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History Hunts Blog

Following Louisiana's & Mississippi's Historic Railroads

Finding the Lumber Mill Railroads

Following the Historic Rails of Mississippi

Copy Part of SP Write Jeanerette to Franklin (fixed)

This is another flashback. Another chance to move pictures from "unpublished" to "published". It's a digestive process and merely an interoffice thing.

The story rap goes like this:
I was wondering about where the old train stations were in Sugarcane Alley. I had found coordinates that described their whereabouts pretty well if you did a little calculating, so I gave that a try. To the untrained eye, or one non receptive to "make believe", this will be a little "out there" or possibly surreal. Acceptance of the past in the present can be like that. To help with the transition, I'll ask you to accept the past in a past context.

This is where the station was at Olivier, La.87.

The following will be along present day La.182, aka OLD US 90.

This one was at either Sandager, Lifenite or Hope. These place names, for the most part, are lost to history.

Here's a tough one. It is where the Albania Plantation siding was.
Down in there is an old mini trestle. To bad this shot doesn't show it well.

Stretching out south of Jeanerette, past Sorrel and Matilda.

This is the old Adeline Plantation smokestack.

Here is the location of the depot. The road probably marks the spot?

Or, those bushes might reflect high ground where the depot might have been.

You may have witnessed the last mention of the Adeline Depot to be found anywhere.

I arrived in Baldwin. I like Baldwin. I don't don't know why?
It might be this old warehouse? It is right next to where the Baldwin Depot was. The Baldwin Depot is now at the Patout sugar mill in Patoutville. I've seen it. I've seen Mary Ann and the other 2 girls, also. Look in the list of writes for Mary Ann and you can see it, too.

Here's the depot's first location.

Wrong. That's just a shell driveway. The station was on the railroad in one of these pictures.

For those interested, this is where the branch down to Weeks Island originated.

This is looking toward the Charenton Canal Bridge. Baldwin is big time railroad stuff. No, Baldwin engines were not made here. That's another Baldwin.


And closer:

The bridge is obviously closed, or rather open. Open is closed. Told you'd it be surreal. We'll have to take the old 90 bridge which was used in the filming of Easy Rider.

This shot was taken at great peril. Don't tell my wife. She rightfully worries. What? Me? I'm Alfred E. Newman.

Look what was waiting on the other side.

I rode into Franklin. I've never fully explored Franklin. Franklin is bipolar. I'll leave it at that.

I found what was shown as tracks on my GPS. Seems like some rails had come right down this street. I was thinking "Franklin and Abbeville RR".

In reality, I know this route was where the Missouri Pacific came in from Irish Bend and joined, side by side, the Southern Pacific. In fact, that's a fact.

Close your eyes, things are going to get bright. I'm pretty sure I was in the Foster neighborhood right where you see "High" written.

Next time, I'll find the Garden City spur. I need to take the ladies at the store some postcards I found. Later.

Copy Spur Gas (ok)

The house expert was unaware of it. I was, too. So, it's a pretty good possibility that you are unaware of the connection between the old Spur gas stations and the railroads, also. In my last ride report, Back Street Riding, I took a picture of this old gas station next to the tracks. A reader in Amite wrote and said this:

The fuel station/distributorship brings to mind the old Spur gas stations. I'm also interested in old filling/service stations and a couple years ago did some internet research on them. Apparently, most places were right by a railroad spur where a tank car or 2 could be spotted and drained into the station's tanks. Hence the "Spur" name. They also carried bulk oil, kerosene, etc.

On my first attempt at searching for more information on Spur Stations, I hit THIS LINK.

The important part on the page was this:

Why does Murphy market under the Spur brand?
When Murphy Corporation entered the marketplace in 1959 by acquiring the well established Spur Oil Company, a logo was the first thing needed to distinguish the company's unique marketing techniques -- while continuing to identify with the Spur brand.

