Planning the Louisiana Central Right-of-Way

The Louisiana Central is a fictional railroad, but I will be attempting to model a railroad that “could have been”.  The route was established quite a few years ago after I dismantled a smaller bedroom layout.  Using Louisiana and Mississippi road maps, I tentatively sketched out a route, while simultaneously working on the rationale for the railroad.  My friend, Wayne Robichaux and I headed out one Saturday morning, maps in hand, and drove to the bank of the Mississippi River up above the town of St. Francisville, Louisiana.  We located some relatively straight high ground near the river and determined that this would be a great place to locate the western end of the line.  I decided that I would create an interchange with the Texas and Pacific Railway at this location.  The T&P would arrive here via a car ferry operation.  Of course, the T&P never had a ferry in this location, but the Missouri Pacific system did have other ferry operations both upstream and downstream from where we were, so it didn’t seem too far fetched that we could have one here also.

With this point established and appropriate notes entered on the map, we headed generally northeast.  While the towns featured along the Louisiana Central are fictional places, most are located very close to actual towns along the proposed right-of-way.  For example, the town of Monterey is a bit north of St. Francisville, Whitcomb is above Woodville, Mississippi and Willis is just north of Gloster, Miss.  Two intermediate towns, Oneida and Maynard, aren’t stand-ins for real places, but they are located along highways following the railroad route.  The only actual place on the Louisiana Central is Bude, Miss.  However this won’t be modeled on the Louisiana Central; it instead will be represented by hidden staging track.

We will interchange at Willis with the Illinois Central (an expansion of the line that actually served Gloster), and at Bude with the Mississippi Central (an actual railroad in Bude during the modeled era).

Returning to our travel, after leaving Monterey, we just headed to each place, in order, as best we could.  Along the way, we made short detours at minor roads as were available so as to get close to the Louisiana Central “track”.  It all worked out rather nicely, with few adjustments having to be made to the original sketched out right-of-way on the road maps.

We’ve since repeated this trip a couple times, checking out the terrain, scenery and structures along the way, and I’ve taken quite a few photos.  No doubt, another trip or two will be in order as the scenery stage for the model railroad comes into play.

One of the reasons for the initial selection of this route was because of the terrain.  The west end of the line is in the heart of the Tunica Hills.  Most folks don’t equate Louisiana with hilly terrain, but this area is not only hilly, in places it is downright treacherous!  There are several narrow two lane roads running through this area, and where possible they tend to run along ridge lines.  During the summer with all the heavy, lush growth, it is difficult to see much past the edge of the road.  But in the late winter when the growth has died back somewhat, it isn’t uncommon to observe the ground steeply plummeting down at the edge of the road for a hundred or so feet.  Near this location is the Louisiana State Prison (Angola).  It is generally considered escape proof as it is bound on one side by the Mississippi River, and surrounded on the other sides by the Tunica Hills.  On the rare escape attempt, the convict doesn’t usually get very far due to the extremely harsh terrain he has to traverse.

As the rail line moves to the northeast and into the State of Mississippi, the hills get much larger, though generally more gentle in their nature.  This is gorgeous country, and seeing a train working its way through this landscape just thrills me.  The forests also turn into predominantly Southern Pine, and that is precisely the reason the Spencer Lumber Company will exist.  This region was a huge timber producer in its day, and had a number of companies working these forests.  One of the biggest was the Crosby operation, and Spencer will be in direct competition with this giant.  The Spencer mill will be located in Oneida (named after Mr. Spencer’s oldest daughter, and whose very existence is due to Spencer).

I hope this little treatise has helped explain the rail line a bit better.  There is much more that can be written, and I may share other tidbits with y’all from time to time.  Feel free to comment or ask any questions, or even to offer suggestions for the line.

-Jack

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