I was going to, in three days, publish the “New Orleans Introduces To The World” piece that described, among other things, my move from the bayou to the city and how it changed my life, I put the images that I made on this date into an article, published on this (or that) day, in which I compared the photographic subject matter from 10 years before to the photographic subject matter on this date.

Wednesday, The 16th

Here is an image of Kansas City Southern Railway train M-SHCX, led by KCS 4143, moving east-southeastward toward New Orleans not very long after daybreak, seen at Louisiana Highway 626 at Saint Rose.

Wait, what in the hell am I doing out that way on a Wednesday morning?

Oh, yeah, I was frontin’, which I was – and still am – impelled to do due to being an autistic person traumatized by how this non-autistic society has treated people like me.

Anyway, not long thereafter, I was in New Orleans and was quite surprised by what I saw: NS 561, a GE B32-8H, as the sole power for NS’s transfer run to-and-from the Canadian National Railway working its way back to Oliver Yard with the CN interchange cars.  I had not even known that the NS still had any of these things!

It was a real treat seeing one this morning leading and being the sole power of a train, and a particularly long one at that; wow, they can pull!

The number of the locomotive was not centered in the number boards, indicating that the locomotive had recently been the NS 3561; the remaining 26 B32-8s had recently been renumbered, simply by having the “3” of the first digit removed, because NS acquired many SD40-2s and needed those numbers for the newly-acquired locomotives.

According to Wikipedia, only 49 of these things were ever built.  This one had “SOU” sublettering even though it was manufactured for and after the creation of the Norfolk Southern Railway.

Apparently, even though it has been purged from the NS roster, this locomotive survives today on the Western Maryland Scenic Railroad!

I mention all of this not just because it was a significant part of my day that day but also because, even though you will not see a picture of this train on this date here, I did see it a few days later, and, in that relevant part of this essay, a link will be provided to the article that shows images that I took on that date.

I could not remember the last time that I saw one of these things, but I was surprised and happy to see this one on this morning. This was actually the second of three trains that I photographed today, and I thought even then that I might publish the other images a decade later!

CSX’s CN transfer was, not surprisingly, right behind this train, and I was able to get a shot of it in Navarre.

Five years to the day before, I was in Georgia, where I photographed a high-nose NS locomotive working a job.

Sunday, The 20th

This was Easter Sunday.

All that I will say here is that this image makes me think of happy memories concealing trauma and of unhappy memories, most of them more recent, sprinkled atop those happy memories.

This was a time of transition, just before the Trump Phenomenon and just before I learned that I am autistic and started the long, slow, difficult, and enlightening journey of realizing what that means and what it implies but after the most significant parts of my autistic burnout had happened.

Again, I described all of this in more detail in my “April 2004 Images” essay.

Monday, The 21st

This is the US flag, damaged by the floodwaters of Hurricane Katrina, that is at Delgado Community College.

It was also on this day, earlier in the day, that I once again saw the NS 531, the recently-renumbered GE B32-8H, leading a train, this time, the Arabi train.  You can see all of the images from that day at the full blog post!

The full blog post further explains some of the discomfort about my New Orleansness that the aforelinked “New Orleans Introduces To The World” essay and the “April 2004 Images” essay published a decade later (the same day that this essay is being published) explains.

There is so much to say on this topic.

Tuesday, The 22nd

Okay, we are getting fairly close to the end of this photo essay.  On this day, in the afternoon, at France Road in New Orleans, I saw and photographed NS 7101 pulling 32 cars across the Inner-Harbor Navigational Canal as it returned from Arabi, one of only a couple of times that I did that shot.

Later that afternoon, I am in the Bonnet Carré Spillway

Some men and boys from LaPlace or nearby are doing some fishing!

Wednesday, The 30th

On my way to the funeral of the father of one of my closest friends, The Mid-City Marine mentioned in the aforelinked “New Orleans Introduces To The World” essay, I caught the New Orleans & Gulf Coast Railway’s eastbound morning train entering Gretna on the former Southern Pacific railroad mainline down Fourth Street.

This is right across from “my” Subway by the track, which I discovered in December 2023 is no longer there – because the office building that it occupied has been demolished!

So much is the same, but so much has changed.

That’s all for the pictures for April 2014.

The “May 2014 Sampler” will have only four images, since that’s the number of days on which I made presentable DSLR-camera images.

Stay tuned.



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