Saturday, November 2, 2013

Riding the train called The City of New Orleans - part 2

This is a continuation of my post from October 28, 2013.  Please read part one first in order to follow the journey better.

Even before The City of New Orleans train rolled on these tracks there had been since the 1880s a primary rail link through the Mississippi River region and the cotton fields of the Delta.  The railroad then was called The Yazoo and Mississippi Valley Railroad, incorporated in the year 1882, and part of the Illinois Central Railroad system.  The cars in the old 1880s railroad were yellow and many "blues" songs include the "Yellow Dog" in their tunes.  Black farmers trying to find better paying jobs in the North took the railroad north and left their towns in the Mississippi Delta - some small towns were left empty and tenant houses were abandoned.  So many African-Americans left the segregated South then for Chicago on the railroad that the local police would stop the sale of train tickets or would even drag black riders off the cars as there was not enough labor force left to cultivate the cotton fields.

Now in the present, swampy lands were coming into view with small streams covered with moss.  The view would change quickly from wide open spaces to areas overgrown with weeds.  I took countless pictures as the bright landscape rolled by.  (Click on collages twice to enlarge.)

But soon the landscape changed as we were approaching Lake Pontchartrain.  Now we saw mossy trees and pools of water reflecting the sky and clouds.

Then we began to see the marshy shores of Lake Pontchartrain behind some trees.  The train stopped for a while to let a freight train go by so I took a picture of the landscape with my Nikon D40, top picture below, and almost the same scene with my Panasonic Lumix, shown on the bottom below.

 The train came closer to the water.  The lake looked immense.  In 1669 French settler and explorer, Pierre Le Moyne, Sieur d'Iberville (1661-1706) made a journey through these lakes and bayous with a Native American scout.  He named the lake after Louis Phelipeaux (1643-1727) comte de Maurepas and comte de Pontchartrain, under French King Louis XIV.  (D'Iberville was the founder of the French colony of Louisiana of New France and his brother, Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne de Bienville founded New Orleans in 1719.)

Lac Pontchartrain covers an area of 1,600 square kilometers or 630 square miles with average water depths of from 3.7 to 4.3 meters (12 to 14 feet.)  It is oval in shape and about 64 km by 39 km (40 x 24 miles.)  It is not a true lake but an estuary connected to the Gulf of Mexico.  We followed its long curve for quite a while.

The train had to stop several times as freight trains went by but eventually we arrived close to New Orleans and started to see some housing under heavy rain clouds.

Before we stopped at the New Orleans station the conductor announced that we would move to another set of tracks and to stay seated.  While this was happening the conductor played the song "The City of New Orleans" sung by Johnny Cash over the PA speakers.  It was so moving to listen to the song and be in the train - I just loved it.  We then pulled into the station which looked quite empty, apart from some stationary trains.  I could also see some Greyhound buses parked on the side.

 We left the station and took a taxi to our hotel.  It was warm and overcast.  By the time we reached our hotel it was pouring rain (tropical storm Karin was expected soon) but when we went out to eat, the rain had stopped.

Future posts will show what we did with our time in and out of New Orleans.  On Sunday, October 13th, we returned to New Orleans Union Passenger Terminal for our ride back to Memphis.  We arrived early.  The station is clean and light.  The station was designed in 1949 and built in 1954.  It has a long mural on Louisiana and New Orleans history painted by Conrad A. Albrizio, American (1894-1973.)  There is an area reserved for the Greyhound Bus Lines which offer a connection to Baton Rouge, LA., and other cities.

Again I was shocked to see so few passengers and one employee at the counter.  New Orleans' population was 484,675 in 2000 but after Hurricane Katrina it dropped.  It is slowly gaining again - statistics indicate a population of 369,250 for 2012.  But even so, there are only 3 trains coming and leaving from New Orleans.  In addition to the City of New Orleans train which arrives at 3:40 pm each day and leaves for Chicago at 2:05 pm daily, arriving in Chicago the next morning at 9:20 am, there is the Crescent.  It originates in New York City, stopping in Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington, DC., Atlanta, etc.  The third train is the Sunset Limited departing 3 days a week from Los Angeles.  We checked our luggage, free of charge, and waited to board the train.  When the time arrived we were given the number of our seats.  This time we were in Coach Seats that were very roomy and comfortable.

We were seated on the opposite side of the train from our previous ride.  We left New Orleans looking at the vehicles driving on the freeway close to us.  We rode along the freeway for a long time - all the way to Lake Pontchartrain Causeway Bridge.  The scenery was wild and constantly changing.  I tried to photograph the many birds I saw but the train was going too fast or bumping at the wrong time.


I would like to drive on that bridge, but riding on a bus would be better as I would be able to sit high and see the scenery. (Vintage postcards below.)

