NOPSI Streetcar #909

Growing up in New Orleans, this scene in New Orleans really brings back memories for me. The year is 1957 and I would be seeing the world as a nine year old kid. The photographer captured this scene as NOPSI (New Orleans Public Service, Inc.) streetcar #909 waits at the traffic light for the flow of people and automobiles to cross the wide Canal Street in downtown New Orleans. It’s obviously summer, and the typical daily afternoon shower has just ended. This short section of the Canal Street neutral ground (the median) has three tracks rather than the usual pair for the cars traveling in each direction. If you look closely you’ll notice a curved track on the left turning onto St. Charles Avenue. The cars on that line will travel the length of St. Charles, then a distance down Carrollton Avenue before reversing to head back downtown.


The bus seen at far right will only travel a single block before turning to traverse its route elsewhere. Several bus routes in New Orleans will terminate at Canal Street, arriving on a one-way street, turn for the short block down Canal, then head back to their origin via the one-way street running the opposite direction.

Canal Street was the heart of retail business back in the day, and was filled with excellent department stores and smaller specialty stores. You generally dressed fairly well when you went to Canal Street, as it was the “respectable” place to shop. Sadly all those great stores are gone now, and Canal Street has lost its luster. But the streetcars are still running.

Unfortunately I don’t know who the photographer is to credit this image. I will surely post his name if anyone happens to recognize the photo.

Photos Past: Critters and Such

Actually, this is a partial re-post of of an entry back in 2017. Ron Findley and I made another of our occasional forays to the Greater Baton Rouge Model Railroaders club up in Jackson, Louisiana back in March of that year. There once was a small steam powered tourist railroad operation on the property, the Old Hickory Railroad. Unfortunately its operation has been suspended for many years now. The owner has a collection of derelict railroad and farm equipment, most of which is under an open shelter.

Under that shelter are three tiny Plymouth locomotives. They are still in various stages of disassembly, but a fourth had been restored shortly before our visit, and was parked out in the open. Naturally I documented the little critters, and earlier had posted photos of them, along with several other relics stored under the roof.

Presented today is the restored critter (or as women would say, “that cute little thing”).

The front view of the locomotive. The club occupies a couple of the buildings off in the background. They have indoor N, HO and O scale layouts, and two outdoor G scale layouts, one electric and the other live steam. I wish they had rights to the full size railroad so we could take the Plymouth for a spin! 🙂
The rear view of the locomotive. A small part of the open shelter is seen here in the background. Its actual size is quite large.

The McGiffert Log Loader

Last week we saw some photographs of the Clyde double-ended rehaul skidder on display at the Southern Forest Heritage Museum in Long Leaf, Louisiana. The skidder dragged the logs through the woods up to the railhead. But another machine was used to actually load the logs onto the rail cars: the McGiffert log loader. The museum has two of these machines on the property.

The machine straddled the track and would pull empty log cars through its supporting framework, loading each car as it reached the front where the boom was located. Another feature was the ability for the machine to relocate itself. There are a pair of powered trucks (wheelsets) tucked up high in the support structure that can be lowered to the rails. The machine then lifted itself so the weight was on the trucks, then propelled itself to the next loading location. Once there it would lower itself to the ground, then raise the trucks back up to the “storage” location, allowing the empty log cars to roll beneath it.

McGiffert Log Loader #1
This is McGiffert #1229, shown during her restoration effort. This image by Ron Findley shows how it looked in April of 2011. In the years since, it has received a new boom and additional restoration, and once again looks as it was in service.
McGiffert Log Loader #2
Ron also recorded this view of the McGiffert #1230. It is located behind the machine shop and easily viewable. It’s difficult to see in this view, but this machine is raised and sitting on its trucks. Hopefully it will receive some restoration work in the future.
McCloud Lbr. Co. McGiffert
This shows another of these machines at work in the woods. I understand this is the McCloud Lumber Company’s operation somewhere out west. I believe the photographer is John West. Note the empty cars being pulled though the machine, then loaded as they come within range of the boom.

You can read a bit more about McGifferts and see additional images of them on this RR&G posting, and also on this SFHM Research Paper. The former has a nice video by Everett Lueck explaining the McGiffert, the latter has information about McGifferts as well as the Clyde skidder featured last week.

The Clyde Rehaul Skidder

One of the most unique things on the Southern Forest Heritage Museum’s property is a Clyde double-ended rehaul skidder. It is thought to be the only machine of its type still in existence. Ron Findley and I first saw it when we stumbled on the property back in 1988. It was parked in the woods just a few dozen feet in front of locomotive #400.

On a return visit in April of 2011, we found the trees and undergrowth had been cleared away considerably which enabled us to get a few photographs. Ron recorded these views of the machine as it appeared that day.

