Long Leaf, Louisiana

Red River & Gulf RR

April 10, 2010


To correct or add additional info please contact me at: RioGrandeDude @ SmittysHouse.net (no spaces)


At 1600 on the dot I bolted for the door of my office, got in my truck, and waded out into the Friday rush-hour traffic to make my way to Long Leaf. It had been nearly a year since my last trip over there and I was anxious to see the newly built loop as well as the rebuilt Sandersville Branch (formerly the main line to Long Leaf Junction). I arrived at 2045 and met Everett and Harry at the Mexican restaurant south of town before heading to the newly finished "Hotel 2.5" inside the "Finished Lumber Shed" at the museum. The "hotel" is a log-cabin style bunk house with individual rooms for the out-of-town volunteers. It's equipped with bathrooms, a meeting room, and a full kitchen. Sure beats the heck out of paying for a real hotel. My deepest thanks to the Forest Heritage Museum for building this for us!

0700 came early the next morning, but I was raring to go. This was my first day on a MOW Crew... or maybe a Section Crew. Either way, it was a lot of fun and a LOT of hard work. I need to get back into running and weight lifting. Swinging that spike maul is serious work!

The first order of business was the replacement of a badly worn rail on the loop behind the mill. Earlier crews had moved the new rail into position, but hadn't been able to squeeze it in line with the adjacent rails. On this cool morning (~50 degrees) the rail laid right in place... a perfect fit. So, we simply attached the rail joiners and re-spiked it. Piece of cake.

Early morning at

 the Engine House

The newly completed loop of track around Long Leaf

Everett with a track wrench tightening the bolts on the rail joiner for the replaced rail

With the replaced rail now bolted back in and spiked down, Everett wanted to raise several low sections of track close by. The next several hours were spent lifting track and installing cribbing. NOT EASY WORK. But it was fun. In the above series Harry is using the tractor and a chain to lift a section so a tie can be placed under as cribbing. In addition, several rails were un-spiked and re-gauged. Hard work, but lots of fun.


Me at work

After re-gauging and lifting about 200 yards of track that morning we stopped for a lunch break at the hotel. Afterwards we headed out to another section just east of the main road crossing to repair a sag in the rail over a culvert. About 50 yards of track were lifted, cribbed, and re-ballasted. It looked pretty darn good when we were done.

Harry worked the tractor while Wade

makes sure he drops on target

Newly built cribbing

More ballast


After repairing this last section, we all headed to the Education Center for a class on railroad operations at Long Leaf. Everett walked us through the Rule Book, instructing us on all the intricacies of the line. Then we headed to the engine house to fire up the M4 and get some track time!

Everett shows us the controls

I served as Brakeman, throwing the switches so that Everett could move the M4 out of the engine house and onto the main

M4 backing down the Sandersville Branch main to the loop main

After getting M4 on the main and the switches lined correctly, Everett handed to controls over to Wade

Crossing over the repaired track near the main

road crossing

Everett got out to watch the M4 from the ground as Wade tip-toed her across the track we'd repaired that morning. I jumped out to get some pictures of the action.


She's really quite a site. Sort of a "Cajun Galloping Goose" ... so to speak

I think she looks perfectly at home out in the woods

Me at the controls of the M4!!


This was FUN!!!


It was odd not using my hands. The throttle is controlled by foot like a car. Once you release the brakes and get her in gear (4 speed manual transmission) you just sit back and step on the gas!

After two trips around the

loop for Wade and I to learn how to run the M4, Everett took us up the Sandersville Branch on the RG1

Heading up the Sandersville Branch

Everett showing Wade

the controls



Bob Carroll - former Director of the Forest Heritage Museum

The tracks here were reconstructed here last year. Click here for a picture of the line before it was cleared and rebuilt

Looking back towards the yard

The track needs to be ballasted, but is otherwise completed




End of the (serviceable) line. Past this point is a yard and the wye at Long Leaf Junction. Eventually it will all be rebuilt.



After putting the equipment away we headed up to Alexandria for some well deserved chow. We got back to Long Leaf around 2000 and I got some much needed sleep. The next morning I headed back to Spring to catch the arrival of Union Pacific 844. As I neared Lloyd Yard I heard the dispatcher talking to 844 on my scanner. I floored it and arrived at the only place I could find that was clear of people about 15 seconds before 844 did! I didn't even turn the truck off. I jumped out set up the camera faster than I ever have before and started shooting. It was over in the blink of a eye. A few hundred yards past my spot the train was stopped for the throngs of people to check out. I called my wife (we live a mile from where I was) and she headed to where the train was stopped for pictures. I leap-frogged the train (and the crowds) and headed to the south end of Lloyd Yard... where I second-guessed my location at the last second and nearly blew my shot.

UP844 arriving in Spring, TX My blown shot of 844 heading south from UP's Lloyd Yard

All in all it was a GREAT weekend and I can't wait go back to Long Leaf.

More pictures of the 844 are posted here.