A bit of whimsy . . . an old switch stand at the former General Services Administration (GSA) depot in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
The fourth in this series of photographs, this scene is also at the old Yazoo and Mississippi Valley Railroad station (now the the Louisiana Art and Science Museum) located in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
For many years an old former Illinois Central 0-6-0 steam locomotive was parked on display at the north end of the station platform. One afternoon while studying the locomotive I captured this view of the steamer’s driving wheels and valve gear.
I used to occasionally drive over to the west bank of the Mississippi River across from Baton Rouge to do a little railfanning. Of course I would always check out Plaquemine as part of my route. The T&P (now UP) runs right through the center of town and with an abundance of interesting structures on either side of the tracks, there was always something of interest to photograph while waiting around for a train to rumble by.
Here’s one such subject that I caught one afternoon during the lull.
The second in this series of photographs, this scene is at the old Yazoo and Mississippi Valley Railroad station located in Baton Rouge, Louisiana right next to the Mississippi River levee. The Y&MV was a subsidiary of the Illinois Central Railroad until merged into the IC in the late 1940s. After the demise of rail passenger service to Baton Rouge, the building changed ownership and became the Louisiana Art and Science Museum.
This is the scene on the north end of the depot under the covered platform. A glimpse of the “new” Mississippi River bridge can be seen in the background.
I thought I’d start posting a few photos taken back in the 1970s. I’ll start today with this one taken at the former General Services Administration (GSA) supply depot that was in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. This was a significant supply depot for many years. But after use of this depot began to wind down, a large chunk of it was eventually turned over to the BREC park commission in Baton Rouge. This photo shows one of the rail served warehouses that were in the facility. A few still survive to this day.
This past weekend Ron Findley and I attended the WWII Air, Sea & Land Festival down in New Orleans. This is the fourth time this event has been there (it was given a new name this year), and it is an absolutely fabulous show. The primary forces behind the event are the Commemorative Air Force and the National WWII Museum in New Orleans.
I know this is supposed to be a blog about railroading, but I confess to also being an aviation addict, at least when it pertains to military aircraft. And WWII vintage aircraft are dear to my heart. Therefore, I’ve decided to relax the “rules” to accommodate this post, and show a few highlights from this year’s show. OK, a “few” are actually 28 photos, but that was culled from the 861 images I shot during the course of the day. I wish I could post them all.
Saturday morning was windy and had a heavy overcast, with a very low ceiling. Fortunately, by late morning a cold front moved into the area and pushed the clouds away. The day was chilly and very windy, with a strong north wind for the remainder of the day. But now with sunshine and an unlimited ceiling, the aircraft took flight. In years past, the flying aspect of the show was pretty much limited to take-offs and landings, with aircraft mostly used to take (paying) passengers for a short spin around town. But this year that all changed. All of the bombers and most of the fighters and trainers took to the air. And a number of them did splendid aerobatic maneuvers to the delight of the crowds. This year’s show was hands down the best thus far! I’m already looking forward to next year.
I’ll start with a few shots taken of the ground parade that was also new this year. This was basically a “pass in review” of the cars, jeeps, trucks, personnel carriers and even tanks. That was followed by various groups and organizations (some rather zany), all in good fun.
At right is an M4A3 Sherman tank as it passed a parked B-29 bomber. At left, a half-track is approaching.
And here is that White M-3 half-track approaching my position. A Dodge WC-54 ambulance is seen in the distance.
A 3/4 ton truck and a CCKW deuce-and-a-half follow.
And a light M3A1 Stuart tank follows up at the rear.
Here’s the Sherman and the deuce-and-a-half parked back in the display area. There were quite a few other vehicles that I haven’t shown . . . these were just a sampling.
Let’s look at some aircraft highlights. The good news is that there was a lot of flying, and some pretty slick maneuvers going on. The bad news is that the sun was on the far side of the field. So naturally, this made photography quite difficult. Unfortunately most photos tend to be in shadows or silhouetted. But even the silhouettes are cool! So let’s get to it.
First we have a USMC PBJ, the Devil Dog, which is really a variant of a B-25 bomber. This was used for many things, but strafing was it’s specialty. Note the array of eight guns poking out of this things nose. And if that isn’t enough, there are also four .50 caliber machine guns mounted on the side of the fuselage (two on each side) just behind the pilot. Can you imagine the sheer volume of lead being rained down upon the target?!
