We spent most of the day in DeQuincy.They were having a talent show and we decided that the whole crew would make up one big chorus and sing “I’ve Been Working On The Railroad” with banjo accompaniment by me and harmonica accompaniment from David. After the performance, one of the crew said that we ought to take the act on the road and another crew member reminded him that we already were on the road.
We stopped for about 10 minutes in DeRidder, LA and I did another inspection and everything was fine. We were about 4 miles south of Leesville and smoke started pouring out from the engineer’s front side of the engine so we stopped immediately to see what was the problem. We found that a connecting rod bushing on driver 2R had gotten hot and was on fire. We backed the train into an industrial lead so we could clear the main for another southbound train and pumped grease into the rod bearing until it had cooled down and then proceeded to Leesville.
There was a pretty good size crowd waiting for us, especially considering the delay. Mike Hankins, Bill Morris, David Bartee and I found a diner that was open so we could get a late dinner. Afterward, we dropped Bill and Mike off at the train and went to the hotel that had our room reservations. It turned out that the hotel didn’t know anything about us coming and there was a large event at nearby Fort Polk that had all the rooms sold out. We searched for a room and finally found one after midnight at the Country Inn. All they had were smoking rooms, but David and I were so tired that we would have taken anything at that point.
We had a pretty good thunderstorm roll through during the morning hours, but by lunchtime the sun was out and things were drying out. A good number of folks turned out to visit the train including 2 or 3 classes of children.
The BNSF guys, who have been really treating us well, showed up with a replacement radio and installed it for us and also brought us a couple of bags of ice and bottles of ice water which really was a big help. The BNSF folks have been nothing but first-rate and extremely supportive of our efforts and we really appreciate them!
We got out of town on time and had a good run today. The locomotive ran really well and we ran our 40 mph maximum authorized speed most of the way. We went through 4 more defect detectors and didn’t trigger any alarms.
We got to Iowa Junction and then moved from BNSF to Union Pacific trackage which we followed all the way through Lake Charles, LA to Westlake, LA. It was interesting to run by the UP Lake Charles yard at track speed. All the folks in their yard office came running out the door to take a look at the locomotive as we sped by.
We pulled into the KCS interchange lead at Westlake, LA and a KCS pilot took over and guided us into the yard. We pulled onto the service pad where they filled our tender with water, our sand dome with sand, and the generator car with diesel fuel. We then spotted the train on the Calumet Track in the yard and tied it down.
We said our goodbyes to C.J. Smith, Paul Richard, and Leo Persick who had taken such good care of us while we were on their railroad. I jokingly asked them if it would be okay if we just turned the train around and ran back and forth on their railroad which they got a laugh out of. A nice lady with the local Chamber of Commerce showed up with some wonderful barbeque beef and chicken and all the fixings and we chowed down in the KCS crew room. There were a good number of people there so hopefully, there will be a good turnout tomorrow.
We’re staying in the Comfort Suites in Westlake this evening.
Tuesday, April 5 – We had a lot more people visit the train today. Since Lafayette is a fairly busy rail center, there are a number of older retired railroaders who visited the train. I especially enjoyed talking with them since they’re literally living history. It’s nice to still have some of the old steam men around. The guys showed up who had set us up with the lubricator rig for the rods. I used it and it really works fast and efficiently. I did several press interviews while we were there.
We buttoned up the train about 1 pm and had our job briefing at 2 just prior to our departure. The crew is still doing a great job and the train was loaded and buttoned up on time. The mechanical department had greased the rail at a crossing coming out of the lead and the locomotive wanted to slip a little but it pulled the 4 cars right out of the stub track without any problem. We pulled to the west end of the yard and had to wait about an hour for a Union Pacific train to get a track warrant straightened out. That situation finally was resolved and the UP train headed west. We got a track warrant and started down the main following the UP train. About that time, we lost the transmit on our cab radio but we were able to get by on our handhelds.
