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Yo Yo Ing on US 90

"I'd like you to know at four in the morning, things are comin' to mind
All I see, all I've done, and those I hope to find ..."
excerpt from Bachman-Turner Overdrive's "Blue Collar".

Finally the combination which is required to unlock an outing materialized.
I have so much unfinished business it was hard to choose which to address.
The preserved in concrete rails radiating from the main line south of the Lafayette, La. depot
seemed a place to begin. 
My earphone for the radio had died and hearing the radio over the bike, wind, and ambient noise 
was useless unless stopped. This would be,  for the most part, a free styling day.
I am obsessed with this landmark on a monolithic level.

The one hint I have is that it seemed to parallel the street which may not have been 
a street back in the day.  It is directly across from where the Southern Pacific 
yard was located.

Not being struck by cerebral lightning, I retreated to an uncomplicated world,
my private sport of chasing trains where the competition is a sterile machine.
That is complete nonsense. I won't elaborate, but it is.

The "new" yard would be my next stop.
It is the starting gate.

Amtrak was a little late.
She is the most fun.
Possibly that is because she is not "common"
and you can't chase her.
You can only rendezvous for a passing moment.
For the rendezvous I chose to go to Crowley where there is shade beneath the La.13 overpass
and there  I've never been bothered  since it is public property. 
Rules, rules, rules.
Is there no escape?
Only if you are quick.

I had to take a detour on the way to Crowley and I thought I'd let her get away.
Finding the parked freight on the Crowley siding renewed my enthusiasm.
Little would I know that I was looking at a beached train.
7621 would be my only loss of the day as she would wait me out 
to the point where I had nothing left.
The temperature was in the low 90's and the sun was in laser mode.

"Anticipation" is an inadequate word.
 Photography is probably the sustaining catalyst in this sport along with motorcycling.
My less than adequate cameras are my only tools when dealing with Mz Sunset Limited.

My rules do not allow me to match her speed so a chase is beyond the realm of fair play.
"Fair play"?
Now there's a term which troubles me.
It is only used by those who want a "handicap". 
It's a horse racing term, so cool the political correctness crap, Mr. Moore.
"Handicapping" is why the US is in the fix it is now.

The inclusion of the old mill was by accident.

This setting, though used before, has to be one of the best for depicting local "color".
The rice mill in the distance is a railroad customer. The old building to the right was once one.

The above shot was at mile post 166.
I moved westward to mile post 175, the old rice field irrigation ditch.

Though the trestle, water, and general atmosphere of the place make it a favorite, it is the shade
of the oak that is the draw. I  hate to bust your bubble, but that's the truth.

I waited for 30 plus minutes for 7621.
I had anticipated it getting underway after the passing of the passenger train.
It never came and I threw in the towel realizing that I'd hit a dead day.
No problem. I'd head home and ride the mower in pursuit of grass.
A lonesome tree east of Crowley has always been a beauty spot in this farmer's rice field.

I stopped. 
The radio blasted as an engineer on a westbound (WB) freight communicated with the dispatcher.
Knowing he was close by, I reversed and sped at a lawful 45, then 35, then 25 miles per hour.

Back under the bridge I caught the BNSF passing sleepy 7621.

She was a colorful one.
I spun the bike around and went in pursuit.
Crowley's 35 mph limit would give me a chance as she tried to regain track speed exiting town.
My bike accelerates a bit faster. 

I did give her a head start so I don't want to hear any moaning from the "fair play" crowd.

At good old, historically and mechanically disputed Midland, I waited.
It is a painful place for me having dreamed of a rail crossing that never was.
The Midland Branch of the Southern Pacific was a segmented entity, not 
a continuous one. The fact that the rails above Midland are included in 
the branch has been a disturbing fact in the past and will continue to be
in the future. I can't get over it.
To quote a supposed presidential  candidate who carries more baggage 
than a rail porter of yore, ""What difference, at this point, does it make"?

 Hillary, it does.

I did a celebratory, and somewhat mocking doughnut in the gravel and sped off to our next rendezvous.
The picture below was not planned. 
Many are not and discarded.
Yes, that is a NRA sticker on the windshield.
It has served me well.
There is also one on the trunk.
I don't get tailgated for long.

The bike is 10 years old and had almost 74000 miles on the clock.
She is more an appendage than a tool, though indeed she is that, too.
It took a while for her to achieve "she" status.
Mz Guzzi had that down from day one.

Below is an "in flight" shot taken with the little camera which resides in my shirt pocket.
Going into the angling sun does not work, ever.
Still, the shot does communicate the environment of the race track.
It was originally almost completely black.

 She was slowing for the Mermentau River bridge.
The limit is 25 mph on it so I'd have time to cross and try to set up for an exit picture
looking into a sun friendly east.

Knowing that, I slowed for a better shot.

Here is my copyrighted "side of helmet" perspective.
Use this technique without approval and I'll see you in court.

Arriving late because of the previous picture taking, 
I had to settle for a layman's view, stuck at the crossing 
going into the ship building company's property.
Interestingly, history tells of a engine that fell into the river there when the wharf gave way.
The engineer was killed. He was a Lafayette resident.

The final shot would come at Jennings.
It was taken from the depot's parking lot.
I'd head home.

Somewhere close to Crowley, another appeared. 
Replicating a "bat turn". I went in pursuit.
For a moment I almost didn't.
Quickly weighing the thought of having the opportunity and squandering it
I launched the bike into a half mile long wheelie always fairly within the legal limit.

Back at Jennings I did not want to take another depot shot.
Instead, I turned off at the first old mill.
The location would not include the mill which was a bummer, but, I was here and this would have to do.

That was a shame since it was a pretty mill or dryer or both.

The train pictures got done almost as an act of  "going through the motion".
I felt that maybe the sport, at least in this part of the country, was indeed unfair.
I was having "winner's remorse".
Our president believes all should feel that way.
I could sense the crew's sense of futility and that was depressing.
I know how it feels when dealing with Mz Sunset.
All I can say to you fellas is,  MAN UP and maybe put the peddle to the metal 
instead of just floating along as you've grown accustomed.
Don't give me the that pity party stuff. I listen to the radio and I know what goes on.
"We need more ice, the toilet is overflowing, the brakes are stuck, all excuses. 
Grow a couple.
Then maybe I'll consider you worthy opponents.

You've got 11000 horsepower, do something with it.

Disgusted and soured, I rode behind the mill, my new interest..

Riding back to the front I saw something.

Oh my goodness.

The mill / dryer had been serviced by the railroad.
Why was I surprised?
What was surprising was the fact that the actual rails were still there.
That is monumental in every sense of the word.

Grinning, I returned to Crowley.
7621 had her lights on and was running.

Not right now, dear, I'm tired and I have a headache.

Maybe give me a handicap?

It's not fair, you are rested.

I could use some ice.

No more Yo Yo Ing out on US 90.
Done was done.
At this point it did make a difference.

But ....
The day was not over. 
Out on the BR (Lafayette to Breaux Bridge), a light shown up from the Vermilion trestle crossing.
It did not move so I went to the salt mine.

Oh my goodness.
Mz Utah was there as the train's tail gunner.

We had feared her lost to the scrappers when she had suffered a breakdown.
She is back and in her glory.
Flashy and bold, she is feminine strength personified.
Her lipstick was perfect.

I'll close with these shots of a great locomotive.
I would never "chase her", only escort her, if asked.

Intoxicating, isn't she!

The end.

A Meeting in the Marsh

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.

Contributed guidance.

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 (Arcola).
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
    Amite Detector           844.2
    Genesee Detector       855.2
    Manchac Detector       867.5
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.
And north.
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.