And here is the classic North American B-25J Mitchell bomber, the Yellow Rose. Apparently these large aircraft are fairly agile seeing the way these pilots were flying them, and considering how they were used during the war beyond their intended use as bombers.
Here’s a close-up of the nose art on a Boeing B-17G Flying Fortress bomber, the Texas Raiders. She even has a bomb load inside, complete with anti-Hitler graffiti.
And here she is in flight. The markings on the plane indicate it’s from the 533rd Squadron, 381st Bombardment Group of the 8th Air Force.
The Boeing B-29A Superfortress, Fifi is coming in for a landing. In the foreground is the former control tower of the art-deco styled terminal building at the New Orleans Lakefront Airport. Fifi is one of only two B-29 bombers still in flying condition.
Here is a Curtiss-Wright P-40 Warhawk fighter. This one is in the Army Air Force livery, rather than the commonly seen Flying Tigers motif.
And here’s a beautifully restored TBM Avenger torpedo bomber. This airplane is surprisingly large! It has a crew of three. The TBM is a Grumman TBF produced by General Motors’ Eastern Aircraft Division under license.
Something a little different: a Russian Yakovlev YAK-9 fighter. This thing is rather small, but appears to be fast and agile. It was the most produced Soviet fighter of all time.
Now what would an air show be without a P-51? Many consider the North American P-51D Mustang to be the most beautiful aircraft produced during WWII. Here’s Gunfighter coming in for a strafing run.
Gunfighter buzzes by the B-29 Fifi as she taxis out for a takeoff.
The Gunfighter put on quite a show, complete with loops, wing-overs, rolls, and more! This airplane is very fast and agile, and it always impresses the crowd.
Someone has sounded an alert! Here’s an FM-2 Wildcat springing into action. No, I didn’t tilt the camera for effect. With this airplane’s ability to launch from aircraft carriers, coupled with the stiff headwind that day, the thing literally leaped into the air within moments of the pilot opening the throttle. Grumman Aircraft was focused on the development of the new F6F fighter, so they licensed production of the F4F Wildcat to General Motors’ Eastern Aircraft Division, hence the designation of FM-1, then the FM-2.
And here’s what caused the scramble, three Japanese Zeros! Looks like the one on the left has just been hit.
And it looks like this Zero has been wounded as it was strafing the field where this B-17 is trying to taxi out to the runway.
Well, the Wildcat is that Zero’s problem. He’s hot on his tail. I was surprised by the performance of the Wildcat. It was one of the hardest aircraft to photograph due to it’s small size, it’s speed and it’s maneuvering.
With the Zero dispatched, the Wildcat can celebrate….
….with a victory roll.
And in the meantime:
The third Zero is frantically trying to avoid the hail of lead about to come his way! These aircraft are Japanese Zero replicas created from AT-6 Texans. They’ve been featured in several movies and in scores of airshows.
Actually, there were many more aircraft flying than what I’ve shown here. And there were a couple dozen aircraft on display that didn’t fly at all on Saturday. I wish I had room to show them all. There was even a (surprise) low-level flyover by a B-52 bomber!
The title of the post indicates air, sea and land. You’ve seen the air and the land, but what about the sea? The WWII museum recently completed restoration of a Navy PT boat, which was on display in the adjacent yacht harbor. Unfortunately we just didn’t have time to make it over there to check out the boat. However, since it is local to New Orleans, we can go visit it on another day, and without the pressure of trying to see too much in one day. Indeed, the biggest problem I’ve had in viewing the displays downtown at the museum has been the overwhelming abundance of displays. It’s impossible to see everything there in reasonable detail within a single day.
And just to show that I haven’t forgotten all about railroads, here’s a Norfolk Southern freight:
The NS mainline passes right by the airport, and this was one of 5 or 6 trains that passed during the afternoon. So there, I’ve managed to bring this post back to where it belongs.
