In the beginning of most of these things, I like to say something to set the mood or rather to explain mine so you'll know where I'm coming from. Of course that place may change mid-ride and totally confuse you. This time I won't, but rather explain why Alphonso's not here on this one. He called in to make sure I didn't forget this part. When Alphonso calls, everyone listens.
Alphonso's been under the gun to get some work done, no not at the penitentiary this time, but where he's employed. When he can't come, he enjoys keeping up vicariously. He has a following so I had to let them know or the phone would start ringing. I've had one too many conversations with Louisiana wanting Al's varying addresses.
Since he wasn't along, I continued a nutty project, finding the LeCompte, La. Depot which once belonged to the Red River and Gulf Railroad. I did my best to find it the last time I was there, making the locals somewhat suspicious of why I was hanging out, what I thought I'd avoid with Al's absence. I shared my observations with a couple of fellas that are good at old depot identification and other related railroad trivia. The project started to snowball when one fella zoomed from high above down on a dot in a field and lay good money that the dot was the depot. I went up there for the 3rd time in 2 weeks and found the thing. I then sent the contributors and Alphonso a bunch of pictures. Al's reply was, "What, more humps, bumps, dirt and grass"? And, he said it in a threatening manner.
He went on to tell me that I'd have to do illustrations yet again because he just wasn't "getting it". That problem is perfectly clear to me. I understand that "getting it" requires even more than the "being there" requirement. I'm going to give it hell, but if you don't "get it", I sure do understand. Unless you are a die hard, this is going to be tough on you. Here's my try:
It's been so long, I forgot how it all started. Maybe it started like this? If not, it's a fair story. You know by now that I've been using the old railroad routes as tour guides since I'm out of ideas. They've led me around without having to find Bruce and Charles a Shell station every 20 miles.
Another thing that has pushed me to where I am is this, I took my grandson to the Southern Forest Heritage Museum in Longleaf and it refreshed my childhood appreciation for choo-choos. Hey, it was a kid thing in my youth and it still is. Even the die hard academics of the hobby have to admit that. They are still choo-choos. Gee, I hope I spelled that right? Help! Mommy!!. Then I found a roadside historical marker out on a lonely woods highway with pictures of logging trains and a mill town on it. I put that together with Longleaf's in house railroad and I was hooked as much as I ever get hooked.
When you are interested in something you know nothing about you ask questions. For some reason out of the darkness of the internet popped the Wizard who knew a bunch. He also had a pendence for sending large digital images of very old railroad stuff. He explained the route of the old railroad and sent maps by CD and by e-mail. At present, I have the history of every tree between US71 and US 171 during the last century and beyond.
I'd been to the Long Leaf museum and understood it as much as I understand stuff. The Wizard had enlightened me on all the routes of the house railroad, the RR&G. But there was a lose end. He said the railroad had gone to LeCompte, a very pretty and historical town. My old software had the railroad route on it to a point. I followed it as closely as I could up to the Bayou Boeuf trestle crossing into what I thought was LeCompte, but it wasn't. It actually crossed onto an island of sorts. The Wizard had a picture of the depot on the island but didn't seem to know exactly where it was on the island. He sent pictures of the depot which baited the hook with fatter and fatter worms. Those pictures are on this page.
All I wanted to know was the whereabouts of the depot and how to visit that spot, maybe unfold my chair and sit for a while thinking about life back then. I don't ask for much. Oh, I did ask one more thing. I wanted to know where the Rock Island Railroad and the Red River and Gulf had crossed. I, since, want to know more. That happens.
On that second exploratory ride, I went out to what I'll refer to as "the island" and ask around. They knew nothing, and that's when I got the stare.
I then posted the ride. One of my new readers who likes to use the CIA satellite surveillance cameras as a tool for finding old RR stuff found a dot and zoomed in on it. He sold the possibility of it being the old depot pretty well. I wrote back with my usual doom and gloom but he persisted, finding more stuff that supported his thesis. The Wizard got on board and I formulated a possible grand meeting of those interested in the quest.
As sometimes happens, I got impatient and went by myself. The weather was magnificent. I was in LeCompte in just over an hour of tucked in, throttle to the stops, power sliding blur culminated in a frontie that bout went one o'clock on me. Hey, I'm not dead, I only look that way.
BTW, Gerald, I have those top secret satellite images in the safe. I can't show them to you. I want to protect the landowner's privacy. So, I'll be vague. It's less work, anyway.
