I got run home by a big bad storm. The following is what I
did to make up for really putting something together.
Reflecting, the 75 mile around the block ride may have paid off.
It starts slowly so hang in there.
A shot from yesterday, first.
You can have this picture if you can make a railroad ad out of it.
Seems obvious to me. Tell me what makes more sense, trucks or railroads.
Send your entries Here
This is Snoopy. He lives in a hole and only comes out once a day.
I like consistency. Snoopy is consistent.
So many of the old businesses that served and made Lafayette
a complete, self-sustaining community, have died. These people
knew their stuff and were ready to stop what they were doing,
fixing stuff, to help you when you came in the door. Guidry's
Hardware remains a lasting example of Lafayette's great old
It's time for a poll. I'll present you with groups of pictures.
Each will have a number or letter by it. Please press
the corresponding key on you keyboard for the ones you
like. It will help me formulate future layouts.
Thank You. The results can be found by pressing HERE.
Then hit the back button to return. Then continue scrolling down.
Yea, well that's what we got in the last presidential election.
On with the ride: Into Church Point.
Pure boredom born from riding La.95 from Duson north
through Mire brought me into Church Point. I hadn't been
there in a long time, well since the searches for the "OG" and
the T&P RR right of ways back in the 60's. The sign is wrong.
Rayne is definitely straight ahead. I would turn east toward
home and try to out run it.
But since I was here and I'm locally known as the RR Picture
Taking Nut, I took a shot of the quickly deteriorating
over road warning signals that warned cars that the Tx&Pacific
trains were coming through town. A story will follow on this page.
You can read it if you took the poll. If not, there will be a second chance.
November, 2012 will be ours.
This is the depot or if not actually the depot, the freight platform.
Church Point is the Buggy Capital of Louisiana. Up until
the 60's, back when I was here last, they were daily sights
on the back roads.
Their gas mileage is wonderful. Their pollution totally
recyclable although their methane output is off the charts.
Yea, I better move it.
One more shot.
Exiting town I stopped by the old Canal Refinery. You wouldn't
understand if you don't remember, bless him, Cody Dupre,
the Canal Refining Co. spokesman. "Canal, Canal, Economical".
Moving east fast, and since I was having old rail hunt nostalgia,
I headed up the abandoned Southern Pacific east of Shutleston.
The ROW was so grown over I couldn't get a shot. But I did
monitor the quickly approaching storm.
At I-49 I had to go south. It was trying to flank me.
In the 1 second between these shots, it had gotten worse.
Since I had time, I took the scenic ride down the pretty
road next to the Vermillion called Wilderness Trail.
Then I took several shots of Delila Louisa, "DL" for short.
Ok, one more poll:
Press HERE to vote.
Did you really?
Wow, the cooperation has been great. Now you can read
Mike Wilson's write on his dad's crew on what they called
"The Gravy Train" that ran from Alexandria to Church Point.
First an explanation that I gave about my very early site:
History Hunts is not a railroad site. Railroads are included here because they were a big part of our past. Their routes were the skeleton upon which the body of our country grew. The railroads' pasts have been popular playgrounds for professional and amateur historians. Rail historians are creatures of countless multiple interest. Some are technically prone. Others simply like looking at the old trains. Some investigate the industries associated with the railroads. As an amateur, what I have found hard to find are actual insights into the day to day life of the railroad man and his family. Explanations of the communities that have resided near the rails and accounts of their daily lives are not that rare. What has been missing is the view from the cab. What was it like being an engineer or other member of the crew? What was it like being a child of a railroad man? Mike's recollections and the tone of his story enlighten more than its length would seem capable .
This week, I figured I must be living right. This morning, I was shocked to see someone had signed my guest book. Then the signer laid out a long letter telling of his father's careers an engineer and fireman on a branch line railroad during both the steam and diesel eras. It so happened, I'm familiar and have photographed most of the places of which he spoke. I felt I'd passed through a time machine, suddenly understanding more than one was capable to assimilate in a day.
Seriously, I feel like I've just walked out of the King Tut exhibit, but more fulfilled as old trains blow my whistle more than old Egyptians. My investigations have always centered on drilling down to local life, investigating the obscure and illuminating it to star status. I won't have to do much of that here.