The Spur Distributing Company was formed in 1928 (re-organized as the Spur Oil Company in February, 1959) by J. Mason Houghland, and the Company was head-quartered in Nashville, Tennessee. Spur located its stations on right-of-way land it inexpensively leased from the railroad for 30 days to one year with the obligation to receive product by railroad tank car. At each location the Company erected a small building with a gravel driveway and three or four pumps. Only gasoline and motor oil were sold. The marketing system had less overhead than other marketers because of the relatively cheap transportation of the tank cars and the advantage of having the product shipped directly from the refinery and unloaded into the service station's tanks from a spur track, of side track, of the railroad.

Before Murphy purchased Spur, motorists knew the (still) registered trademark as a representation of one of the railroad tank cars which unloaded product to the stations. The words "SPUR GAS" were printed on the silhouetted tank car, and "SPUR GASOLINE" was printed in a circle around the edges of the glass globe atop the pump. The distinguishing sign was the only such trademark motorists saw from the road.

Murphy employed the New York advertising agency Lippincott & Margulies to originate a new logo that would be a blend of the well known Spur name and its new owner. To-pjCVQZ3U/s400/ScreenHunter_03+Mar.+14+20.04.jpg" border="0" alt=""id="BLOGGER_PHOTO_ID_5313220544842176930" />

And here's what I'll bet was one in Ville Platte.

If you know where an old Louisiana Spur Station is next to the rails or where the rails were, please let me know. Could be a road trip. More later.

Epic Rail Stories: The Railroader’s Boss

The Texas and Pacific Railway, better known as the T & P, was started in Texas in 1881, and became a Jay Gould line in 1900. Gould owned 50.1% of the T & P all the way up to 1928, when his bigger line, the Missouri Pacific, assumed control of the smaller line. Among the 49.9% minority shareholders, the Vollmer family of Fort Worth held the most shares. When I was a child, Mr. W. G. Vollmer was the president of the T & P.

He was impressive if for no other reason than his size. He was 6’6’, weighed about 265, and had been an All American football player at SMU in the 20’s. He came from money, had money, but never ever let his wealth color his relationship with his employees. He laughed easily, and a lot. His family used their wealth to help the less fortunate, and W. G. Vollmer treated every employee as an important cog in the workings of the railroad.

The Alexandria yards had a dead end spur that ended just behind the big two story yard office. When Mr. Vollmer came down from Fort Worth, Business Car No. 1 was spotted on this dead end track, right by the parking lot, and men passed by his car going to and from work. He roamed the yard during the day and night, stopping by the roundhouse and car shops, drinking coffee in the shanties, and riding the switch engines. He wanted to know about each mans family, if all was well with his job, and if the railroad was treating him right.

In the evenings, Mr. Vollmer would sit on the rear deck of his private car, in slacks and an undershirt. Anyone could come and sit with him, and Tom, the porter/cook, always had something cool to drink, and ice cream for the kids. A man could sit and talk to Mr. Vollmer about anything related to his job, with absolutely no fear of any type of retribution. He listened to everyone, from the Superintendent all the way down to the lowest laborer, and when you were on the back of Car No. !, you were treated as an equal in the running of the railroad.
I learned a lot about employee relations sitting with my Dad and Mr. Vollmer, listening to them discuss different things. My dad always brought Mr. Vollmer produce from his garden and sometimes fresh fish for Tom to prepare for him.
I grew up thinking that all CEO’s treated their employees the same as Mr. Vollmer did. Sadly, when I got older, I found that he was the exception rather than the rule.

The T & P had an extensive network of employee recreation clubs, know as Red Diamond Clubs. They had monthly meetings, with the food provided by the railroad. In summer, boxcars of sweet green Arkansas watermelons came along the main line, and each terminal got their share. Alexandria had a huge icehouse, and the melons were iced down and then a big party was held, with burgers, ice cream, and watermelon. In the winter, Christmas parties were held, complete with Santa Claus and gifts for everyone. Each employee got a hand signed Christmas Card from Mr. And Mrs. Vollmer, mailed from Postal Car #1. When an employee’s child graduated from high school, a $25.00 savings bond was Mr. Vollmer’s gift, along with an admonition to do well in life so that the workers on the T & P would be proud!