Clyde Reload Skidder- View 1
The Clyde rehaul skidder. Mostly intact with the exception of the large A-frame booms on each end and the boiler stack and enclosure at top center. Note the heavy clevises on top of the chassis at each side. This is where the boom assembly attaches to the machine.
Clyde Reload Skidder- View 2
This view shows the internals of the machine a bit clearer. There would be another boom at this end (hence the name “double-ended”). The large cylinder in the center is a vertical boiler. The boiler stack and a small enclosure atop the frame are missing. All these things can be seen in the photograph linked to on the SFHM website below.

Built by the Clyde Iron Works in 1919, this machine was used to haul logs from where they were harvested to the railhead. It was able to pull logs in from up to a thousand feet away. Being double-ended (booms on each end), it could pull logs from a huge surrounding area without having to relocate. A photo of the machine in operation is on this SFHM webpage (scroll down a ways to see it in action).

There are various locomotive and equipment pieces-parts scattered throughout this area. We assume that this was where much scrapping was done. Fortunately the scrappers weren’t careful to haul away every piece, and they remain where they fell to this day. One thing of particular interest to me are the remains of a Shay locomotive (tears in my eyes)!

Red River & Gulf #106 – a Cameo

Ron Findley and I made yet another trip to the Crowell mill property in October of 1999. By then the entire mill complex, including the railroad, had been donated by the family and turned into a museum. The third locomotive there is the #106. She is in the best shape because she is under the roof of the car knocker shed. The only photograph that Ron recorded that day of the 106 was this one. I rather like this image, so decided I’d use it today to wrap up the introduction of the RR&G steam fleet.

Red River & Gulf #106 Long Leaf, La

This summary is based on information on the RR&G website: Engine #106 is a class 10-32-D #1303 4-6-0. She was built by Baldwin Locomotive Works in September of 1923 for the Red River & Gulf Railroad Company at a cost of $29,520. She is similar to the #400 and was the last engine bought for the company. #106 hauled freight trains from Long Leaf to Kurthwood for 22 years. In September of 1945 it switched to the line from Long Leaf to Lecompte. During this time she was sometimes used by Crowell Long Leaf Lumber to haul log trains from Meridian (Evangeline Parish) to Long Leaf. The #106’s last run, and also the last train to be used by the Red River & Gulf before its liquidation, was on March 31, 1953. It was officially retired on April 1, 1953. It has been (cosmetically) restored to its former glory, and is still located in the car knocker shed on the property. If you’re itching to see some photographs of the entire locomotive, you can see them along with additional specs on the RR&G website.

A side-note: If you check those photos on the RR&G website, you’ll notice at bottom left the photograph that Tony Howe used as his inspiration for the wonderful painting that graces the masthead of this blog.

Another RR&G Locomotive: the #400

In March of 1988, with our discovery in Long Leaf, the first locomotive that Ron and I came across was the locomotive #400. She was in the woods sitting behind a Clyde double-ended log skidder, surrounded by bushes and trees. And a bit behind her was the engine house (a bit of its roof is seen at the far right of the photo below).

The #400 is of a 4-6-0 wheel arrangement, built by Baldwin for the Crowell & Spencer operation in 1919. She was originally a wood burner, but was later changed to an oil fired locomotive. Apparently at that time they removed the original Rushton cabbage stack and replaced it with the cannon stack she still wears. She’s fairly robust, with an electric headlight, dual 9-inch air pumps, air brakes, and 48-inch driving wheels. She was parked here and retired in 1953.

Red River & Gulf #400 Long Leaf, La
The retired #400 in the woods, surrounded by undergrowth and trees.
Red River & Gulf #400's tender, Long Leaf, La
Here’s the tender coupled to the #400. Note the oil tank dropped into the fuel space. The faintly seen lettering on the side says Crowell Long Leaf Lbr. Co. Inc.

The locomotive is much easier to view these days. The trees and undergrowth have been cleared out, and I understand that there are plans to eventually get her moved to a more suitable and protected spot. There are some nice photos of the old girl on the Red River & Gulf website. By the way, I highly recommend a visit to the mill and it’s railroad in Long Leaf, Louisiana . . . well worth the visit.

The Red River & Gulf #202

Back in March of 1988 Ron Findley and I were on another of our exploration journeys. We had been following old Texas & Pacific and Missouri Pacific trackage. We started at the railroad bridge crossing the Atchafalaya River in Melville, Louisiana. From there we followed the trackage through Palmetto, Bunkie, Cheneyville and Lecompte. While in Lecompte we had our lunch at Lea’s, where one can get a tasty home-cooked meal, topped off with an excellent slice of home-made pie.

