Done 2 HH Raccoon Rails
If confronted with a challenge, I usually play it out until I conquer it or decide the gain is not worth the possible cost. That's a lie. I usually blunder forth and take my licks if there is no resort. I was prepared for complications when I pursued the Raccoon Branch.
Alas, once again I get to plead my complete lack or organization. I'm getting ahead of myself.
Not really, the above is, of course, a tease.
Some challenges are born from getting, maybe, a little too close to, for lack of a better word, "something". I'm sure everyone has made a quick analogy relating to that last sentence. In this case, the closer I got to the Raccoon Branch, the more I had to know about it.
As you probably know, back in 2006 I was starting to get
a little rail fever which was similar to a lingering case of malaria.
I suspected that there were a few locations where I could
see some Old Choo Choo Stuff if I searched long enough. Some
fella had a list mentioning the rough location of "OCCS's",
so, I'd give what he listed a try. One of my first was fairly
close to "the house". It was the Enterprise Sugar Mill
at Patoutville. What I found there was of Smithsonian quality.
To this day I cannot believe I was so lucky on so many levels.
Spending time and energy around Patoutville may seem
boring to some, but what I know about it keeps it interesting.
Can I maybe embellish? She is the Mona Lisa of still functioning
sugar mills. Her history could be a novel.
The rail photographer has to start here on La.85. It is the furthest
from the mill you can get and take a straight shot into her heart.
The building on the left is not at Enterprise. It is at US 90.
Telescopic lenses bunch stuff up. We are looking down
probably a mile and one half of track, maybe 2.
This was taken, again at La.85, the distortion is evident.
Wait, the picture is not distorted, the rails are, but that
distortion is condensed and magnified.
I moved closer and took the next set from US 90.
This is taken on the last day of Fall or the first day of Winter.
Oops, back to October of 2009. Time stamps are priceless.
If in the neighborhood, I always stop. The old mill
always has a shot waiting. Winter is best. The water vapor,
"steam", amplified by the cold air, puts on a show day and night.
These were just a few shots of where the Raccoon Branch
leads. For sure it has an interesting terminus. But, I've
seen the chest of gold there. My attentions were focused
in the other direction.
Time for a map.
At the bottom you see. La.85. The mill is southwest of
it and US 90. Forget about the mill. The Marais is now
the subject of interest. The Marais is a dark sink in the
ground between La.85 and Old US 90, now La.182, west
of Jeanerette, La. I'm not going to make up a lot of stuff
about the Marais, let's just say that there are stories.
It is not crossed at night and few cross it alone during the
day. I cross it a lot, but I'm stupid.
Let me bring you up to speed. My challenge was to track the
Raccoon's rails across the Marais. Tracks in yellow, the drainage
canal that follows it, and probably provided the fill, is in
blue. Another canal is crossed by the Raccoon on the
south side. The Raccoon's junctions with the BNSF RR rails
just southeast of Burleigh Road, in white. That is where
previous pictures have been taken. I could hold back
no more. I'd do what I could to explore the Marais rail crossing.
But, first, here are a few of the shots that pushed me over the
edge, literally, the edge of the Marais.
I would look north at the rails and wonder where they went.
At the time there was no road alongside them.
They seemed to just drop off, something trains don't do too well.
Then, later this year, I got to see this, my first modern train at Enterprise.
I saw it disappear and I saw it emerge and leave on the mainline.
I saw it wait while the speeding Amtrak whizzed by.
I saw it claw its way up onto the mainline tracks.
I wanted to know how it got from there to here.
CLICK HERE to go to the next page.
Mark, who has connections in the Patoutville area reassured
me that there are good people down there and if approached,
and I acted reasonably sane, there would be no problem
following the little stretch of road alongside the railroad tracks
and looking into the Marais if I was so lusting to do it.
I was on my way. I do not go south without a cruise through
the beautiful town of New Iberia. It is a jewel. The rough
cut diamond in the bunch is the Williams St. rail yard and
old depot. From the depot area sprouts the Avery Island Branch
of yore. Off it branches the Port of Iberia tracks and those
of the old Iberia and Vermilion that go to Abbeville.
This time the yard was quiet. Activity there doesn't pick up
until after three PM when the day's gatherings are assembled,
rearranged, shifted , and realigned.
At the depot there was another story.
I think all the work that I was seeing was rail related.
