Trains Again

The one that did it.

That old Amtrak engine.

Another picture of that influenced my publisher into commissioning the third book of my little collection. “Abandoned Railroads of New Orleans.” I loved the idea. I signed on the dotted line.

And, then.

New Orleans is like a giant railroad terminus and hub. Trains come from all four points on the compass. They pick up ship-based freight. The trains are broken apart and cars are shipped to other regions. Most railroad companies have car barns here. They have engine sheds here. I found a working turntable in the yard of the railroad company that I own.

I don’t own it entirely. I own about 1/385,000 of it. The citizens of New Orleans owns It is the New Orleans Belt Railroad. They are responsible or moving freight cars from one railroad company to another.

One would think that there would be plenty of abandoned railroad-related stuff around here.

One would be wrong.

All of the railroads working here are modern and efficient. If they abandon a track line, they tear it up. If a train car is to be scrapped, it doesn’t linger. There really isn’t much abandoned stuff to photograph. Even the trains in the picture are owned by the railroad historical society.

I heard about a place in another parish where there is also a rail scrapping yard. Apparently, they have enough work that projects take a while to be demo’d. That’s not in Orleans Parish. I talked to my publisher about it. They graciously agreed, and we rewrote the top of the contract. Now, the book is “Abandoned Railroads of Louisiana.” They hope that they can do a 50 state series. They like me well enough that I can pick and choose because once again I’m functioning as a reporter and photographer. I help build their knowledge about a subject. I might pick one or two more railroad books, but they are going to take a long time to photograph. As a wise man once said, “Sometimes the hardest part of taking a picture is getting there.”

The picture. The baby Leica to the rescue. Man, is its lens sharp and contrasty. I had to did a lot of tinkering to get the picture down to this level. I added some glow to it because… I felt like it. I won’t do that to the pictures for the book. This work is pretty close to photojournalism.


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  1. I hope you do Texas! We’ve got lots of railroads, and presumably, that means lots of abandoned railroads, too. Galveston has an old railroad track across the bay connecting it to the mainland, and I’ve had a recurring dream about it for years. (I don’t know why I needed to share that. 🤔 )

    Liked by 1 person

      • In about 18 months. I’m pretty sure I’ve made enough pictures. But, I’m also writing. 40,000 words is about the minimum. I have to work this in between three tour legs. Luckily, they are domestic and bus rides are long. For once, I’m busier than what’s her name. I am also photographing her throughout the tour for a 20th Ann project for Blue Note.

        If you mean the abandoned railroad book, I still have to find the pictures. This is like a NatGeoSoc assignment on steroids x 3.


    • Hard assignment. As a wise man once said, “sometimes the hardest part of taking a picture is getting there.” Working in Texas means that I don’t know where is. I’m also willing to bet that there isn’t much abandoned stuff around since the railroads based in Texas are modern and efficient.


  2. I’ve taken Amtrak from Los Angeles to New Orleans twice. I only share that to indicate how much I enjoy train travel. My husband was a Southern Pacific later Union Pacific railroad switchman for 44 years and we both are fascinated when we come upon what appears to be an abandoned railroad car. It doesn’t happen often, but I feel nostalgic for them, even if I never personally experienced them. Your book project sounds very interesting to me.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Maybe I should talk to him. The stories he could tell. My book project is going to be very hard to do. Finding this stuff is hard. I’ll be lucky to complete it on deadline. Or, no deadline. Even when somebody tells you about a location, it could be old and cleaned up. Or, if it’s a train car, it could be moved.


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