I pulled into south LeCompte on "some road". I saw the old cotton gin and shot it once again since I had an idea it might come into play, which it didn't.
Then I looked for the short stretch of road that aka 00-L had noted as being where the highway had been replaced after the hump had been removed which had facilitated the Red River&Gulf Railroad merging with the Texas and Pacific. If you can't visualize that Al, it's OK.
There it was.
I walked down to the water thinking there was no way anything so old could be left. Oh my goodness!! A rotting cross tie lay in the weeds. I am a romantic, of course. I know what I want to see, and, hell, what I want you to see.
I took a deep breath and entered the landowner's property. I had seen some men working out in the field. This would be easy. I hate knocking on doors. Many times I'm welcomed by a gun. Indeed the land owner was out there. I dropped as many names as I could, mentioning the museum and looking as official as I could. I really need a decal for my bike, like "Official Vehicle", maybe. A mentor of mine had used that approach and really fooled some people. I finally got around to asking if "that" was the old depot. He said it was. His father had been the last ticket agent and that he, the landowner, now referred to as Mr.C, had bought the depot and land from the railroad when they had pulled up the rails. He verified where the bridge had been. We discussed where the Rock Island rails had crossed the Red River and Gulf's. He told me the depot was in bad shape and that I could go inside but to be very careful. I have made a list of questions that I should have asked him that covers a page. He gave me full reign to explore where the rails had run. I started with the depot.
No, it didn't look like this.
It looked like this:
And this, to stay in the old black and white format. I didn't want to slap you with technicolor too quickly.
What I was looking for was the bay window that defines most old depots. 00-L had mentioned looking for that.
It is going to be hard to imagine the features of the depot without flashing back to the old shots. I almost thought the Wizard had been wrong because there were so many seeming differences. What he sent me must have been the depot when it was new, I do believe.
When I got home I wanted to compare my pictures with the old ones. I didn't like what I first saw, but then looked closer. This is the east end.
The red arrows point to the windows that were boarded up. This was the east end. I was becoming confident.
There was something else that troubled me, the missing vents on top. The Wizard said that the depot was probably re-roofed. There also was a porch on the "street" side of the depot. The chimney was in the right place. We'll see the fireplace in a moment.
While we are outside I want to mention this. The wizard sent one of his huge photos. In zooming in on it, other stuff in the neighborhood was seen. I asked Mr.C if other business were out there. He said he remembered a syrup mill and some cabins. The picture, below, which is seen from the west end of the depot looking east toward the bayou.
OO-L thinks that a cotton gin was where I have marked "raised structure" He saw a raised pipe, as I did at first. But, I think it was the roof line of the house. Where I have marked "large door: was something. I saw rails going to it. Possibly it was the syrup mill, but I don't believe that was the direction Mr. C had pointed when he was mentioning it. The Wizard is suppose to visit there, soon. Maybe he can figure this out. I really feel that there was a side track, very possibly to some business.
Let's go inside. A lot more can be figured out from in there. But first, I hear men talking. I was told that the shot was of inside this depot. From what I could figure out, the depot was divided into two or more parts. The Wizard told me he thought that window in the office shot was the bay overlooking the tracks.
Notice in the depot picture there are two doors on the west end. One was marked "Office".
My thoughts are that the office occupied the south west corner of the building. The other door possibly went to a waiting room, possibly there were 2, being the times.
Oops, a problem, the window in the office could not be the bay if the office was in the northwest corner as the bay is facing south.
The man standing in the photo seems to have his hand on a fireplace, see the stacked bricks. There is a small potbellied stove in the office. If that fireplace was no longer functional, then the office would have had to have been on the southwest corner, using the opposite door from the one with "Office" on it. I accept any help with this. Remember the bay window is on the south to southwest side next to the tracks. See the brick all about the floor from the hanging fireplace. And, I get lost easily. The hanging bricks from the destroyed fireplace were toward the west end.
Pulling back, the bay window is on the left (south). It is the main light source in all the pictures as foliage and the street side awning block the rest.
Backing up, I shot the door to the rails and the bay window.
There was a wall between the room on the left and the room with the bay window. There must have been a door between them.
Looking from the west end to the east, light coming from the bay window.
I should write down what I'm shooting, this has cost me an hour of confusion.
Bay window looking east.
Looking closer at the east end.
Now, something interesting if I have it right. These are the front doors with the new awning out front.
Here's looking at the street side and the two front doors.
