It was Thursday. The immediate domestic duties were done.
My wife called and said she was staying where she was
another day. Boredom became unbearable at 2 PM. I
didn't feel real chipper but I knew if I got out in the wind
and took my mind off of stuff, I'd improve. Riding north
gets extended. Riding my little route to New Iberia is a 60
mile round trip and pretty much perfect. Duchamp Road
is a gorgeous stretch which rides the hills and gullies of the
climb out of the Atchafalaya Basin onto the plains. Arriving
at Cade, the main line of the railroad always gives me some-
thing to check out if only the rails. I'm a simple man with
simple pleasures. This would be a simple ride.
If I'm in Cade I'm going to New Iberia, only a few miles more.
In town I found no engines, well maybe one out at the end of
Williams St. It's a blur.
Where were they?
Then I decided to ride over to Abbeville just for the heck of it.
It was only a few miles ....
I took the Avery Island Road following the Louisiana & Delta RR
tracks. These were once the rails of 3 railroads, the Iberia and Vermilion,
the Franklin and Abbeville, and the Southern Pacific.
At I&V Junction, I took off to the west through Lee Station, roughly
the incoming route where Tropical Storm Lee made landfall recently. The
water was almost gone in the ditches so I knew the road following
the tracks would be safe.
Below is a big map. Right click it and open in a new window to follow along.
I came from the north, then went west to Abbeville. The yellow line
is the railroad's right of way.
I would not trade our weather for that of any other place.
Thursday would be the best day of the year since May.
The sky was, well look, and the temperature was in the
high 70's. Perfection. For those from the Ukraine, that is
sugarcane growing and the appropriate harvesting machinery.
Those are the rails to Avery Island. Not far south from here
they have been pulled up. I was just south of I&V Junction
where these rails split away from those that once went west
to Gueydan and then up to Midland and then to Eunice
and Mamou on the Southern Pacific. They were originally
used by the Iberia and Vermillion to bridge New Iberia
"High Water" signs stay up year round.
I tried being up close and personal with the sugarcane. I
was sitting on my bike from which most pictures are taken.
For the first time I noticed that Avery Island could be seen
from the Lee Station Rd. For the Ukrainians, we call these
salt dome supported hills, "islands". I'm not getting into
a geology lesson.
I love rusted metal. This umbrella shed couldn't be passed.
Skipping through Lee Station, Delcambre, and Erath,
covered a million times, I made it into Abbeville.
It was just a few miles further. I had thought that the grain
train which services the rice mill there might be in town.
These cars on the main line ended that thought. Still I'd
go into town and look at the mill and then go home.
What were a few miles?
From the other end of the line of cars, a big grain elevator
supplied a neat background. I hadn't seen the nasty wires
which I consider a blemish on any photo, except pictures of
Threading my way through eastern Abbeville, I finally
arrived at the mill. Holy Camolly, look what was there.
I was just in time. Her lights were on. She sat there for
over an hour with her lights on. I stood around and took
some shots of the mill and ..............
The hopper loading facility.
And zoomed in on the L&D engine. That's Ray, the brakeman.
She continued sitting. I circled and circled.
I finally took up residence in a historic cemetery where it
was cool and I, at least, had a few people to exchange thoughts
with on what was going on. "Patience" was suggested by Mrs.
Toups, age 165. Alfred, 150 and John, 175, gave her a bad time
about that. Wilfred suggested getting drunk while we waited.
I suggested to him that he wasn't driving. He said he was. I
wasn't going to question him further. Being that I was in a
cemetery where most had died prior to the turn of the last century,
I didn't worry too much about how fast Wilfred might be driving,
and for sure he wasn't going anywhere, so I continued taking pot
shots of the surroundings.
I got interested in the clientele at the Ace Hardware store.
Most either carried weed eaters /spin trimmers in or out.
I also assessed muffler sounds as there was a full spectrum
of loudness. I tried to coordinate personal appearance with volume.
My findings are still being analyzed.
From time to time I monitored my bike. It was safe next to the
pile of gravel. Traffic was limited for a short distance by construction
so I got to check out each vehicle and its loudness, also.
For those w/o mirror vision. That's "Old Masonic Cemetery... Est. 1869"
1708 continued to linger.
This one was way weird to me.
JT was born in 1847, one hundred years before me.
He died on my birthday, the day and month, dummy,
not the year.
Whoa, look what had made a move while I was aghast with
the tombstone. Had JT intervened?
Don't get excited. This back and forth would go on another another hour.
No problem, it doesn't get dark "till late" and we're on daylight
saving time, right?
I entered the light leaving the cemetery while wishing all a good Fall.
I heard Wilfred reply, "We can't fall much further". Very
Dylanesque Ray looked around to see which way the wind blew.
Morgan, the engineer, cleaned the windshield. The love bugs are out.
A discussion of "love bugs" can be found on page 326.
They'd pull up and pull back. I, looking at these shots, noticed
the grade going down into the Vermillion River valley. On
one occasion, I noticed how 1708 seemed to strain pulling a
long line or cars up, each filled with a full load of rice.
The straining was most noticeable in the above turn.
