Having really gotten bogged down over at Claiborne, I wanted to just take a ride. I knew if I went by myself I'd again get into some big investigative mission and have to come back here and write it all out, complete with research, combining the proof with the pudding. To avoid this, I called up C.Alphonso deLaSalle to see if he would lead my proposed no purpose ride as I consider him the man for the job. Maybe I should introduce you to C.Alphonso, first? You may know him if you've visited here at any length. C.Al is responsible for the great "Couyan Goes Fishing" trips and a few other articles over in the Back Woods Riding Dept. Those were written during his few attendances to work. Most of the time Al lives in the swamp with his five dogs and a raccoon named Willy. You may ask, what does the "C" stand for? It's "Couyan". His parents added that name after he got a little older. He doesn't know why, but we do. Enough introduction. You'll get to know C.Al better as we move along.
I told him that this was totally his trip and to go where he wanted. He wanted to go to the ferry at St.Francisville. That was fine. There are a number of places I can revisit over and over without tiring. The ferry is one of those places. Regretfully, it will not be with us much longer.
We were off to the ferry. Arriving there, we found it closed. Nothing can squash Al's enthusiasm. He immediately saw the situation as a Kodak opportunity. He wanted his picture taken while holding his trademark half filled coffee cup so that he'd have something to show Willy, and, of course, the dogs, who I knew he was already missing. Maybe I had bitten off more than I could handle?
After Al's big moment, he came apart. I tried to reassure him that the reason I wanted him to come along was that I didn't want a plan. He said he was lost and wanted to go home. I consoled him and told him that we would head that way with a few stops at places I felt he would like to see. He conceded, and we moved on. I would extend the "return trip" northward to what I call the Torras Peninsula, one of two peninsulas that jut into the Mississippi River between the Morganza Spillway and Simmesport.
Here's the first map:
We went north on La.1, crossed the Morganza Spillway and immediately turned east on La. 972. If you look at the map you will see the original location of 972 before the Spillway was built in 1958. BTW, the original La.1 can be seen from the new elevated La.1. The concrete, even after being flooded for 50 years, is still in pretty good shape. Somehow we un-learned road building.
I stopped where I'd seen this machine. I asked Al if he had an idea of what it could be. Al sees and understands stuff. He guessed it to be a part to an old oil rig, seeing a well head across the road. He did correctly identify it as a oil burning twin cylinder engine.
In a lonely place atop a rise where 3 levees came together, a pickup stopped beside us. A man leaned out of the window and said that the engine was part of an old cotton gin. Then he disappeared down the road. I guess we had that look?
The gin was part of the LaCour plantation. I had recently found the LaCour Spur that came off of the main line and went to the plantation. Next, we'd find the LaCour's home, Old Hickory.
I was again at the focal point of one of my favorite landscapes.
Here's the next section. Points of interest seen along here are the old sugar mill stack across La.1 which is very close to 418 near Innis and St.Stephen's Episcopal Church.
Al seemed to think the top of the stack had been broken off making it look stubby.
Next up was St.Stephens and its graveyard.
The cemetery contains the famous statue memorializing the Confederate soldiers of Pointe Coupee Parish.
Here's an augmented version of a side view. I tried to get the windows to show up.
Next was our visit to the Angola Prison landing. More on it later.
At this point, Al shot down to the shore exclaiming that he needed to touch the water. He turned and spread his arms. My jaw dropped.
As I flashed on this:
It is de LaSalle discovering and placing a cross on the shore of the Mississippi. We are now in the middle of an intense study of Al's genealogy. He has explained his need to explore repeatedly. The only piece of the puzzle that doesn't work is his proneness to being homesick.
That's it for today. Tomorrow it will be on to Torras Landing and a lot of train history that kept this place shaking for many years.