We left New Orleans at 1:45 pm and were due to arrive in Memphis at 10:00 pm.  At 2:45 pm we stopped in Hammond, Louisiana.  My Route Guide said that we were now back in the bayous, exotic swamps and moss-laden cypress trees.  The French Canadian settlers arrived here during the late 1700s (now they are called Cajuns.)  The train station has not changed much in Hammond from the look of the vintage postcard below, bottom right hand side.

This time we went to the Cross Country Cafe car to have a snack.  The train stopped at Hazelhurst, LA, and a little girl in the next booth moved from the window so I could take a photograph.

We talked with one of the conductors for a short time while he was drinking a cup of coffee.  He told us that sometimes the train runs fast, and also must slow down often, depending of the state of the rails.  Our train was about full with 240 passengers, 120 of them getting off in Memphis.  He said that it happens that the train makes unplanned stops.  For example during the "Strawberry Festival" in Patchatoula, LA, the train was stopped and every passenger was given some fresh strawberries.

The sign above is about "Little Brother" Montgomery (1906-1985.)  He was an American jazz, boogie-woogie and blues pianist, self-taught, who was born in the town of Kentwood, LA.  I found a YouTube of Little Brother Montgomery playing "Brothers Boogie."




But it was getting dark so I stopped taking pictures and read while The City of New Orleans bumped on toward Memphis.  We arrived in Memphis on time and so, we had to leave our shiny silver train.  We waited on the platform for our checked suitcases.

 Before we arrived in Memphis the conductor did not play the song called "The City of New Orleans" by Johnny Cash as it was played when we arrived in New Orleans, but I still like Arlo Guthries' version best as he sung it during a Tour in Atlanta in 1978 (video below.)  This had been a very pleasant journey on the City of New Orleans - a memory I will cherish.







31 comments:

Jeanne said...

Love your shots, and what a great adventure this must be. My father was a railroader for many years, and have taken many trips like this. What fun! A great post!

Nadege said...

What a fabulous trip! I have never taken a train in the US which is ashamed but your last 2 posts made me realized that it would really be fun to go to New Orleans from LA with friends. I'll have to keep this in mind when I am retired. (Or even going to Chicago...)

DJan said...

As usual, your thoroughly researched and documented trip is spectacular. I always feel like I've been there along with you. I am also shocked at the lack of people in the city. I thought it had gone much farther towards recovery. It's such a beautiful place! I look forward to hearing what you did with your days, VB. :-)

Jeanie said...

Another fabulous tour! I love the views from the train and how the scenery changes -- and it's great how you talk to people and learn even more little facts. I'll look forward to your New Orleans visit, too!

Perpetua said...

I have so much enjoyed these two posts, thanks to your meticulous research and wonderfully-arranged photos. They've given me a better idea of Mississippi and the bayou country of Louisiana than I've ever gleaned elsewhere. It must have been a truly fascinating trip.

However one fact you mentioned has left my British mind reeling in disbelief - the idea of trying to criminalise natural miscarriage and stillbirth!

David said...

Vagabonde, You had a great rail adventure and produced great photos and an interesting blog too! The last time I rode a train was back in the early 90's from Chicago to Jackson MI... Not quite the same as from Memphis to New Orleans. FYI...For an old fashioned steam powered railroad adventure, check out this Norfolk Southern/Tennessee Valley Railroad experience coming up in mid-November. The train will go round trip from Knoxville TN to Ashville NC. For information, go to http://www.tvrail.com/pages/21st-century-steam/. Take Care, Big Daddy Dave

Down by the sea said...

That was a wonderful trip to share with you. The music must have been so good to listen to at the end of the journeys. Your posts are always so full of history and great pictures too. I learn so much more about America.
Sarah x

ELFI said...

superbe voyage!

Elephant's Child said...

What an incredible journey you took us on. I loved the photos, and the commentary.
And am in awe at stopping a train and giving the passengers fresh strawberries. What a lovely touch - who could not have a good day after a start like that.

Mandy Southgate said...

I love this post, as I did the first part of your journey. It's amazing how the landscape changes and the difference between your two cameras in the photos of Lake Pontchartrain intrigued me.

I look forward to your post about New Orleans as I have always wanted to visit there!

Kay L. Davies said...

I can't tell you how much I've enjoyed this post and the previous one. I've wanted to ride this train for many, many years, and now I want to ride it even more.
The story about the the songwriter who didn't live long enough to know it became so well-known and well-loved...that made me cry. And the piano jazz of Little Brother Montgomery made me smile.
I remember the rain in New Orleans...an hour of a hard downpower, then sunshine again. When I was there in 1980, it happened at 4:00 every afternoon.
Thank you so much for sharing this fabulous journey with us, and for reminding me how much I love the song and want to ride the train. (Yes, so very different from French trains, I know.)
K

Mae Travels said...