By the time Mopac took over complete control of the T & P in 1966, Mr. Vollmer had died. My dad often said that his heart would have been broken by the ruthless way that his beloved T & P was ripped apart, and sold to the highest bidders. MoPac kept only the most lucrative parts for itself, and let the rest either rust, or ruin, or pass into history.

I could write a small book on how well the T & P treated its employees, but in this day and age of corporate greed, it would sound like a fantasy. W. G. Vollmer was the exception rather than the norm, and sometimes I wish I could go back to the 1950’s, when a tall man with sparkling eyes, a true sense of humor, and an endless supply of ice cream sandwiches made a young kid think that his Dad was someone very important. Why else would he be sitting on the back of a fancy business car dressed in his work khakis, talking to the president of the finest railroad in the world? He had to be important to rate that honor!

Rail Investigations: Kaplan Questions Answered

I tread lightly upon the surface of history. From time to time someone notices my prints and brings attention to what I've stepped upon. I then repeat all that they tell me by posting that knowledge within an explanation of my often pointless ramblings. After that, I take credit for it all. Lately, I've learned to refine this game. I've met some people that know stuff. I've met other people that know stuff but want to learn more. I put them together using myself as a conduit. As a conduit, I am privy to all questions and answers that pass by. Most of the time, just the questions are more than I know. When one of my experts answers the question, it is a real bonus. So, now you know, but you don't really know how much I really know or knew prior to knowing. Does it matter? I think not. Knowledge should be free. Knowledge makes you smarter. Knowledge will set you free. I know it's helped and freed me up a bit. Thank you questioners and and the ones that answered.
As acting conduit, here are some questions coming out of Kaplan and the answers headed back that way. If Kaplan had an acting historian, Donella would hold the title. She is driven. To find the name of the Southern Pacific station agent there, she just reviewed 6000 draft cards of the World War One era. Absorb that number. I know it sounds "wierd" (an inside joke) What it amounts to is something called "commitment", an historical word.

This page is just a look inside a few of her request and the answers she's gotten plus a little lagniappe at the bottom . I'm including this page in History Hunts because it applies to several rides I've taken following these southwest Louisiana Railroads. Actually, it is a lot easier doing it this way than trying to pry those old writes apart to insert this stuff which could seem a little out of place since none of the rest of the writes go into such detail. The guy that answers her first question does a dissertation, which is fine. The more the merrier. He also spouts credentials which I will leave out due to his desire to remain anonymous. I call him Double-O-L and he likes it.

OK, let me set the plot. Donella was wanting to know Kaplan's railroad history. She had found an ancient article in an old Abbeville newspaper, I think it was. It mentioned several railroads by their initials. RRI's [rail road initials] are maddening to me and the rest of the lay rail world community. It is all alphabet soup. The names are confusing enough.

The date is April, 1902.

Her question was this:

Back in 1901 and 1902....I find a KCS RR and a I&GN RR that were interested in running lines through Vermilion Parish. KCS was interested in connecting Leesville with Abbeville and I&GN wanted to establish a line from Houston to New Orleans that would parallel the existing one (at that time.) and they were interested in passing through Gueydan. The line would be called Houston Beaumont & New Orleans. My question is: Were these companies part of Southern Pacific in 1902?

OO-L's answer:

No, neither the KCS nor the I&GN were part of SP, then or later.

The Kansas City Southern Railway Company was incorporated on March 19, 1900, and on April 1st it assumed control of the properties of the Kansas City, Pittsburg and Gulf Railroad after purchasing them in foreclosure. The KCP&G had been completed in 1897 between Kansas City and Port Arthur (through Leesville), and it included a branch from De Quincy to Lake Charles. [he adds his credentials which would reveal his true identity].... I've never heard of any KCS ambitions to build through Vermilion Parish. I'm not doubting the report, however. The KCS is one of the handful of major railways today.