First of all, I suggest reading The Louisiana and Arkansas Railroad, The Story of a Regional Line by James R.Fair. His book is what brought me here to the "Torras Peninsula". In reality, C.Al and I visited The Avoyelles Parish Big Bend Store Museum on La.451 at Big Bend, LA. The excellent spiel delivered by the host there initiated reading the book after I actually bought it, as suggested by the host. If you are in Louisiana, or even Mississippi and like grade hunting, this is the one for you. It is an amazing thing when you can see what others don't. Oh the other hand, when proven wrong about your perception, it can be a little disquieting. I seem to be floating. Let's get back to the ride.
After visiting the Angola Prison landing, it was time to move west on La.418. Torras Landing had stuck in my mind as a place where, possibly, the rail ferry had crossed over the Mississippi to Angola. TO READ PAGE ONE, to see the St.Francisville ferry location, to see the Angola ferry location, and meet Al, CLICK HERE.
At this point I want to confess that I WAS completely confused about the location of the rail ferry landings after the Naples to Angola route was terminated. From this point on the page, parts have been rewritten for 2 reasons. I'm sure I can approximate the west dock. My assumption is somewhat echoed by a reader who seems grounded in logic. I'm usually happy with speculation as that works for me. The second reason I'm redoing this page is that it was stolen by a Chinese website. That's cool, now One Hung Low has incorrect and confusing information, not what you'll ever find here.
I have read and been told that the LR&NRR crossed the Mississippi at what is now the location of the Angola Prison Ferry, where we were on 418. That was, I feel, incorrectly stated in a noted online encyclopedia. I have also read that the train ferry went across at Filston, previously known as Phillipston, also known as Incline, to Angola. My map shows Phillipston closer to Legionier where the new tracks connected to the then new Simmesport bridge, built by the railroad and the state in 1928. The red line on the map, [click to enlarge] below, shows the rails coming from Legionier to either the Torras landing which is closer to where Garmin places Plillipston and Phillips Lake or to where the Angola Landing is shown. I would disregard the present Angola Landing. I am open to any good argument for that spot if you have it.
I went on to argue against my final thesis. I've removed it as it was wild speculation about a meandering river 70 years ago.
CLICK THE MAPs, choose "open in new window".
The red line would be the line coming from Legioneir. "T" would be the logical place to put the west landing. "A" is the present Angola Prison landing, the one I feel is commonly thought of as being the historical rail ferry landing.
Here's another map I'll try to explain.
These routes are not in Fair's book or maybe my memory and ability to find it again is lacking. Nevertheless here goes:
On the left you see an "S". That is the bridge to Simmesport which was opened in approximately 1928. It did away with the train ferries that had to be used between Naples on the Red River, near Big Bend on La.451, and Angola. So, In 1928 the train came over the Atchafalaya River at Simmeport-Legioneir, but still had to get across the Mississippi as there was no Huey P. Long Bridge at Baton Rouge, yet.
New tracks were laid between Legionier (Simmesport, east) and Filston which I now believe is near the original Torras Landing. That is the red line, but just to the "T", not to Angola. After the ferry was no longer needed due to the bridge being built at Baton Rouge, the L&A, formally the LR&N, still took the long ride to almost Torras Junction (where red and yellow cross) where there was a bad curve I have labeled as "Derailment Curve". The trains then hopped on the Texas and Pacific line which connected south from Torras Junction to Lettsworth where the train could continue southeast toward Morganza.
The T&P ran traffic from Lettsworth to Vidalia or Ferriday, nevertheless, "up north" along La.15.
The L&A abandoned this long loop in 1953, replacing its route along the green line. The move was too late to avoid the worst accident in L&A history. In 1951, a troop train and the line's jewel passenger train, the Southern Bell, had a head-on collision 1.67 miles north of Lettsworth, killing 13 and injuring 82. The fires burned at an estimated 2000 degrees with almost nothing salvageable. It all happened right down there.
