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.

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