Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Today's Train of Thought- Stopping Power- June 18th, 2013

Today's train of thought takes us to rural northern Louisiana and a railroad town that's better known for being the end of the line for an infamous duo of Depression-era fugitives.

Sometimes known as the Jonquil Capital of Louisiana, Gibsland, LA is a railroad town that is perhaps best known for being where Bonnie & Clyde met their end. The duo met their end off of Louisiana Route 154 south of town when they drove into an ambush set up by Texas and Louisiana lawmen in May 1934. In town, a museum commemorating the ambush that ended Bonnie & Clyde's interstate crime spree was opened by the son of one of the posse members was part of the manhunt that took down Parker and Barrow.

No less than three railroads made themselves at home in Gibsland as well. The east-west line through town belonged to the Illinois Central until the mid 1980s, when successor Illinois Central Gulf spun off lines from Iowa to Louisiana in order to focus on its primary Chicago-New Orleans line.

This included the 1986 formation of MidSouth Rail, which ran from Shreveport, LA to Meridian, MS by way of Vicksburg and Jackson, MS. Within a year of MidSouth's formation, they would acquire a controlling interest in the North Louisiana & Gulf logging railway, a shortline formed in 1901 that ran between Hodge, LA and Gibsland where it would interchange with either the Illinois Central or Louisiana & Northwest- another independent shortline.

By 1994, the Kansas City Southern would acquire the MidSouth, seeing it as a key asset for establishing what would be known as the Meridian Speedway- a strategically located rail line that would link Dallas with Atlanta thanks to cooperation between the KCS and Norfolk Southern.

As KCS continued expansion through the deep south, Texas and Mexico, the Class 1 carrier became less interested in some of the marginal branchlines that were included in the MidSouth acquisition. This included the former NL&G line between Hodge and Gibsland and in 2005, KCS announced they were leasing the line to Kansas-based WATCO (along with other branches in Oklahoma, Arkansas and Mississippi).

In the summer of 2005, WATCO began operations on the somewhat deceptively-named Louisiana Southern [the entire line is located in the northern part of Louisiana- NANESB!], which continues to haul logs, paper and forestry products along the Hodge line.

Three years later, the previously independent Louisiana & Northwest would be acquired by Patriot Rail- which to this day operated between Gibsland and McNeil, AR some 70 miles north.

Here, rrpicturearchives.net contributor James Jackson caught WAMX GP50 #5005 thumping across the KCS diamond at Gibsland with a cut of woodchip hoppers for WATCO's Louisiana Southern on May 12, 2006. The lead and trailing units are still in Union Pacific yellow, but the bell on the nose of #5005 indicates that this unit started out life on the Chicago & Northwestern. The middle unit is a former CSX GP38 borrowed from Locomotive Leasing Partners (LLPX)- the unit actually did wear orange during its later days on CSX; the railway set aside a number of older GEs and EMDs for dedicated Maintenance of Way service and would paint them orange.

Once the train clears the KCS line, the gate emblazoned with all the stop signs will be swung 90 degrees to block the Louisiana Southern/Louisiana & North Western line from the KCS mainline. The gate, while not designed to bring a freight train to a halt, is meant to provide a clear indicator of which line is open and which trains should yield.

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