That's an outline of what I believe was going on out here. Fair mentions tracks from Torras Junction to Lobdell which is at the foot of the Huey P.Long Bridge across from Baton Rouge. That I can't contend with right now as C.Al and I are just getting to Torras Landing.
The mention of the Texas and Pacific leads right into Mike's story of his father and the rest of the guys that turned back Nature when she got evil back in 1945. That story can be read HERE.
C.Al and I topped the levee right off of La.418 where the GPS pointed to Torras Landing. What lay before me ignited the usual hung jaw "wow" I usually get when I know I've found some treasure or see people mysteriously reenact momentous historical occasions. C.Al later convinced me that I had crossed over one too many times and was calling everything "RR memorabilia". That is still up for discussion. Keep going.
CLICK PICTURES, ESPECIALLY THE MAPS, TO ENLARGE
At the end of this supposed rail bed is a river monitoring station. The embankment was probably built as access to that station. Try to remember this. It supports the Torras thesis I have conjured up.
Here's yet another map. I want you to get excited about being in this very special place. You can tell your neighbors that you've seen it and know it exists. Not everyone does. This one you have to open in another window to follow along. [a browser window, Fred] Here's the rap on the map. See "Torras Landing". That's where we are. Looking north you can see the Mississippi-Atchafalaya lock inlet. The locks are on the navigable connection between those two Rivers. The channel that branches off to the north from the locks channel below the "D"in "Old Control Structure" may be the location of the old Control Structure which Mike talks about in his latest "The Railroader" article mentioned above. You have to read that one. More on that place shortly. Also seen is Shreve's Bar. That passageway to the east is Shreve's Cut, where Captain Shreve, Shreveport's namesake, cut this route to improve shipping.
Here's what we could see from Torras Landing. Oh, the purple line is our route.
A tug and barges headed on the west route to the locks.
Here's Shreve's Bar. The Locks inlet is to the left, hardly seen, if seen, but I saw it.
From Torras, we moved north on 418 to La.15. C.Al had never seen the locks or the present river control structure. I consider this place special. All levees are special, but this section of levee is probably the most important few miles in the United States and I want everyone to see and understand what it is all about.
Google "Old River Control"
Just past the locks there are these large pillars out in the marshy pond.
Yes, ladies and gentlemen, those are the piers to the Texas and Pacific Railroad Bridge. This is the place where the old control structure almost failed which would have allowed water to flood Morgan City way to the south. It was removed and some of the gondolas drug up, the ones they could find, and the new structure built up river. That story explains a lot of what you see there now.
At the point I wanted to show you some old newspaper clipping form 1919, concerning Torras, the town which was here and why it's not. But I can't, just yet. These are Mike's words, first, "Torras was a functioning town on Old River, sitting on both sides of the T & P Railroad. It was flooded in 1890, and then washed away in the bigger flood of 1900. Apparently, it was a pretty big thriving town until the double floods. You can still see the T & P roadbed on Google Earth, running through what was Torras, then across Old River, and heading on north towards Vidalia. All that track was taken up right after the high water of 1945".[His Dad's incident]
"It's ironic that the new control structure (on the north loop of Old River) almost had the same thing happen to it in the high water of 1973. Alas, there were no railroad crews to rescue the Corps then".
From there, C.Al and I rode on up to the new Control Structure and ate some lunch and fed a stray mama dog.
Then I wanted to show him Edenborn's bridge and where La.1 had crossed the Atchafalaya.
A visitor has offered up this information on William Edenborn, a true American success story. He then goes on to explain a lot more. Get Fair's book, all that is covered there.