The terrain is starting change to undulate a little bit more and we’re moving out of more swampy territory into a large rice farming area. We tied up for the night on a yard track in Crowley, LA that is parallel to the main line. Since there are several crossings in town, we had to disconnect the locomotive from the train so we wouldn’t block any of them. The mayor and the officials of Crowley threw a reception tonight in our honor that was really nice. The mayor asked us if David Bartee was my son and we’re now trying to figure out who was the most insulted. The city put us up in a brand new La Quinta Inn that is really nice this evening.
We had to work through a little bug in getting our track bulletins, but CJ Smith was right on top of it and was able to pick them up from the short line’s office. They took us for a tour of their caboose which was a beautifully worked-over ex-SP caboose. The interior was very plush with air conditioning and captain’s chairs and a small kitchen. It also had a generator set under it.
When we got to the train, Deana Mae and her mother had come to tour the train so I got another nice hug from her. Another family had their little 15-month son, Akel Youman with them and we became buddies too. I had a little last-minute scramble before departure to fill the lubricator which had gotten missed and replace a brake shoe on one of the cars. We pulled around the wye, onto the siding and pulled all the way to the west end of the siding to clear the short line for some work they had to do.
We waited almost an hour to let a westbound Amtrak Sunset Limited overtake us and then we were cleared to take the main. The Sunset Limited picked up it’s speed to 70 mph and we already had a clear indication on the block when we got to the next signal. Paul Rouchard, our pilot, blew the whistle all the way which really gave me a break. We pulled into the station at Lafayette and I did a quick inspection of the engine and everything was fine. After the inspection, we pulled to the west end of the yard and started to back into the roundhouse lead.
We did a quick test of the rods by locking down the brake, opening the throttle a little, then moving the reverser while David and Bill Morris watched the rods. The engineer’s side rod at the crosshead pin showed a little movement. We then backed the train down into the lead and tied down the train. I went to work and checked both rods and tightened the engineer’s side one flat. We visited with a lot of folks, including two older SP retirees who had been active during the steam days during the time that 745 was still active.
A bunch of us went to Prejean’s restaurant which had a Cajun band playing and great food. We stayed the night in the same Holiday Inn where Jane and I stayed during the 1991 AACA Founder’s Tour.
Today was another beautiful day with perfect weather. We had a pretty good crowd of people but had a little snafu when the crew closed the exhibition train at 11 am and started packing up the ramps and the local papers had said that the train would be open until 2 pm. We had to explain about the rigid scheduling and that we had to be ready for our 1 pm departure time. One of the visitors was a fellow who worked with a high-pressure lubrication company and saw the crew struggling with the Alemite gun. He borrowed my caliper and measured the button head fittings on the rods which are an extra-large size-specific to SP locomotives.
We backed out of the stub track on time, pulled to the siding and waited the mandatory 5 minutes before pulling out onto the main. Immediately after getting back on the main, we crossed over the Atchafalaya River on a huge lift span bridge. This is the same bridge that is pictured in the “Homeward Bound” prints that show 745 exiting the bridge eastbound. We later ran over another drawbridge and immediately past that took siding at Baldwin, LA which was our “flag stop”. The ramp was set up to allow visitors from the local Indian tribe who had donated to the train to visit. While the train was parked, UP ran a westbound freight around us and a little later an eastbound Amtrak Sunset Limited passed by.
I was on the opposite side of the train helping to keep the public off of the mainline while the trains passed by. A little 6-year-old girl, Deana Mae, had visited me in the cab about an hour before. She came up with a big grin and gave me a vanilla Moon Pie and a Pepsi. She was a real cutie.
We then ran mostly on advanced approach and approach signals as we were following the westbound freight that had passed us earlier, but we were able to maintain our 40 mph maximum allowable speed most of the way. We had an unfortunate incident around mp 116 when someone threw a large rock or brick and broke a window in the side of the Jefferson car. Barry immediately called a friend of his who has a glass company and they’re bringing several panes to the train in a day or two.