With all the apparent walls whose studs are hanging from the ceiling, a possible layout could be guessed. The Wizard should figure that out now that he's had this primer. Or he could ask Mr.C, whose father worked there. I'd like to know about there being separate waiting rooms, where were the "facilities". Where were the tickets sold and was that really the office. The picture of the office makes it seem very ornate. Mr.C said the depot was built with the finest materials. So, a fancy office was possible. Unfortunately, those "kids", as Mr.C had called them, really did a job at destroying a historic landmark.
A momentous UPDATE HAS BEEN RECEIVED!!!!!!
In a mysterious package, wrapped in yellowed ancient newspaper, post marked "Longleaf, Louisiana", was this, the plans for the new, to be, depot at LeCompte.
It was built in 1915 and the plans were turned into the ICC in 1919. There's a story there, but I don't know it. If you would like to build a replica of the building, possibly a bomb outdoor kitchen, which on Jan.10, 2009, celebrated her 94th birthday, I'll include the plans. Now you can look at the plans, look at the pictures, look at the plans, look at the pictures and look at the plans some more. And, you thought today would be boring. CLICK THE PICS TO ENLARGE
Next is your list of materials:
Here are the plans. Notice the vents I was talking about. Vents can correctly determine the age of a building. I use vent aging a lot.
And the restroom facilities:
I know this has been tedious for the road rider. As Andy says, Hang Tough, shortly we'll hit the road for some neat places. This page was meant for the choo choo boys that helped me and those that like to figure out what was when there ain't much is.
This one is far from over.
More tomorrow night when we'll go out to where "X" marks the spot. Later, Steve
PS: Al just informed me that he had found the real "X" weeks earlier, "so what the ....". The next part will be all about his "X". I'm locking the door.
I made it out of the depot alive. I hadn't fallen through the floor, I hadn't been snake, rat or black widow bit. Life was good. My next objective would be the place where the Rock Island Railroad and the Red River and Gulf had crossed. The RR&G was coming from Long Leaf and the Rock Island was coming from LaMourie to the north or Eunice to the south. For those who do RR talk, the RI was of course superior which means it had the right of way, as I understand it.
I approached looking for the rise that would mark the location of the cross track.
From behind, I heard a voice," Hey dude, you looking for this?"
It was a surrealistic vision of Alphonso, holding his signature half filled cup of coffee in front of a field of blossoming cotton, all the while levitating the long lost cross track I was looking for. I closed my eyes and shook my head as if an animal trying to shake off an injury. I slowly peeked and he was gone. My head throbbed. Was I dehydrated? Carry water, lots of water.
It was gone too, but the cross track's impression remained Indeed, I was standing at the spot. I heard a far off whistle blow. Directly in front of me was a gate. Both the Wizard and OO-L feel that it may be a signal gate for the RR&G to stop in case a RI train was coming through though no records show there be one. The picture is taken looking up the line toward Longleaf to the south west.
Looking south down the Rock Island, this is the view.
Looking north toward LeCompte, I wondered if they ever feel rumbling in the night?
As if the fireman or brakeman getting ready to open the gate to allow the RR&G train to cross the RI, I stood there frozen for a second reflecting on the past. The run would be over in a few minutes for the crew. The depot was a short way down the line. Hot coffee awaited and some lunch. Possibly there would be passengers ready to head back the almost 13 miles west at 1pm.
Next, we're off to Spring Hill Cemetery. I wonder if he'll be there, too?
But, first here is a special treat, the RR&G 1920 schedule and instructions for the crew. First is the schedule. Right click it and choose "open in new window".
Next are the instructions. Open in new window.
And here's the Longleaf Depot where the train originated and will be headed back.
This shot was taken off the Peason Historic Marker, La.118, Peason, La. I don't know if the engine would have been around yet in 1920. But I could find out if I went to my resources. It is of the engine at the Longleaf Mill. It ran the whole line from LeCompte to Sandel, according to the caption on the display.
All of the old pictures and schedule/instructions are courtesy of Everett Lueck and the Southern Forest Heritage Museum in Longleaf, Louisiana.
I needed to get moving on home, but I could not leave without visiting Spring Hill Cemetery. It is a very historic place located in an awing environment. And, to boot, the train from Longleaf crossed the bayou here to get to the island and the LeCompte Depot. The road to the cemetery is on the south side of La.112, right after you cross the Bayou Boeuf Bridge headed west out of town. It is named Spring Hill Cemetery Rd.