Lots of new signals were being installed. That makes
sense as it is a very busy intersection. To the north is
the Williams St. yard and beyond that the Cade sidetrack.
Here are a few shots before my return to the Raccoon
down at Patoutville, where we left off on the last page.
You are lucky I don't charge you by the picture.
I talked to a Mexican. I talked to a local field worker, and
I talked to Mr.Rudy about going onto private property
to investigate the Raccoon.
Mr. Rudy was everything that Mark had described about
the local people. He and his wife stopped when I flagged them
down after they had crossed their field. I asked about going
on the property and he assured me that it was alright.
I asked if I could use his name as reference and he freely
gave it. I was set.
I rode back to the little dirt road and headed toward the Marais.
I turned and took this shot as I descended the slope where
I'd seen the train disappear. No trick photography here.
It is practically mountainous for south Louisiana.
Quickly, I was upon the trestle. Next, are way too many
trestle pictures for most. Since Mark, our high trestle
expert and radio man will be reading this, I prepared this
But, first, I looked down, as Al has told me to do. Sure enough,
again, his valued suggestions paid off. I was reassured that I
was still on the Raccoon Branch.
The tracks led to the trestle. I'm headed out here at night
and catch him walking the rails. That must be a sight.
OK, Mark, wake up.
This is the Delahoussaye Canal.
It is not a fast moving mountain stream. But, it does move.
The need to wade should be fought.
Proceeding on with the study.
Backing off a bit. I could him hear him complaining about
the previous shot.
The Delahoussaye Canal Trestle has been recently rebuilt.
Remnants of the previous trestle lay about. The scene was
somewhat reminiscent of the Chicot Trestle, but on a much
My attention was momentarily swept away by a perceived
movement in the water. Water movement in south La.
is to be monitored. There are large and dangerous creatures
luring about, not to mention the aforementioned "stories".
Back to the study.
I may retract my previous statement when I compared
the DCT with the CT. I do believe the DCT's remnant
collection to be on a par with the CT's. Mark will have
to be the final authority on this subject, so I'll go no
further afield with my personal judgments.
As I walked away, I shot these pictures as a quick review.
I am now wondering why I didn't walk a bit further into
the Marais. I think I was subconsciously scared.
Next, I returned to where I'd met Mr. Rudy and crossed
his field and reached the blocked off Burleigh Road. This
is its Delahoussaye Canal crossing. I headed to the mainline,
at the north end of the Racoon Branch.
I stopped at the crossing and walked down the rail's adjoining road.
I observed that there had been at least two other trestles. My
first though was that the other rails might have been the MP's.
Not so. I think that either the rails were moved or that there
had been a double set here at one time. I'm going with "double rails".
Had the third evidence , seen better later, been a vehicle bridge?
See the abutment in the bottom right of this shot, then
the one set of pilings?
Luckily, there was a dry crossing. I do not disobey rail
"No Treaspassing" signs placed on trestles. Having to jump,
in case of a train, would be a photo op on the scale of the
plunge taken by the Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.
After crossing the dry bed, I climbed the difficult slope and
shot where the Raccoon Branch terminates.
This shot, taken earlier, from Burleigh Road:
My next move was obvious. I worried about the parked bike.
Nevertheless, I proceeded. Without the bike, Breaux Bridge
would be a long walk.
This walk was no short one. I would at least make the
turn. Hopefully the slope into the Marais would be before me.
It was out there, but the tension was mounting. I've learned
to listen to myself. Maybe I should rethink the substance
of that lesson.
I turned around, feeling the wrath of Al upon my back.
After showing him these pictures, my premonition was
validated. He whacked me good for not continuing to the
point of challenging my bravery. I'm letting that marinate
as retaliation against Al must be well planned.
I was tempted, but the museum is overflowing and I'd
forget to label them and they would join the piles of generic
spikes I've collected over the last 5 years, not to mention
the tie plates.
Al, I'm leaving out what you researched because of your
well founded fears about "ordering". Good call.
Below are more trestle pictures for Mark's interpretation.
This next one is looking north to the old Loisel Plantation mill.
I couldn't make up my mind which well framed shot I should
use, so here are both.
I'm going with the one above.
This is the building that was serviced by the Missouri Pacific
along rails that went into the mill.
OK, here we go with the map's Points of Interest.
See Loisel and the tracks crossing Old US 90 (La.182)?