"William Edenborn was the founder of the LR&N. He was born in Wilhelm Emden in Germany in 1848. He came to America at the age of 19 to make his fortune. He worked in the steel wire business. By the time he was 22, he and a partner had their own small wire mill in St. Louis. He came to specialize in barbed wire by 1882, which is when his business really took off. He became known as "the man who fenced the West." Around 1901, he sold all of his wire industries to United States Steel for $50 million. He had begun building the Shreveport & Red River Valley Railroad in 1896, which he renamed the Louisiana Railway & Navigation Company in 1903. It reached New Orleans in 1907. Edenborn also acquired a rail route between Shreveport and Dallas, which became the Louisiana Railway & Navigation Company of Texas. Whereas other railways were corporations, the LR&N was a sole proprietorship. He filed ICC documents as "William Edenborn, doing business as Louisiana Railway & Navigation Company." Both Edenborn and the LR&N were very frugal. He would sometimes go out along the track himself and collect loose spikes and other scrap into little piles for his men to come along and pick up to be sold. He was one of the richest man in the USA when he died in 1926. At that time, he and his wife Sarah lived in an ordinary home on Doodle James Road off LA 471 between Atlanta and New Verda in southwestern Winn Parish. He's buried in Forest Park Cemetery in Shreveport".
He goes on speaking of the original route the train took from Naples to Angola. It is not often you are treated by what sounds like a teacher, "The original LR&N line diverged from the current KCS alignment at Moreauville, right at the center cross hairs of the map HERE. Drag the map with your mouse and follow the dashed line northeastward past Borodino, Voorhies, and Bordelonville, then eastward and southeastward until it strikes the Red River (formerly Old River) at the second "E" in the word "AVOYELLES." That was the location of Naples, the first ferry landing. From the time that the LR&N was built until the Simmesport bridge opened in 1928, the ferries plied the waters the whole distance from Naples to the opposite landing at Angola on the east side of the Mississippi River. Now you know why "Navigation" was part of the company name!
In 1928, the widow Sarah Edenborn sold her railroad to the Couch family interests of Arkansas, who simultaneously acquired the Louisiana & Arkansas. Both were combined under the L&A name. The Simmesport bridge was a joint project of the L&A and the state, because LA 1 also ran across it until the 1970's. To reach the new bridge, the L&A obtained trackage rights on an existing T&P branch line between Moreauville and Simmesport. (The T&P line went south on the west bank of the Atchafalaya River from Simmesport to the T&P main line at Melville.) Now, drag the last map to Simmesport. From the east side of the Atchafalaya River at Legonier, you can easily follow the dashed "old railroad grade" eastward to the Mississippi River just above a gauging station shown on the map. This was the approximate location of the L&A's Filston ferry landing. The precise Filston premises have been erased by the meanderings of the river. As you can imagine, the Simmesport bridge and this new line to Filston greatly speeded L&A's schedules to New Orleans by shortening the ferry voyage by miles!"
He goes on to mention some of the stuff I have said, but you needed a review, anyway.
"The other old railroad grade in northern Pointe Coupee Parish, the one from Lettsworth to Torras, was part of a T&P branch that went from the main line at Addis up the west side of the Mississippi River all the way to Ferriday. The 1928 L&A line crossed it just west of Filston". [Torras Junction]
Here I continued arguing with myself: If Torras Junction was "just west" of Filston, then the present day Angola crossing can't be the crossing because "just west" would not describe the almost 4 miles from Torras Junction to the present Angola crossing.
He continues, " The Kansas City Southern (previously extending only between Kansas City and Port Arthur via Shreveport) acquired the L&A [Prviously Edenborn's RR] in 1939. The 1940 opening of the US 190/rail bridge on the Mississippi River at Baton Rouge would give the KCS the opportunity to scrap the ferry crossing entirely and begin operation of the famed Southern Belle streamlined passenger trains between Kansas City and New Orleans. In preparation for this, KCS built another new line segment, this time between Legonier and Lettsworth, and got trackage rights over T&P's existing line between Lettsworth and Lobdell Junction just west of the new bridge. The rest of the T&P line north of Lettsworth was abandoned at some time afterward. That left the current arrangement of tracks".