The town of New Iberia put us up in the New Iberia Inn. We were given a suite in which Ray Duplechain, Willy Meyers, David Bartee and I stayed. David Bartee accused Ray and me of having a snoring competition but we feel that it was a false accusation since neither one of us heard anything. We arrived at the depot in New Iberia on time and backed into the wye and onto L&D RR’s track which junctions there. We backed the train into a side track and tied it down for the evening. The guy who had met us in Morgan City showed up with an associate and they brought several high-pressure lubrication systems with them and had even custom machined a head for one of them to fit our extra-large buttons. It’s really been heartwarming to see how much folks have responded to and support the LASTA efforts with the train. Some other folks showed up with a couple of bags of crayfish and an LP boiling pot and the crew had a crawfish boil next to the train.
I wanted to see if the restaurant in a little inn in St. Martinville was still open where Jane and I had had a nice meal in 1991 and Ray Duplechain and I drove the 10 miles over to St. Martinville. The inn, which is next to Longfellow’s Evangeline Oak, was still there but looked like the restaurant was closed. There was a phone on the front and I called the number by the phone. The lady said that she had closed the restaurant several years before. She recommended a restaurant called “Possum’s” and we had a good meal there.
745 and crew headed westbound over the former SP mainline to Morgan City, Louisiana, on the first leg of her trans-Louisiana trip. It is more than appropriate that her first stop was in the city where she was born and that the city was named for the president of the SPRR predecessor, Morgan’s Louisiana & Texas.
We had a good day today with the SP 745. We left New Orleans 2 minutes behind time and headed for the Huey Long Bridge. It was quite a rush taking the train over such a huge (and high!) structure. The engine is really running well and she seemed to be genuinely happy to be back on her home district rails today for the first time in half a century.
Amtrak pulled us from the terminal, through the KCSinterchange and actually spotted us in the KCS yard. The move was accompanied by two Amtrak Special Agents from the terminal to the KCS interchange. The KCS yard job then picked us up and was able to place the entire train in the short leg of the wye. I tightened the front main rod pin on the engineer’s side and one of the side rod pins on the fireman’s side.
Thursday, March 31 – Today was a relatively easy day. We ran errands in the morning picking up some more equipment and provisions and then went down to the train about noon.
The public was still coming and another 600 folks toured through the train. This evening, Jon Stern, the videographer, had a party in the Jefferson Car for all the actors who helped make the 6 videos that are playing in the theater cars.
Wednesday, March 30, 2005 – David, Bill Morris and I had to be at the station for TV interviews with CBS affiliate channel 4. Later in the day, I did an interview with Louisiana Public Broadcasting who has been documenting a lot of the work with 745.
One of the visitors to the train was an old gentleman who was a switchman on the job hauled 745 dead in tow over the Huey Long bridge in 1956 when she was placed in the park. They took pictures of him and me together since I was going to be one of the crew to take her back over the bridge under steam.
Lee Gautreaux showed up with a guitar so we picked on the platform for a little while. Some of the LASTA gang jokingly put a plastic bin in front of us and threw some pocket change in it. Some of the public walked by and threw dollar bills in so we raised about $6.50 Tonight we drove to Ray and Marie Duplechain’s and had a wonderful dinner and visit.
Tuesday, March 29 – Today we finished building steam and the rest of the LASTA crew put the finishing touches on the train. We met the New Orleans Public Belt RR at 15:00 and they towed us to the Kansas City Southern interchange at Lambert Junction. Ted Wax piloted us on KCS. We stopped for the signal at the interlocking with the old IC line and Amtrak’s Sunset Limited crossed in front of us with three private cars on the rear.
We then got the signal and we continued the move to the south interchange with Amtrak. Amtrak locomotive 508 picked us up and took us the rest of the way to the New Orleans Public Terminal where we were spotted head in against the bumper block.
Monday, March 28, 2005 – Fireman David Bartee flew from Knoxville and I flew from Lexington and we met at our connection in Memphis. Our Memphis – New Orleans flight was canceled due to mechanical problems so we had to rent a car and finish the trip.
We had Keith Bonnette and Bill Morris go ahead and start firing the engine while we were on the road. When we arrived at the LASTA yard 745 was just beginning to build a little bit of heat. David took her to about 50 pounds and then shut her down for the night.