The I&GN was the International and Great Northern Railroad Company, which had been formed in 1873 as a consolidation of the International Railroad Company and the Houston and Great Northern Railroad. From 1880 forward, the I&GN was controlled by the Jay Gould interests, which also controlled Missouri Pacific, Texas & Pacific, etc. Although it was a separate company there was great cooperation due to the same control. By 1901-1902, I&GN's main line ran from the Border at Laredo through San Antonio and Austin to Longview, where it connected with T&P, and through it to various other Gould lines into the Midwest. They made up a through route between Saint Louis and Mexico. There were also I&GN branches to Fort Worth, and to Houston and Galveston. After the Goulds were out of the picture, and through a complex set of 1924 and 1925 deals, Missouri Pacific acquired the I&GN. It was assimilated by Union Pacific with the rest of MP in 1982.

As of 1902, there were two existing rail routes between Houston and New Orleans. One was part of the Southern Pacific family. It ran from Houston, Liberty, Beaumont, Orange, Lake Charles, Jennings, Crowley, Lafayette, and Morgan City, to Algiers opposite New Orleans. This route west of Iowa Junction belongs to UP today, and east of Iowa Junction to BNSF. The other Houston-New Orleans route as of 1902 was the New Orleans, Texas & Mexico Railway, part of the Gulf Coast Lines (GCL). The route eastward from Houston was to Hardin and Beaumont, then via trackage rights over KCS to De Quincy, then east via Kinder, Eunice, Opelousas, Livonia, Port Allen, and a ferry to Baton Rouge, then via trackage rights over Yazoo & Mississippi Valley to New Orleans. This route belongs to UP today between Houston and Port Allen, having come into Missouri Pacific in the same 1924-1925 deal that acquired I&GN.

Any 1902 I&GM interest in building to New Orleans through Vermilion Parish would have been an effort by Gould to rival the existing SP and GCL routes.

ME: the fact that he knows all this is mind boggling. I'm not sure he ever answered her question, but it was impressive.

Her reply:

Here are two articles [I showed you the first, the second, though it is not complete, I'll show below] I came across regarding the rails. I originally wanted [to find]the article on the death of IH Lichenstien, father-in ]law to Abrom Kaplan founder of Kaplan..... I love to read all the other articles to find out what life was like back then. [Donella uses genealogy as a major tool in her research]

About the info your friend sent, it was perfect. I wanted to ask ... what lines did these companies have. With what he told me it makes more since. The article was from the Abbeville Meridional, dated April 19, 1902. Abrom Kaplan approached Southern Pacific the year before and must have sparked some interest with the other companies as the SP began their extension between Gueydan and Abbeville. I do know that as of March 1902, the location of Kaplan was not yet determined. Speculation from KCS and I&GN and from SF, must have put pressure on the SP and they in turn pressured Abrom Kaplan to get a location laid out for the town. In Kaplan's diary he mentioned that the railroad people gave him plenty of trouble.

Me: See what I mean? She asked a question, he responded, and she wrote back with what his answer meant to her. I would have never recognized anything OO-L said as making sense. She, obviously did and explained it as a real life situation, the founding of Kaplan. She further adds: You may have already seen this. It indicates the Iberia and Vermillion RR was completed to Abbeville in 1892.[yes I had and it is on Abbeville's wonderful Railroad Page]

She added:
The Southern Pacific's Louisiana and Western Midland Branch was completed to Gueydan in 1896. This is who the "Section Foreman", mentioned below, worked for.

ME: You have to know the pieces to put the puzzle together.

Now that your wires are all singed with railroad overload, we'll move on to her latest question. Please be seated.

Here's Donella:

I have just searched through 6,000 WWI draft registration cards, looking for the manager of the railroad depot in Kaplan. I found a young man who served as the porter. I found the card I am attaching. Can you explain what this occupation was? or is this the same as depot manager. I found another individual with that same occupation of "section manager" in Erath.

Her question:

Is there any where that Mike may know of to find out who the depot managers were? Does the railroad keep old logs from all the depots?

Another question:

[My Mom met] a Mr. Melancon, he told her he was born in Kaplan and that his father worked for [the railroad]. His mother operated a restaurant. His father died from dysentery after the 1927 flood. In time, his mother remarried another RR man. The first husband was a pumper and the 2nd was a machinist. I contacted him and he sent me this awesome photo. Maybe, Mike can explain exactly what this is. I am not sure if it is in Kaplan. Maybe, it was closer to Abbeville. He did say his stepfather worked around the area keeping the pumps operating properly. The other photo is of Mr. Melancon, (born 1927) with his guns, on a car between Abbeville and Kaplan. So I guess these photos are from the 30's.