[The Belle actually was using the old tracks to Torras Junction when that bad wreck occurred, referring to Fair's book]
Back to the ride:
C.Al and I turned off of 418 right after going under the RR overpass. Right before the overpass, on the north side, there is a lumber business. The gate to the right of it goes to the right of way to the Legionier to Torras Junction section.
We rode up as close to the bridge as I now feel comfortable. There are no "No Trespassing" signs until the actual bridge. A deputy did question me there one time as if I was a terrorist. I guess he'd gotten some Homeland Security training and was practicing. He did a good job. He asked who my Mama was and more.
C.Alphonso had to check on the dogs and Willy. His wife, Tooty, said all was well but the washing machine was leaking and his sister had won first prize at the Boudin Festival. He was vague about what contest she had entered.
I have a hundred pictures of this bridge. This is not one of the better, but it is the one at hand. First, I got CA to step back.
Now the bridge.
Which opens the door for more of my visitor's additions.
"Did you ever notice that the KCS bridge at Simmesport and the UP bridge at Krotz Springs have one pier each that has been replaced by an arrangement of two piers (one on either side of the line of track) spanned by a cast concrete header beam that supports the bridge structure? [ME: no] That is because each of them had one pier that got undermined by the river, began to lean, and had to be replaced".
He continues, "Once, many years ago at Krotz Springs, I was told a story by an elder gentleman. He said that during one of the great floods, the rail bridge there was vibrating dangerously from the force of the current against its piers. The railroad decided that it would vibrate less if they'd park a heavy train on it. So, they brought in what they had available, a loaded train of coal. That helped some, but the vibration was enough to cause friction between the coal and the steel of the cars. When the heat built up enough, the coal caught afire, and the whole train of coal went up in smoke on the bridge. I have no idea how true this story might be. I have asked most other Louisiana rail historians if they could confirm it, and none could".
"The Krotz Springs rail bridge was built in 1909. Contemporary with the opening of the new rail/highway bridge at Simmesport in 1928,[where we are]. The Krotz Springs bridge was similarly adapted for highway use. This lasted only until the first highway bridge was built parallel to it during the 1930's".
It is amazing what some people know. Next party, just start spewing this stuff out and you'll be the hit. Guaranteed.
One more picture. This one is La.Highway 1 getting ready to cross Edenborn's Bridge.
Another visitor said that his dad or granddad would cross this bridge in the family car. There were times he had to back up quickly. He said he's crossed it on foot.
I could dig that. Hope you've enjoyed this little adventure. I know, for some, it has been a little tedious with all the text. This one has also demonstrated that history, though very interesting, can be a pain in the butt. I don't ask for much in life, but I would like the coordinates of the Filston Landing and the Angola side landings. I may have a few more questions, also.
Oh, C.Alphonso de LaSalle said, "HI".
Update/Thesis and a fact of life: Sometimes you have to go with what you got.
I found this online as part of a very old book (Depression era) of tours through LA.
Doing the math between the two locations' distances, it come out to 1.8 miles between the two. From Torras to the present Angola landing is 3.4 miles, way too far. The exact location of the Filston landing is also mentioned as being washed away. I also read that the Filston landing was at the location of a river stage monitoring station. I firmly believe we were there at Torras Landing. I'm open to any suggestion and would appreciate any grounded argument.
ALSO, THIS IS THE PLACE WHERE DESOTO DIED AND WAS "BURIED" IN THE RIVER HE FOUND.
MORE MORE MORE: To learn more about this area, CLICK HERE to go to the second part of Sidetracks which deals with looking around Simmesport and the T&P rails between Simmesport and Melville, a recently confirmed suspicion. It went parallel to La.105. I sure would like to find some of those trestles. Sounds like a ride, later.
Keith just sent me a map which I agumented. Now I see a wye for turning the trains at the Torras Landing where we were. I am convinced, 100% that we were at the spot.
One map is from my gps, the other is from Keith. CLICK THEM TO ENLARGE