From there we decided to follow another railroad line heading back south, so we took Hwy. 112 West to Forest Hill, then turned Southwest on Hwy. 165. We hadn’t proceeded very far when we noticed what appeared to be some spur trackage coming from the mainline, so we parked and started following the (obviously abandoned) trackage through the woods. After a pretty good hike, we came across an area having a scattering of old steam locomotive pieces-parts where it was obvious that locomotives had been scrapped. Venturing further we came across a large clearing, with a couple buildings that appeared to be a crude engine house and shop, and beyond that were buildings that looked like an abandoned sawmill. It was an amazing find, so we set about photographing everything in sight by the engine house.

We hadn’t been there long when we heard a shout, and turning around a man was hurrying to where we were. He demanded to know what we were doing there, and we told him we were following some abandoned railroad tracks through the woods and had just walked into the site. He informed us we were trespassing on private property and demanded that we leave immediately! So we, of course, complied, and we turned back toward the woods. But the man told us to leave by the road coming into the mill site. We balked, explaining that we had to retrace our steps through the woods so that we could find our car! He pondered that a bit, then agreed that perhaps we should do that, but to get going right then and there! We later learned that we had stumbled onto the Crowell family property, and this was their (former) Long Leaf Lumber Company mill.

This mill operated until 1954, at which at the end of a day, the owner announced to the employees that the mill was now closed down. The employees simply left, and things remained just as they were over the years, untouched and unfinished. Not too long after our encounter, the family decided to turn the property over to an organization that has turned the entire mill site into an historical museum . . . one that is well worth seeing.

The Red River & Gulf Railroad was created to serve for timber transportation at Long Leaf, Louisiana, and steam locomotive #202 was the first ordered and the last one operating for the Crowells when all the mills had shut down. It was built by Baldwin in 1913 and delivered to the mill in Long Leaf in November of that year. She was immediately sent to work at the mill in Meridian, La. She was there until the mill burned in 1928, and then worked at Sieper and Alco, La. Just before WWII, she was returned to Long Leaf, and served there until that mill shut down.

Red River & Gulf #202, Long Leaf, La.

She’s a 2-6-0 Mogul, and she’s a wood burning locomotive (that given away by her cabbage head stack). She was languishing outside the engine house when we spotted her, the weeds and vines trying to cover her up. She has since been cleaned up and moved under cover, and there are hopes to cosmetically restore her for proper display.

Riding on the Gloster Southern

The Southeast Louisiana Chapter of the NRHS arranged for an excursion on the Gloster Southern Railroad back in November of 1988. The Gloster Southern was a railroad created by the Georgia-Pacific Corporation to service its plywood mill in Gloster, Mississippi. The line ran 35 miles south from there on former Illinois Central Gulf trackage to Slaughter, Louisiana where it connected to the ICG.

The power for the road was a pair of ex-Santa Fe CF7 locomotives, which had been re-built and painted for service on the Ashley, Drew & Northern (another G-P road). The excursion on this day saw these two units handling a pair of passenger coaches. The trip started in Gloster and ran down to Slaughter. There the locos ran around the train for the return trip to Gloster. It was a great journey on “rare mileage” trackage.

SELA Railfan Trip - GLSR - 1988
A pair of Gloster Southern CF7s head the train on its way south. Ron Findley captured this image during a photo “run-by” of the train. The diamond herald above the pilot is that of the Southeast Louisiana Chapter of the NRHS.
At the Throttle - GLSR #1502
Ron recorded this scene of your author at the controls. Note the smug look on this fellows face as he dreams that he’s in control of this massive train (and a dream was all it was!).

The Coaling Tower in McComb

Continuing our story in McComb, Mississippi, Ron and I left the overpass after taking photographs from that vantage point. We then went below the bridge to focus our attention on the old coaling tower that sits immediately north of that location. This old, cast concrete coaling tower is from the steam locomotive era, and it still stands watch over the city. We moved in to document it.

The old coaling tower In McComb, Mississippi. The late afternoon sun on this day in February of 1988 really brings out the color on these Illinois Central Gulf boxcars despite their age. Photo by Ron Findley.
Looking through my collection of digital photographs, I came across this image of the coaling tower taken in October of 2015. Apparently the city decided to recognize their railroad history on this old structure, and added the colorful sign to the tower. It looks like this huge old structure could be placed back in service simply by replacing the missing coal chute!

The ICG in McComb, Miss. – 1988

My friend Ron Findley and I used to take an occasional day trip simply to check out different places, and to watch whatever trains happened to pass through the area. One of our favorite locations was McComb, Mississippi. We would generally start our trip trackside In Hammond, Louisiana, then head north on U.S. Hwy. 51. That highway largely parallels the former Illinois Central mainline, which runs between New Orleans and Chicago. One passes through a half dozen communities during this trip prior to reaching McComb, and we generally made sure to get trackside at each location just to check the “state of things”.