Possibly Morgan was taking it very easy because of the
condition of the rails. Pulling a heavy load across a weak
fulcrum might have caused a derailment. High school Physics
has haunted me for years.
This is an old car filler station. Of course I'm guessing.
Was it abandoned due to being too narrow? Next time I'll ask.
I was under the shed of the lumber yard.
Traffic on La.82 was stopped a number of times.
I moved to a shaded alley. Surprisingly I wasn't interviewed
by any municipal blue clad employees in black and white cars
which was either generous or lazy. I do pull off my helmet
to disclose the sad truth from time to time.
Notice the stack of rotten ties. The whole line is like that.
I have never heard rails moan like they did. I should have
recorded the sound.
There's my alley and a good look down the "hill".
I really like industrial shots. The more cluttered the better.
OK, what's different here?
Right, he left the "out load" and fetched the " incoming load"
that I saw was blocking the tracks when I came in.
He took them to a yard siding. This is roughly the configuration.
La.82 and the lumber yard (out of sight) are to the right.
The mill is in the middle. The engine had been sitting backed
up into that lower left slot. That's what he had to work with.
Oops, how did he get to the other end?
You're the engineer, use the shot above to figure it out.
He pulled those forward across La.82
I have a reader that likes mirror shots. He says they are reflective?
Then he backed them into a siding, fetched the empties and
took them to the mill. At this point I got tired of taking pictures.
Accept that it happened.
The empties in place. Morgan pulled forward.
Ray never stopped.
See him riding the gondola.
Jerome started filling the empties.
I rushed around to catch them coming. You couldn't do this in a car.
Morgan backed her into the awaiting train. Ray counted off the distance.
Here we go, she's moving east past the old lumber yard and alley
where I'd spent hours.
Remember the grain elevator? She had cleared the tracks
taking those cars to the mill to be filled. This is the shot
I wanted. I had not wanted the dumpsters in it.
That little devil had laid something on the tracks. Probably pennies.
Yea, who hasn't? No, they were silver.
You're busted kid. This will go in your folder.
That is "Railroad Property" where the gravel or sand loader (red)
is. I guess it's a gravel or sand loader. How long had it been there?
The wide ROW signified to me that a yard had been here.
This is what "sky cam" captured. The loader is in the bottom left.
Look closely and you can see the rails running beneath it.
The railroad had its own sand pit.
All these shots expand when clicked. You can see evidence
of the tracks on the road, also.
I moved to the old yard at Erath. "Mack Switch" is obviously
rail related. There was a sugar mill railroad here. I believe it
was narrow gauge like most were.
Another failed artsy picture experiment. The car messed it up.
I set up for the pass.
I kept the camera to the east as she came by.
The sun was beginning to blaze. Any shot to the west would have
melted the camera.
Can you feel the action? I hope so.
At the Delcambre Canal, I positioned myself at the feed store.
The old rail draw bridge is dwarfed by the La.14, 4 lane bridge.
It was being lowered. Great screeching noises were being emitted.
The old steel building to the left has a history. That's all
I can tell you.
Here she came. Ray had lowered the bridge and aligned the
rails, which is a process.
I moved to catch the exiting shots.
I then went to the next crossing and waited for 30 minutes
in a swam of mosquitoes. Evidently they did not like my sun
screen and I wasn't bitten once. Delcambre mosquitoes are
world famous. I was going to hang in there and shoot the train
all the way back to New Iberia. These chances don't come
I decided to ride back toward the bridge. Those suckers, Morgan
and Ray, had tied down and I bet they were having a chuckle
on my dime.
I realized that the sun was falling fast and that I was not
"just a few miles" from home. The dirt bike became a
interstater for a while.
In New Iberia it got serious.
On Lady of the Lake Rd, it got darker.
Obviously I made it, but I'm still in the dark as to how.
Now, a few interesting shots. Below is where the Missouri
Pacific historic rails came in from Loreauville and went down Pershing
Street in New Iberia. I know I know. I have to do these for
a certain minority. The present L&D rails are to the right.
They go to another yard. That was the Iberia and Northern's
route to Port Barre. Later the Missouri Pacific took it over.
The MP had a shop in New Iberia. The building is still there
and in use as a warehouse. The MP rails went down Pershing
and exited town near the Konriko rice mill.
This is the Louisiana and Delta shop in west New Iberia.
It is on the SP Avery Island/ I&V Branch. Bob is the manager
and Lurlene is his secretary. She makes the best coffee in
south Louisiana. Now that's saying something.
This is where the mosquitoes tried to eat me. I was parked
in that point near the car. There were two horses watching me.
I was watching them. I should have taken their picture.
I helped the guy push the car off the tracks. The driver gave
me a racing form from Evangeline Downs for the favor. It
was 3 days old.
This is the big map again.
This is the mill in Abbeville. The red line is me circling.
The yellow line is the tracks.
In the upper left corner you can see the old SP swing bridge
over the Vermillion River.
See it better now?
This is the Delcambre bridge from upstairs. I was in the
parking lot, bottom left.
And that's it for this story. One note. Increments add up.
A few miles can be deceivingly far. Is that bridge bent?