Well Saturday was railfanning day . . . both for model railroads, and for the real deal. I headed out to the Greater Baton Rouge Model Railroaders’ open house up in Jackson, Louisiana this morning. When I arrived there were already a couple of live steam locomotives fired up on the outside loop, with another on a siding taking on water and fuel. Here’s a shot of a rather unusual double header consisting of two 0-4-0 switchers 🙂
After watching the live steam operation for awhile, I headed into both of the layout buildings to see what was going on in them. Most of the layouts were buzzing with activity. Finally I headed out to the covered pavilion used as an open-air shop. At one time there was a narrow gauge “amusement” railroad (the Old Hickory Railroad) operating on the property. It’s been quite a few years since it operated, with the rolling stock now parked in and near the pavilion. The biggest reason was the condition of the steam locomotive . . . it was simply worn out. Manufactured by Crown Metal Products, this steamer was propane powered. It was completely dismantled several years ago and is supposed to be undergoing restoration. However, the only things that have been on the property for quite some time are the locomotive’s frame and suspension, it’s cab, and tender.
Well surprise! The boiler is back from being repaired and re-certified. It was sitting outside still lashed to the truck trailer on which it was shipped.
There still are no signs of the drivers and trucks; I’m assuming they are still out somewhere being overhauled.
I left Jackson a bit after noon and headed east down Highway 10 until reaching US 51 by the Canadian National mainline. I grabbed a quick lunch in Amite, then raced south down to Hammond, hoping to catch Amtrak train number 58 headed up to Chicago. As I pulled up to the depot, I noticed the northbound signal was indicating a meet at the siding north of the depot. Great! Here’s 58 as she pulled out from the depot:
And here is the southbound CN freight that patiently waited for 58 to pass. It’s headed down to New Orleans.
While at the depot I noticed three young fellows taking videos of the passing trains. We engaged in conversation after the action, where I learned that they were high school students, and they had developed a liking for trains, and were taking every chance they could to get trackside. Later the father of one of the boys joined us. They were from the Watson area, not very far from my home. The boys had talked him into taking them to Hammond for a day of railfanning. With all the talk these days about how the hobby is just for “old folks”, it was refreshing to see three young guys bubbling with enthusiasm about train watching.
I finally capped off my day at home by watching the (recorded) football game between LSU and #10 Auburn. Wow, Auburn was walking all over LSU during the first quarter, with a 20-0 score. But the LSU Tigers dug in their heels defensively, and the offense finally came to life, ultimately defeating Auburn 27-23! What a game!
Being pre-occupied with finishing up my home restoration (as a result of the great 2016 flood) coupled with a lack of progress on my model railroad, has resulted in very few posts over this past year. I’ve mentioned before that I have decided not to do any reconstruction in the train building until the house proper is complete. If I started the work out back, I would never finish the work still needed in the house (too much of a diversion). Drying out the place and remediation has been long completed . . . I just haven’t started the process of rebuilding. But I do hope to finally get out there sometime this winter to begin the work.
In the meantime there are several activities, some railroad and one aviation oriented, that I hope to attend. I think it’s time for me to get out of the house more in order to keep my sanity!
First up: The Greater Baton Rouge Model Railroaders up in Jackson, Louisiana will be holding their Trainfest on Saturday, October 14th. Things get rolling around 10 am. If you haven’t been to one of these open houses, you really should give it a shot. The club is home to quite a few operating layouts. They cover all of the popular scales (Z, N, HO, S and O) with their indoor layouts. And there is an outdoor G scale layout, along with a separate live steam loop that sees trains running in various scales (G and Fn3 mostly). There is also an open pavilion that is used to shelter and restore a variety of full size equipment. I recently posted a couple photos from there including a neat little Plymouth critter, and a grape harvesting machine. There are quite a few other interesting pieces of machinery under and near the shelter.
A week later (Saturday, August 21st) the Southeast Louisiana Chapter of the NRHS will be getting together for a day of railfanning over in Hammond, Louisiana. They will be meeting next to the Amtrak depot located downtown on the CN railroad mainline. Folks usually start gathering around 9 am or so, and you’re welcome to stay until you just can’t take it anymore. 🙂 Everyone is invited to join in, you don’t have to be a chapter member.