The road up is just a taste. You come to a fork.
Take the left. You are now on the Red River and Gulf right of way. The grade sits atop a high embankment with steep slopes on either side as it descends to the bayou.
It is quite a neat stretch.
I'd like know the grade percentage here. I've ridden a steam engined train in the mountains and heard the noises as it brakes. There is squealing and the sound of steam being released. I imagine that was the scene here as the train slowed for the bridge.
I parked the bike and walked down the grade and shot back up the incline.
I turned and walked down to the where I'd found the pilings for the old trestle. There they were.
I thought there was only 3. Not so. There were more down the bank.
Across the bayou there were more.
The spillway is the next beauty spot.
Next, I rode up the road to the cemetery.
The next 4 pictures are just looking around.
I left the cemetery and headed back into LeCompte. I immediately turned on Chickamaw Road. Mr. C. had told me that the old Moncla La.107 bridge had been removed from service across the Red River and segmented. He had one segment for his bridge. He told me more of the bridge was out on Chickamaw and a friend had likewise used them to cross the Boeuf. That sounded like something I wanted to see. That will be on the next page. But, there will be more. I'd find Meridian which is down a road whose name has changed. I'd find more abandoned rails and an old boxcar down from Junction Road. For a "ride home", it was pretty good.
Several people have told me I shouldn't do this first thing in the morning. The caffeine spills over, I guess. Nevertheless, I did this time so I can get on with the next one which will require a bunch of bike work first. URG. If you've never changed a motorcycle tire, then you have no idea of what confrontation is all about.
First, here is a map for those that have hung in so far. You must click it to make it bigger. Then hit your back button to return. That works for all of them.
The cross track and depot are at the bottom right. The cemetery is where it says cemetery. We're headed for Chicamaw Road. What a neat road it is. Ride it slowly and look at all the stuff there. Check out the Bayou Boeuf Series over on TWL. In there somewhere is a ride down the whole length of Chickamaw. I chose to cut it short because of the time factor, something I'm thinking about right now. So let's go.
I came upon the bridge Mr.C had had told me about. I'm thinking these were rail bridges because of their width. But, there were many one lane bridges in LA. This one had been over the Red River at Moncla.
Notice the other name on the map, a place called "Montcla".
There's a story there.
Two more shots of the bridge, now over Bayou Boeuf.
And, this is the clincher, I can see the rails where I hadn't before.
So, Mr.C's bridge was a train bridge but not for the RR&G, this will be another detective story. OO-L, you up to it?
One more. I almost forgot. I walked down beneath the bridge and found this:
If you don't call it a tie, I will. Or, maybe it's a bridge part?
Next up was what I thought was Ashton Plantation. It is NOT ASHTON. Mike has corrected me. Ashton is on up the road. I just didn't go far enough and it can't be seen from the road anyway. Nevertheless, nice place.
This is Ashton's front porch around 1930.
I knew I could not linger. I continued on around to LaMourie and then back through LeCompte to US 167. Since I was in this part of the woods, I wanted to find Meridian, a place that had disappeared off the face of the Earth in the past. And, I have been unable to find it for a while. What had happened was that the name of the road had been changed. Meridian was a lumber mill belonging to the same folks that owned Longleaf, the Crowells and serviced by their railroad, the RR&G.
Which means the last public acknowledgment of there being a sawmill here is gone. Without the old software, I'd missed it.
If I was not on the grade, I was very, very close. Map below by Everett Lueck, SFH Museum, Longleaf, La. These maps can be enlarged by clicking them.
An observation and warning. This road had a brand new carpet of limestone its full length. It has a public stop sign. It is heavily posted on both sides. There is one house at its end with a very large guardian type dog. Just enjoy my pictures and let it go.
This is the road and possibly the grade. Everett said the shays would have had no problem with this incline.
I stopped in a place which felt hot.
When you hot you hot.
I stopped again and bingo.
An old trestle piling at Turkey Creek (on green map)?
And a tie.
I returned to US 167 and tried to figure out if I'd been on the grade there. It wasn't clear. The ties were.
Next, I went through Turkey Creek on 167, but, for some weird reason, I decided to drop down 3096. It led to Junction Road, a railroadish sounding name. This was all timber country. Big map, click to open:
Down past American on P-4-41, I saw this, the crowning end of a great adventure.
00-L says he pegs it at being a 50's or 60's boxcar before they got really large.
That works. That's it. More later.