I enjoyed both parts of your beautifully illustrated trip on the iconic train. It is really a surprise that it still runs as so many trains are only ghosts of their former selves now.

.•♫•. Nancy .•♫•. said...

Un petit bonjour chez toi chère Vagabonde !!!
MERCI pour toutes ces superbes photos et toutes ces infos intéressantes.
GROS BISOUS des tropiques ✿ ✿ ✿
Passe une belle journée !!!!

OldLady Of The Hills said...

This made me wish I could take that Sunset Limited from Los Angeles to New Orleans....Ahhhhhh, if only!
What a great trip you had and once again, I felt like I had the opportunity to travel with you....WONDERFUL pictures and WONDERFUL History, too....! Another marvelous post, my dear...

Sam Hoffer @ My Carolina Kitchen said...

Very enjoyable post and it brought back memories of our years in Mississippi. The train and the trip itself is fabulous and I thought haunting with all of it's history. Loved that you shared the story of the people fleeing the south for the north. Growing up in the South it's a story I know well. Thanks again for another great post. Loved the photo New Orleans with the pretty streetcar.
Sam


Sam

Ruth said...

I don't think there are many things more pleasureful than to be inspired the way you were to embark on an adventure, connected in so many ways to your past, and note the details so carefully and joyfully. I feel it in these posts. I enjoy planning a trip almost as much as taking it, and it seems you do too, and also recounting the highlights in photos, as you have done so well.

This is Belgium said...

I did this by car some time ago
enjoyed your trip too though!

Magic Love Crow said...

Great photos! Great history! Great trip! I think that's great about the Strawberry festival and everyone getting strawberries ;o)

Nadezda said...

You had a great trip, Vagabond!I liked to read and see on the map of your trip, as don't know where the cities are. Waiting for next post!

bayou said...

Many many thanks for that fabulous post! I enjoyed every line and every photograph and 'seeing' New Orleans again after so many years... We went to Arnaud's (it still exists!) then to the French quarter and I would have loved to take one of these cast iron posts with me, to attach the horses. We went to the jazz places by night and hardly ever slept. There was one rich Southerner who had married a girl from xx(was it Georgia?) who was homesick and because she longed for those sweet corn fields, he let her have built a cast iron fence around the property all in the shape of sweet corn.
I still see the cemetery where all the bodies are buried in concrete kind of boxes for to keep them in place when the Mississippi overflows again. No other city has captured my spirits ever in that way again.

Reader Wil said...

Hi Vagabonde! I'll answer this comment in English, for that is a lot faster than in French, but please keep writing to me in French.
I enjoyed reading about your train journey. This train is like a riding hotel, even better , for you have a beautiful changing scenery. I also liked the videos.Especially the one with Arlo Guthry in New Orleans. I thought John Denver also sang it. I like the melody very much.
Thank you taking us on your yourney.

Fennie said...

My neighbour here spent a year in New Orleans as part of her university course. Now I can see a little of what she was talking about. Your trip sounds fabulous - but do they serve food on those trains. I am imagining a pullman dining car like the Orient Express and dishes of sea food. Strange to read about a North South journey when all other journeys seem to be East West. As ever your photography is superb.

Corey said...

Thank you so much for taking us along! I loved every detailed you shared, such wealth of history and the photos to go along. A 'roomette' the name is sweet isn't it!
I have never taken a train in the States... but your post makes me think I should!

biebkriebels said...

What an interesting post about your railroad journey. I visited many places you mentioned but not by train. That must have been special.

Pat said...

I love the idea of stopping for strawberries.
I'm sure you will treasure the memory of the trip made all the more memorable with the haunting music.

Vicki Lane said...

A marvelous journey! I love your photos -- they are making me want to
visit the bayou country.

EG CameraGirl said...

Wonderful tour. I love the old postcards!

Jennifer A. Jilks said...

What a fun tour!

Gail Gallagher said...

I love your blog! Wonderful photos and historical notes. The old post cards are the perfect touch for putting the "then to now" in context. Since this was my first visit... I look forward to catching up on your previous journeys. Wonderful! Thanks, Gail

Roger Gauthier said...

This is a very interesting post, Vagabonde. And you put a lot of effort into it, that's for sure.

About your D40, something is terribly wrong with it, no doubt about it. Either the lens or the sensor has wa major problem.

With a good lens, a D40 in good shape will blow your Lumix out of the water each time. Easy. Guaranteed. I don't know the problem you have here, but you sure have one!

Kay said...

This is such a fun post. I remember our trip to New Orleans and the fun it was. Thank you for the wonderful photos and history.

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