The following week there will be an aviation event down in New Orleans. The WWII Air, Sea & Land Festival will be held at the Lakefront Airport on October 27-29. This is the fourth time this event has been there (it was given a new name this year), and it is an absolutely fabulous show. The primary forces behind the event are the Commemorative Air Force and the National WWII Museum in New Orleans. There will be a significant number of WWII aircraft both on display and flying, along with several ground vehicles ranging from jeeps to tanks. This year will also feature their newly restored PT boat. I don’t have details of exactly where the boat will be displayed, but I assume it will be in the adjacent harbor. Here’s another link if you’d like more information: The National WWII Museum.
And finally, the Louisiana Chapter of the Train Collectors Association (TCA) will be holding their fall train show on Saturday, November 4th over in Ponchatoula, Louisiana. The event will be at the First Baptist Church gym located on E. Pine Street. Hours will be 9 am until 3 pm. This show coincides with the Ponchatoula Trade Days and Craft Fair which, while not railroad related, can be an interesting adjunct to the day.
Whew, the next month will be busy! Hope to see some of you at one (or more) of these events.
Back in late March Ron Findley and I took a trip up to Jackson, Louisiana and spent the morning with the Greater Baton Rouge Model Railroaders, also home of the Old Hickory Railroad. While there, we headed over to the large “train shed” on the property, a large covered area where 1:1 railroad equipment, and an assortment of other odds and ends are stored and worked on. I thought I’d post a few photos of some items that caught my attention.
First up is a recently restored Plymouth “critter” that was parked just outside of the shed. I don’t have any information or background on this piece, but plan to ask questions on our next visit. She looks like she just rolled out of the factory.
Here are a few other Plymouths quietly awaiting their turn at restoration. Seeing that chassis without a cab and hood (look closely behind the two locos in the foreground) was very interesting, as it allowed one to inspect and figure out the internal workings of the machine.
Below is a contraption that I’d never seen before. From a distance I initially thought it was a straddle lumber carrier. But once I walked over to it, I realized this was a beast of an entirely different nature. I’m speculating that it is some kind of harvesting machine. If any of you folks can shed some light on it, please feel free to comment.
A side note: my home restoration from last year’s flood is on the final lap . . . hopefully I’ll be moving back in within a few weeks. Much work remains, especially on the exterior, but at least I’ll be home again!
In a recent post, A Mini-Reunion at Covington, I had mentioned visiting Matt Hardey’s Louisiana Eastern Railroad layout. Well, I didn’t get that exactly right. Matt started his dream with the New Orleans Great Northern Railroad. The prototype eventually was acquired by the Gulf, Mobile and Northern, which itself later became the Gulf, Mobile and Ohio Railroad. Matt has come up with several operating schemes for his layout. By using equipment and such for different eras, he can operate the road as the NOGN, or a later era of the GM&O. Another variant is a “what if” scenario, running steam powered Louisiana Eastern trains over the GM&O via trackage rights in the Covington, Louisiana area during the early 1950s. Matt has a collection of LE rolling stock, which is what I was fixated on during my visit.
Most of the readers of my ramblings are from this area and are likely to be familiar with the Louisiana Eastern Railroad. However a few of you may be scratching your head and thinking “never heard of it”. The Louisiana Eastern was the vision of Paulsen Spence. An excellent piece about Mr. Spence and the Louisiana Eastern has been written by noted author and local historian Louis Saillard, and can be found here on Chris Palmieri’s website. I’ll touch on a few of the highlights of the LE gleaned from Louis’ treatise here.
Born in Baton Rouge, Mr. Spence had made his fortune with his Spence Engineering Company and his considerable number of patents for various steam regulating valves. Eventually he turned his interest to the sand and gravel business, starting a gravel operation in the late 1940s. He utilized steam locomotives (that he had recently acquired) to move the cars of gravel from the pit to the interchange with the nearby Illinois Central. The Comite Southern Railroad was born. In 1950 Mr. Spence acquired a larger gravel pit operation a short distance away. Included with that sale was the one mile Gulf & Eastern Railroad. In late 1950 the Louisiana Eastern Railroad was chartered and that’s where the dream began.
