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The "safari" was planned.
I had noticed that the north and southbound Amtrak City of New Orleans
passenger trains come very close to meeting.
Being one who appreciates "time and motion", I thought it might be
neat to witness such an occasion.
I was told that there had been a double set of rails between New Orleans and Chicago.
Now, "the main" and "passing tracks" have taken their place.
In the good old days a train could run through with few impediments.
Not so today. The right of way requires regulation.
One City of New Orleans passenger train would have to nest while the other flew through.
Finding the nest would be the trick.
Finding a late southbound would be the other trick.
Amtrak is late all the time.
This should be easy.
Help was offered.
Though train directives are not radioed on these rails,
still there is radio communication.
The "hot box" detectors talk, train to train conversations occur and maintenance people yack, to
name just a few examples.
Frequencies for all CN radio talk are 161.190 from New
Orleans to Osyka and 160.920 Osyka to Jackson.
Talking detectors that are audible from Hammond are at MP 897
(Skip), 879 (Manchac), 867 (Ponchatoula), 855 (Natalbany), and 844
The two Cities (of New Orleans Amtrak trains) generally meet at Manchac, Frenier or
Skip. If the southbound is running late, it will sometimes meet the
northbound at the Natabany siding (between Natalbany and Hammond) with the
northbound making its Hammond stop first. If the southbound is really
late, they can meet at Arcola, Kentwood, Osyka, or McComb.
Here is a slightly different version of the locations and names of some
talking detectors in Tangipahoa and their mileposts:
Tangipahoa Detector 833.4
The information above was courtesy of Agent 00-L and his varied connections in the railroad underworld.
Great, my earphone died but I did hear grinding. That was my rear brakes. And my written list of all the POI's went sailing out of my pocket. Don't put paper in your t-shirt pocket. Nevertheless, I had studied the plan in such depth I remembered most of it and I was very familiar with the layout.
I started by taking a look at the passing tracks.
This is the north end of the one at Natalbany. It extends to north Hammond.
This is looking back north at Hammond.
I had to make a phone call and this was maybe the last available shade.
It was made from the non tourist side of the Ponchatoula depot.
Heading south down the single rails from Ponchatoula.
I was now in the marsh. Some Federal entity provided a hiking trail.
The center board was rotten. The other two were not far behind.
A very nice crossing was provided.
The trail descended straight into the water.
Perhaps for canoes, no, there was no canoe trail.
I do not see the need for a sign-in station since the trail was less than 50 feet.
I could prepare for this trudge by going to the bathroom a couple of times at night.
It did offer a good look south.
Are you noticing that the rails sit off center?
I think you are seeing the ghost of the twin rails. Oh, and those pilings at Manchac next to the existing bridge?
Next, after crossing Pass Manchac, there is an extremely well built bridge to this installation
As the sign indicates, this is the south end of the passing track that starts to the north after the Manchac bridge.
About this time, a while back, I'd met this freight coming north. Someone on board was extremely
friendly and sang a song with the horns as they passed.
He was back and did a repeat performance.
But this time he had brought his magician's hat with him.
Poof, what should appear!!
So, it hadn't been just the freight's horns I was hearing.
The chase with the southbound was on.
After a fair distance I came to the first road that would intercept the rails.
I sat, paced but figured she'd beat me. She did and she wasn't stopping.
This was the beginning of the Frenier passing track .
The passing track was occupied.
A waiting southbound Amtk would not be on it.
I had one more road to check but the sb would not be there.
Looking north the green on the main said the southbound had passed.
If they had met it would have been on another passing track closer to the depot.
Time permitted so I resorted to my 3rd major, entomology.
I didn't pursue it because working for Orkin was not my thing, bugs, yuck. Click Here
There was a campground, landing, and honkytonk on the lake.
Next road down was Frenier Rd.
Here came the work crew.
Here came the northbound.
Much honking and celebration erupted.
I could have easily beat her to Hammond but I ran out of envie (giving a hoot) at Ponchatoula.
I heard a freight and the Amtrak exchanging pleasantries and then she was gone.
The freight moved out and the sky began to drip.
I put away the big camera and got out the waterproof one.
He rolled south to where I'd been.
The blue and silver queens were gone.
And so was I.
Oh, remember that there were double tracks between New Orleans and Chicago?
A correction: The pilings in the water at Pass Manchac next to the existing right of way were for the old rail bridge.
A reader had this to say: The railroad pilings at Manchac are not evidence of dual trackage.
The old IC was dual tracked from Chicago to New Orleans but they
sometimes saved money by having one bridge where it crossed water.
Manchac was a case in point. Both lines converged at the bridge. The
pilings are all that remains of the original bridge. IC built the new
bridge right next to the old one, then tore down the old bridge.
The pilings next to old US 51 are the remains of Old old US 51.
There is a lot of evidence of the old road between the newer road and the tracks.
I parked several times on the old old road.
I should have taken a few pictures of the falling down bridges.
They will be gone soon.
From left to right, Interstate 55 carrying US 51, Old 51 (frontage road), Old Old US 51 pilings, old rail pilings, new rail right of way bridge.