PS: Did a "pumper" also put water into the train or just water into the tower/tank. Mr. Melancon told me he pumped the water into tank/tower. I assume the water was also used to keep the livestock in the stock pens from dehydrating! [There was a large corral next to the station in Kaplan. A gentleman told me that cattle were driven through town to the corral for shipping]

More: There are other men who are just listed as RR laborers, with no other title/description.

Me: Now the 2 neat photos. The amazing little car and the cowboy on the boxcar.

A railed Bat Car?

C. Alphonso de LaSalle asked whether Mr.Melancon was fighting of Indians or holding the train up.

Mike responded, adding even more lagniappe:

A section foreman was the supervisor of a track gang, and had responsibility for a defined 'section' of track, and all maintenance thereon. This was in the days before $5 million dollar track maintenance machines. All work was done by hand, from pulling spikes and ties, to laying new rail and ties. They did not do any work on bridges however. The section foreman was a fairly good job, and came with a nice house, and free coal oil for lanterns and coal for heat and cooking. Mr. Les Golmon was the section foreman for the stretch of T & P track from the south Alex yard limits to the LaMourie briidge. Mr Hanley Gremillion had the section from Lamourie to the east end of the Meeker siding, just past the Meeker mill. Both were super men, and treated their hands well.

ME: Since she had mentioned "laborers", Mike clarified that and then added another story:

Usually the station porter did the odd jobs around the depot/station. He swept up, kept wood/coal for the stoves supplied, helped with Railway Express or baggage as needed. Usually they were older men who could no longer work on the track gangs. Some even had a place to sleep at the depot, as they had no family. Palmetto had Smokey Joe, a gray headed old black man, who was a favorite of the railroaders because he always waved to them as they passed by. His funeral in the late '50's was attended by many who had had contact with him over the years. He lived in a room off the freight shed, and folks helped him fix it up nice.

Do you see how it all snowballs into a conglomerate of stories, recollections, the products of endless research and that old word "commitment". These people, all the above, are committed to keeping history alive. I stand in awe to their knowledge and their unending energy to continue its pursuit.

I almost forgot the train schedule that is in the Kaplan town museum on Cushing Ave.

"This is the schedule from Kaplan's newspaper, 1905, original under glass and my camera was having issues".

This is the second article she spoke of concerning the various railroads jockeying to connect with Kaplan.

Now, though not a question, it was one of those observed foot prints I was talking about earlier. I had been down to Burns Point and had mentioned that I'd had to wait for the train to pass. My old buddy Steve sent this reflecting on his relative who lives near the crossing. Yes, indeed. BTW, Mike and Steve are cousins. Is it a coincidence that they end up on the same page?

The article is by Jim Bradshaw of the Lafayette Advertiser. Mr.Bradshaw was a driving force in the creation of the wonderful Carencro High School Website that I have used to plan many a History Hunt.

There you go, even more questions.

You can find all the railroad articles on the front page of History Hunts.

First Ride New Iberia

I had done a little tuneup on Mz Guzzi. She likes the attention even if it is only psychologically beneficial. After our session, I checked to see if she was carrying all the support equipment she needs as a big boned Italian wench. We hit the road headed south. This was going to be a short putt so I headed to the most scenic stretch closest to the house. I think Section 28 road fills that bill. I was most distraught to find there is clearing going on in the once haunted woods. I hope the the landowners reap their due. It is a travesty. Let's move on.

Long story short, I ended up in New Iberia, coming in from the east on 86. I crossed Main and St.Peter and headed west. Let me say right here that I was almost tempted into doing a photo article on NI. It is a magnificently pretty and historical place. That is not true of all its area, but what town is 100% pretty? I knew I'd cross the BNSF tracks soon. I was south of the old Southern Pacific depot, an unfamiliar area to me. I came upon this large, rather ugly cement building which looked like it was a product of the post-Civil War, Reconstruction Error or maybe, the Obamic novel, "1984". It was the parish courthouse. It should have been painted gray. It was right at the tracks. It was closed for President's Day, I saw no American flags. February must be a happy month for our bureaucratic zombie clones with an attitude. That made viewing what was to come a lot easier. No traffic, no pedestrians, no winos, no screaming baby parades, no knife fights, no guns.