Now, the gravel business was good for Mr. Spence, with well over 200 cars of commodity eventually emerging from the pits each week. But he had a larger vision. Mr. Spence had been purchasing recently retired steamers from various roads beginning in the mid 1940s and throughout the 1950s, and he eventually had about three dozen of the breed on the property. The reason for these purchases? Mr. Spence had conceived the idea of creating a railroad that would run from Baton Rouge, Louisiana to Pearl River, Louisiana near the Mississippi border, a distance of nearly 100 miles. In Baton Rouge, he would have access to the Illinois Central, the Kansas City Southern and the Missouri Pacific. Near Pearl River he would interchange with the Gulf, Mobile and Ohio and the Southern Railway. With these connections he could effectively create a bypass around the rail traffic congestion in New Orleans. The steamers were the power for that railroad. Buying these locomotives at bargain basement prices just made good business sense to Mr. Spence.
Grand plans to be sure, but things came to an abrupt halt in late 1961 when Mr. Spence died suddenly from a heart attack while on a business trip to New York. The dream was dead. Everything was sold off and most of the steamers were soon scrapped. I believe four of the locomotives survived and can be found in various parts of the country. One of the most interesting locomotives was one of several 4-4-0 types that Mr. Spence had acquired. Locomotive No. 98 was purchased new by the Mississippi Central Railroad in 1909 and eventually sold to Mr. Spence in 1946. She still survives and is in operation on the Wilmington & Western Railroad, where she still carries her number of 98. There are a number of YouTube videos showing her in service; see her during the Wilmington & Western’s Springtime Steam Spectacular in 2014.
A few other links for information about the Louisiana Eastern can be found at the HawkinsRails website, and on Wikipedia. But if you want the very interesting and detailed story, be sure to read Louis’ piece linked to above.
This week has been one of several social gatherings for me. It began last Wednesday when Wayne Robichaux, “Tomcat” Kelly and I drove over to Covington, Louisiana to spend the day touring several layouts. The three of us are former operators of the late Lou Schultz’s Alleghany Subdivision of the C&O Railroad. Our hosts were also members of that same operating group, so this was not only to be a series of layout tours, but also a “mini-reunion” of sorts.
We motored over to Covington during a steady rainfall, but that didn’t dampen our spirits. We arrived at the first layout, the Southern Railway’s “Rathole”, under construction by Walter Rieger. Also there were our other hosts, Matt Hardey, Mike Walsdorf and Sam Urrate, and the layout tour commenced. Walter has essentially completed the first third of his layout, and is now hard at work doing benchwork and laying track on the remainder. The bulk of the layout is a two level mushroom design, with a third level for staging. The focus will be on hot and heavy freights running on a fully CTC controlled mainline. One must see the completed section of this layout to appreciate Walter’s attention to detail, and the completeness and authenticity of the design. I’ll be following it’s construction over the next several years.
We broke for lunch after touring Walter’s layout, heading over to Bud’s Broiler for one of their famous burgers grilled over a real charcoal pit. I was especially pleased with this selection of eatery, as I grew up a few blocks from the original Bud’s Broiler on City Park Avenue in New Orleans. I was a regular patron of the establishment back in the 60s (and which is still in operation).
After lunch we headed over to Matt’s rendition of the Louisiana Eastern Railroad. Matt had recently completed grafting a beautiful section of a layout that he had acquired onto the peninsula of his layout. And he has done a masterful job of integrating it into his original layout. Had he not told me what he’d done, I would have thought it had always been there. Matt really enjoys building very detailed structures with interiors, and I enjoyed studying them, continually finding more and more to see.
And last we visited Mike’s L&N Railroad. Mike has an attic layout, and that thing has one of the longest runs I believe I’ve ever seen on an HO layout. The layout goes around the four walls of the room, and into a long U-shaped peninsula in the center. But get this . . . it has three levels! The room is over 50′ in length, and while I don’t recall its width, it is wide enough that Mike has four foot (and greater) aisles through most of the layout. He says it takes about an hour for a train to traverse the entire line! He is relatively close to completion on the trackwork, and scenery already has a good start. The layout will feature both CTC and some APB signaling, and should be quite interesting to operate.
I believe all three of these layouts will have good operations when the time comes, and that can’t be too soon. I really miss the operations we had at Lou’s, and I’m hoping I’ll be invited over to run on these pikes someday. The tours were excellent and I’m glad we made the trip to see them.
Late that afternoon we departed Covington and then made a stop in Hammond just to see if anything was running on the CN line there. Our timing was impeccable. We arrived just in time to see a southbound freight roaring by, headed by a couple of KCS units . . . an unusual sighting. And a few minutes later, the southbound local came charging though town hot on the tail of the first train.