Then we’ve reached McComb. This was once a bustling railroad town, and right at the edge of the business district was a large locomotive servicing facility. It contained a major roundhouse and turntable, locomotive shops, and a large car building and repair facility. The mainline was double track through here, and the train load was pretty heavy.

But by 1988, things were different. The Illinois Central had merged with the Gulf, Mobile and Ohio, forming the Illinois Central Gulf Railroad, and a very significant portion of this area in McComb had been scaled back.

One of our favorite vantage points was on a street overpass just north of the depot. Some years ago the bridge had been replaced with a new concrete structure with sidewalks, and it made for easy access to this birds-eye viewing point. Here are a couple photographs that Ron recorded during that day in early February of 1988.

ICG Engine Facilities, McComb, Miss.
Looking generally south, just beyond the sand tower was the former roundhouse. If you look carefully, you can make out the turntable pit just right of the tankcar. The turntable bridge has been removed, and is laying upside down just beyond the pit. Virtually every building of this shop complex has been razed in the years since the photograph was taken. The exception is shown more clearly in the photo below.
ICG Depot, McComb, Miss.
Panning a bit to the right, that’s the depot on the right. It was in decrepit condition at this time, but a few years later would receive a full restoration and addition. Part of the building is still in use as the Amtrak station. The two closest tracks are the mainline headed down to New Orleans. The building just left of center in the distance was the car shop. It still exists today, though it has served in various private interests over the years. The McComb business district is just starting at the far right of the view, extending east and north of this view.

The vacant area just south of the depot, and extending all the way through the ground where the automobiles are parked, is now the site of the McComb RR Museum’s outdoor exhibits. Its centerpiece is a former I.C. 4-8-2 steam locomotive. Also displayed are several passenger cars, an experimental aluminum refrigerator car, a caboose, a heavy railroad crane, and various other pieces of equipment, all under a nice roof. The entire exhibit is very nicely done, and well maintained.

As an historical note, just days after these images were taken, the ICG Industries divested themselves of their railroad interests, and a new railroad was created under its former name, the Illinois Central Railroad.

An Old Rock Island Caboose

In recent months I’ve posted a number of caboose photographs. Today I was looking through copies of images taken by my friend Ron Findley, and I came across this shot of an old Rock Island Railroad caboose. I had forgotten about this old caboose, and decided to share it with you.

The backstory: In May of 1989 Ron and I were on a trip in south Arkansas, scouting out the various shortline railroads in the area. One of those happened to be the Warren and Saline River Railroad, whose current owner was the Potlatch Corporation. We located the plant and followed the back-roads around it looking for signs of railroad. We discovered these two cars on the plant property, just inside its fence. They were obviously in disuse, but still were largely intact. The caboose was recognizable as an old Rock Island cab, probably acquired by the W&SR along the way since they had a connection to the Rock.

While trying to get shots though the tall fencing, a car came down the road and stopped. The man inside asked if we were interested in railroads, and we assured him that we were there hoping to see the equipment for the W&SR. Well with that, the man introduced himself as the plant manager, and told us to follow him. He led us around to the entrance far away, then led us to different areas inside the plant to explain what all they had and did. And finally he said, “Well I suppose you’d like to see the railroad equipment also”. So we drove around to the backside of a building and there parked was the roster for the Warren & Saline River Railroad. After photographing the locomotives and facilities, he lead us back to the caboose and boxcar so we could get good shots of them from inside the plant without the fence. And here is my favorite view of the caboose.

RI Caboose at Warren AR

CN Train Meets a Cargo Ship

In December of 2004 a friend and I traveled down to the Bonne Carré Spillway at Norco, Louisiana. Our purpose was to photograph the recently restored TN&O/SP steam locomotive #745. It was making a break-in and testing run, and it would be traveling over the Kansas City Southern trestle that crosses the spillway.

While waiting, we heard an air horn behind us and turning around, we saw a Canadian National train heading south on the CN’s (formerly Illinois Central) trestle which also crosses the spillway. I spied a large cargo ship just beyond in the Mississippi River, and captured both of these as they were passing each other. Looking closely, you can see the weir that is at the entrance to the spillway. It’s that dark colored “wall” behind the trestle, viewable between the trestle bents.

CN Train Meets a Cargo Ship

Wikipedia has a good description of the spillway: The Bonne Carré Spillway is a flood control operation in the Lower Mississippi Valley. Located in St. Charles Parish, Louisiana, about 12 miles west of New Orleans, it allows floodwaters from the Mississippi River to flow into Lake Pontchartrain and thence into the Gulf of Mexico. The spillway was constructed between 1929 and 1931.

Adding to this: The control structure is a 1-1/2 mile long concrete and wooden weir parallel to the edge of the river. The concrete forms the support piers, and large wooden beams (needles) create a wall. The needles can be lifted out to allow water to flow into the spillway, removing as many as needed to control the flow. It’s quite interesting, and you can read more by following the link above.