What interested me were the curbs on either side of the tracks and, was this the main line, this one set of rails? Here's looking up and down the tracks. It's the addiction. I was only out for a short ride and here I was looking down the rails again.

Why do people walk down railroad tracks? The obvious answer is that it's the shortest way to get somewhere. A deeper reason is that it gives the home bound a connection with the rest of the world. I remember, as a kid, kneeling down and touching the tracks and knowing I was touching the whole country and, even, other countries. Actually, I probably didn't think about "other countries". Looking down the rails is looking into adventure. Even if you are unable to go on an adventure, you know it's there when you are ready. It's hope. "Hope you can believe in", quote BO. I may vomit. If you believe his crap, you are being railroaded.

I saw this signal and wondered why it was there. It is for cars that might turn left across the tracks. I looked and looked and there were no tracks ahead of the signals, only to its left. It seemed confusing to a country boy. I now see a deeper message here. There it is America, your warning against turning left. Clarity comes with a second look. Better do that before you cross over. You do see the cemetery on that side, don't you.

I zoomed down to the depot to see if the curbs extended that far.

The rest of this article, which is not much, will require a map. Click on it and it will open up. Open it in a new window and you can keep it handy as we ride on. The rails that you see veering to the left go to Delcambre, seen on the map. New Iberia was a railroad hub. This map will show that.

I rode down to the depot just to ride down to the depot.

I went to the west side and shot the rails leaving the main line. Notice the old rails stuck in the ground. Do you need a set of mystery rails to figure out, there you go. This was on Pershing St. Note the very long ties. Those mystery rails had tied into the active rails not that long ago. At least there has not been a tie change in that period. How long do ties last?

I heard the horns. I'm starting to think I'm a train magnet. I rushed back to the courthouse because I wanted to have the curbs as part of the pictures. I made it.

The train was slowing, really slowing.

Then, the engineer tooted the horn in two quick burst at me. It was a "Hi". I was reduced to 6 years old.

I continued shooting. See him waving at the window?

The train stopped just short of the far switch that connects the L&D RR rails to Delcambre. Even in this age of robots, I guess the engineer or conductor still has to switch the switch. This was zoomed way out and I didn't know that I was catching this drama until I saw the shots at home. I had to further enlarge the pictures, the reason they are blurry.

There were a lot of cars waiting on him.

The switch switched, the train was on its way to Lafayette with a great acceleration.

I decided to follow the tracks south and then east through the unfamiliar neighborhoods. I saw a bump which I knew had been a spur off the main line. I looked ahead and what did I see?

It is the Konriko Rice Mill or the Comrad Rice Mill, I'm not real sure on this.
The rail route I was following, I later learned, was that of the Missouri Pacific down Pershing St.

I just found the answer. "Since 1912, the Conrad Rice mill has been making long and medium grain rice under the brand name of Konriko. Visitors to New Iberia can get a first hand look at the fascinating process that goes into producing this important food". I also saw a claim that it was "America's oldest rice mill.

This little ride was getting even better. I started circling and taking pot shots.

I got a little more of the street view.

Mz Guzzi, my motorcycle, was heard complaining about being blocked by the stop sign.

Here's the Visitors Center. I didn't go in. I rarely do. I may next time. I always say that.

This was around the side. I think this is where the grain was brought into the mill.
I was proven wrong. I say stuff like the above in order to lure information.

Unloaded from these.
Al said, "That elevated shed over the truck, or whatever that was, I think, is a hopper that holds the chaff and hulls left over from the milling, they haul it off and pile it up. The converted sugarcane cart may have been used for a similar purpose, but definitely was not used to haul rice in".

The place is still open and continues to host visitors.
It is marked as "Mill" on the map. That's it for this one.