Upon arriving back in Denham Springs (about 8:30 pm), Tomcat decided to call it a day. Wayne and I headed over to the Lagniappe Restaurant near my home for a late supper. A great day, indeed!
But that wasn’t the end of the week. Today, Friday, Syd Dann dropped by my house for a visit. I gave him an update tour of the Louisiana Central, and he then went to his vehicle and labored to carry a large grip into the train room. Inside was his latest acquisition, an O scale 2-6-6-6 Allegheny! Man, that was one massive locomotive (even as a model). After our show-and-tell, we headed up Highway 16 to Watson’s Pizza Place, where I ordered one of their famous Watson Supreme pizzas. I really love that pizza! Naturally, my eyes were larger than my stomach, so I’ll be chowing down on the balance of my Supreme for lunch tomorrow. No problem, there.And the week still has another day left. In the morning I’ll be attending the weekly ROMEO breakfast with some railroad friends at the Warehouse Restaurant over in Baton Rouge. I know I’ll have gained five pounds this week by the time I finish it.
But what a delightful week it has been.
I have to confess, I really haven’t felt much like working on the layout for a couple of weeks now. Sure, I’ve been heading out to the layout room most each day, but I really haven’t been very productive . . . mostly looking for “low hanging fruit” to work on. I reconditioned a bunch of old Tortoise switch motors. And I transferred a sound decoder and speaker from a “basket case” Bachmann modern 4-4-0 to another similar model I have that is running and intact. Another small project completed. And I spent a day checking out my newly repaired digital camera. But none of this was advancing the state of the layout itself.
The last two weekends have featured back-to-back NRHS* Chapter banquets, one in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, and the other in Hammond, Louisiana. I attended both and thoroughly enjoyed every aspect of each day. The journeys were good, the meals were good, the presentations at both were excellent, and most importantly, I really enjoyed the company of fellow modelers, railfans and historians. Today was the Hammond event, and afterward Ron Findley and I headed over to the train depot to hopefully catch a few trains. Traffic was a bit slow, so we decided to just stroll down Cate Street (along the track) and I started photographing the wonderful old buildings along that street. I guess Ron and I really got caught up into it, as we ended up strolling to the end of the business district, then started down Thomas Street where we repeated our photographic endeavors. And then there was Oak Street, and finally, Church Street. I believe I ended up with several hundred images, and I totally enjoyed our little foray. We eventually found our way back to the depot, where I noticed that there was quite a bit a material staged along the tracks and maintenance-of-way area. There was a crane parked on a spur, and one of those neat (Difco?) side dump ballast cars. Lots of rail, ties, ballast, spikes, tie plates and more. I suspect that this was material left over from the recent trestle repairs down at the Bonnet Carre Spillway. For those of you who are unaware, the CN experienced a major fire there a couple weeks ago that took out an entire span of trestle between two concrete fire breaks.
But back to my original confession above, I have been going “hot and heavy” on the layout construction for over a year now. You long time readers may remember I went through an intense period of burn-out during my second year of construction and got very little accomplished, relatively speaking, as a result. I even wrote a post about it, Side-Stepping Burn Out. When I returned to serious construction a few months later, I knew I would have to change my work habits to help avoid this problem in the future. In large part, I’ve done better because I will work on something -say, trackwork- for several weeks, then I’ll switch off to something else; benchwork, electrical work, workshop projects, just about anything to break up the repetition and boredom that sometimes occurs when building a relatively large layout (mostly single handedly). But the burn-out symptoms have been rearing their ugly head again for some time now. And I’ve simply backed off from what I’ve been doing. I’m feeling a bit better about things now, especially after these two great Saturdays, and I suspect in another week or so that I’ll be raring to get after it again. To be sure, I continually feel some guilt for letting this time pass without “real” production, but I’ve told myself that this is after all, a hobby. And if I’m not happy doing it, then it ain’t a hobby!
So not to worry, the Louisiana Central will continue to see heavy construction, albeit with just a short delay.
Hmmm, now I’ve got to figure out how I’m going to fit those neat city buildings in over at Willis.
*National Railway Historical Society