See "Bayou Teche"? See Delahoussaye Canal? See the
rails paralleling the road from Loisel southwest to the
canal and crossing it? That next yellow line is La.85. In
New Iberia it is called Admiral Doyle Dr. in case you like
names instead of numbers. You can also see that La. 85
makes a north turn and goes into Jeanerette. You do see that?
Don't try this exploration without talking to Mr. Rudy first.
By chance, the History Hunts Satellite caught a Raccoon
Rails train on the siding at the main line.
Again, zooming back a bit, you can see the Burleigh Road
crossing where my bike is parked on the south side of the tracks.
Zooming down, it's the blue one.
Zooming back a bit more, you can see the Marais Crossing.
That's it for seeing on this one.
As I've become more and more a connoisseur of train traffic on my easily accessible local rails, I've grown to enjoy one particular place more and more which may seem redundant, but never is. Burleigh Road is a "Road Closed" between La.182 and La.85, west of Jeanerette. I have a special dispensation which allows me to travel it being that I'm on a mission. Think a "Blues Brother" in an engineer hat.
On March 21, I happened by there after seeing a BNSF engine stopped on the main line. My curiosity was running wild as I swerved onto the gravel road in a broad slide that almost put me in the ditch.
Having caught my breath, I rode the half mile to the tracks and crossed them. I was now back in the Marais, that bit of remaining wildness sunken between the two highways which brings this question forth, why did the Southern Pacific, Morgan's Whatever, choose this route? The Missouri Pacific was on much higher ground closer to the bayou, yes, "higher" is closer to the bayou.
After lining up a shot, this is what I saw. These shots are not very good. This is a technical site, not Weather Underground, and if you make a snide comment, or give me a 3, I'll hunt you down. BTW, while I'm stoked, if you tailgate me again Dew Lee Boy, just letting you know, I carry RR spikes in my tank bag. As the wimpy Beatles once said, "Just Imagine" your windshield.
After taking 3 very deep breaths trying to come off this highly belligerent state, let me continue.
This is what I saw:
Not completely happy with the story it told, I shifted to
the north side of the tracks and nailed this one.
All of these shots were taken at long distance, kinda into
the sun, so they basically stink, but, like I said,
this ain't that weather thing, so why am I making excuses?
I couldn't really tell how many cars that BNSF engine was
pulling. Notice, he was headed east. I monitor the radio,
thanks to our high trestle and radio man, Mark, so I knew
something was up and he had to go back to the yard in Lafayette.
That's when stuff got interesting listening to all the chatter.
The tanker to the right is probably full of molasses from the
Patoutville sugarcane mill. It is on a their siding. At least that
is what I thought. Possibly, the siding belongs to the BNSF and
not the Louisiana and Delta? Indeed the Marais is a mysterious place.
I heard that a L& D engine was headed here from New Iberia.
It was probably going to pick up those cars. Now there's
another mystery. I've seen the L&D picking up cars from
the tank location on La.85. Evidently, the mill brings some
cars here for pickup, another mystery in a mysterious place.
Here came the L&D.
He was running backwards by himself. I related to that.
Shonuff, he backed right in and hooked up to the tankers.
He carefully pulled forward. The tension was almost unbearable.
The switch man did what he could to help.
I backed off for a better shot and not to appear to be a stalker.
I know I make some people uneasy. Dudes, I'm not taking
your pictures, I'm taking train shots, so get a life, you ain't
Bradley, that you? What you frowning at?
With the L&D out of the way, Engineer Bnsf, did his thing.
I missed it but there can be only one story here. He must
have pulled east (forward for him) and then shoved his cars
into the siding where the tankers had been. Then he returned
that east switch to normal. (aligned to the main track) Then
pulled forward and returned the main switch there to normal.
Back in the cab, he was ready to go. Whew, I was having
visions of "Unstoppable".
I really like this model. I looked all over trying to find a likeness.
I'm saying it's one of these. Click to enlarge, like all the rest.
I was thinking these big old engines were pretty expensive.
Not so, it seems. I'll bet you could lease one for next to nothing.
I would joy ride that sucker. It seems that's exactly what the
engineer had in mind, "Heck with work, I'm gone".
So am I, more later. Next will be the Raili-Gras parade in New Iberia.
I know it's Lent, but that doesn't stop the Irish from having a blow out.
Yee ha!!! Put that sucker on 8.