The following lines will be about an engineer and his crew. Their piece in the railroading puzzle was every bit as important as the Goulds of the industry. This write is short and you may think the intro overblown. I hope not. Imagine not standing as a child on the side of the rails and waving to the train, but being a child in the cab, waving to those along the way. That was my guest book contributor's perspective. An epiphany? If not, I'm sorry.
This is from Mike's guest book entry. Gratefully, he would continue adding.
"The Railroader: A Good Day on the Gravy Train"
"The Lewisburg /Church Point railroad ran from Bunkie through Eola, Tate Cove, Ville Platte, Opelousas and then to Church Point. My dad worked for the Texas and Pacific Railroad for 42 years, and actually started with them building the depots and section houses along the "Church Point Branch". He was the engineer on the run from Alexandria to Bunkie to Church Point and back (same day) for the last 21 years of his career. They used to stop and buy fresh eggs, vegetables, etc. from the farmers along the route. One time, he brought a calf home. They had locked it in a box car, and they stopped at our home in LeCompte and my brother and I got him off. He had the same crew for 16 years, because it literally was a gravy train. They usually left Alexandria about 6AM, and were back home for 5 PM. Lunch was always "The Palace Cafe" in Opelousas. When I was a kid, I was allowed to make the trip with them".
I asked him what he meant by "Gravy Train", where the Palace Cafe was and more. Here are his answers and comments:
" Gravy train was a good description...Once they left the T & P main line at Bunkie, they had no other trains to worry about, since the 'branch' was a dead end at Church Point. The conductor would have his 'pick up' and 'set out' orders. That would let them know how much work there was for the day. Some days (not many) they would have to hustle, but most days they ran 15-20 miles an hour, waved to kids, flirted with the women hanging clothes, and generally had a good ride. Major switch points were Tate Cove (the Canal Oil refinery, and the carbon black plant), Opelousas (Lou-Ana Products, American Cotton Compress, and several wholesale warehouses), and Church Point (Church Point Wholesale Grocery). They used to bring tank cars full of wine from California to Church Point Wholesale for re-bottling. 'Gravy train' meant stopping in the little towns to buy smoked meats, vegetables, syrup and honey, etc., something you could never do on the busy main line! The Palace Cafe is on US 190 in Opelousas, right across from the courthouse. It's about 3 blocks east of the old train line. Food isn't as good now as I remember as a kid, but it is full of Imperial St. Landry history. My mother was born and raised at LeMoyen, on US 71, and my grandfather was a prominent cattle rancher in northern St. Landry parish. I used to go with him to Opelousas for business, and we'd always eat at the Palace. Sometimes, I'd be in the next week with the train crew, and the waitresses would fuss over me. My dad started on the railroad in 1929 as a carpenter building ticket counters and cabinets in the buildings the railroad owned. He had been apprenticed as a cabinetmaker back in Georgia as a young boy, and came to La. looking for work. He was laid off in 1932, and managed to hire on as a locomotive fireman on steam engines with the T & P. He worked steam engines until they were phased out in the early '50's for diesels. He hated diesels, because he said they had no 'heart'. He was promoted to engineer in 1950, after 18 years as a fireman (nothing moved fast back then but the trains themselves). He retired June 1, 1971, and never looked back. He loved the railroad, and especially steam engines, but said he had worked all his life, and now he wanted to do what he wanted. He lived another 18 years, and was killed in a tractor accident at the age of 82. His retirement was all he wanted it to be, and for that I'm grateful. He infected me with a love of the rails that I have passed down to my sons and grandsons. I cannot hear a steam engine whistle without tearing up, thinking how proud he was to be in that right seat, one hand on the throttle, and the other on the whistle cord. It was a pretty good job for a mountain boy from Georgia with a 3rd grade education. I have all of his railroad stuff, and wear his Hamilton 992B pocket watch on special occasions.
A typical crew consisted of an engineer, fireman, conductor, and 2 brakemen. As I said, Dad's crew was mostly older hands who appreciated the easy pace of branch line work. They could have made more money on the main line, but the work and stress was so much more demanding. His crew for the last 16 years of his career was: Mr. T A, fireman; Mr.'Red', conductor; Mr. Harold and Mr. Tom , brakemen. Only Mr TA is still alive, and I make it a point to talk to or see him at least once a month. They were dear friends to my father, and super guys to a kid. I have some photos I'll get together for you".
Mike would add and add. Railroading's museum has been blessed.
Mike passed away in April.