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Following Louisiana's & Mississippi's Historic Railroads

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Following the Historic Rails of Mississippi

Saturday, March 25, 2017


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    The Mystery Trestle

    I check out what is being read on the blog. There are several irrelevant reasons.

    I saw that an old ride, "The Recon", was being hit, so, not looking at it "in ages", I decided to take a gander and see what was the fuss.

    My ride reports are full of loose ends. I'd be reminded of another one.


    I pulled out my map program, then had  it direct Google Earth to the spot.

    GE verified the location and gave hint to a little of the rail's route.

    There were two possibilities, one, that it was part of a cypress mill railroad, and, two, it was on the original route of the 1850's railroad between the West Bank of New Orleans and Morgan City, though that would be a stretch.

    The map showed the bayou as Bayou Lours. Damn yankees always get it wrong. It was Bayou L'Ours, later seen with an "e" on the end, the present spelling.

    I forget what terms I used in finding this, but, nevertheless, 2 versions appeared.

    The second I'll put first. It is from HERE. It is he original booklet covering a meeting, an important meeting.

    A side note: Below, a familiar name appears, "Cornay", and another, Overton. and another, "DeClouet". There I'll stop. There are others. I'll just elaborate a bit.

    A Captain Cornay would become a famous warrior beginning at Fort Jackson and continuing into the Red River Campaign of the Civil War.

    "DeClouet:" was the name of a flag stop on the Cade to Port Barre Southern Pacific RR.
    It was above Breaux Bridge.

    The name "Overton"  is seen on many of the Railroad Commission's decisions.

    And, of course, these are just names and not necessarily the people mentioned, as Cornay, for sure, is not the Captain, but a relative.

     The remaining names, some of which are very interesting, will be shown below.

    Back to the trestle saga.

    This is from the book on the survey presentation meeting.


     I was disappointed to see Bayou  L'ourse (now spelled with an "e") to the north of the rail line.
    But, it does cross the rail route on its southern route, causing a cloud of doubt to drop like a hammer.

    The meeting begins:

     Above he says, "about a quarter of a mile above the corporate limits of the town of Thibodaux"
    The present crossing of the railroad is "Lafourche Crossing, below Thibodaux". I think he made a small error. But, that slip up strung me along in hopes of finding "the original northern route".

    OK, the original route is probably nearly the present one.
    Below, is mentioned the depth of Bayou Boeuf. come into play when theorizing a possible connection to the mill at Ramos. Forget that.



     Here comes the term "another route".  Corrections: His Bayou Crocodile is really "Cocodrie", and his Bayou Chucahoula is actually, "Chacahoula".  And, could be Bayou Shaver be "Bayou Schriever", though I find no Bayou Schriever.

    The route below went south of the present route. My hopes were for one north of the present,. Trash that idea.

     The Houma Branch is envisioned.


    The other names, as promised, are:

    Above, there is a "Gates". Could it be Hutchinson's future son in law? 

    This is way off course, off the trestle course, but I had to include it. We will return to the trestle.
    Speaking of familiar names:

    This is his take on the meeting.

    Correspondent Even as A.G. Blanchard's survey parties were mapping the proposed railroad line across the "trembling prairies" on either side of Des Allemands, the continuation of the line, from Thibodaux through cypress swamps to the Atchafalaya at Brashear City, was being surveyed by civil engineer Augustus S. Phelps.

    Beginning at Bayou Lafourche, without mentioning Bayou Terrebonne, he reported, "...we directed our course so as to follow a ridge of high land ... then turned the course a few degrees to the right ... running through a cypress swamp two miles and a half across, striking the nearest point of high land on the Chucahoula ridge."

    The swamp, near present-day Chacahoula, "...has a firm, hard clay bottom, with crevasse (river flooding) watermarks varying from three to four feet, and in a few sloughs, five feet water-mark.

    "In the summer season this swamp becomes entirely dry, but now has on it water averaging one foot in depth. It is my opinion this swamp might be drained and kept most generally dry, by making a sufficiently large canal across the Chucahoula Ridge into Bayou Tiger ..."

    Continuing westward, "... our line curves still more ... running along the Chucahoula Ridge about four miles, and enters a cypress swamp similar to the one last described."

    Less than a half mile further on, the surveyors found "... a low and narrow ridge of land on the Bayou Tiger. Following this ridge, twice crossing the Bayou Tiger, at 13 miles from Lafourche, we arrived at a point on the right bank of Bayou Black, opposite the town of Tigerville."

    Today, Tigerville is known as Gibson.

    Phelps pointed out that the survey line to that point, "...crosses the Bayou Chucahoula four times; but this bayou, as well as the Bayou l'Ours, hereafter referred to, is very small and hardly observable, being what is generally termed a dry bayou."

    From Tigerville "...crossing a little to the left, the line runs along the high lands of Bayou Black two miles and a half, thence curving slightly to the right across the high lands of Bayou l'Ours one mile and a half, and enters a cypress and tupelo gum swamp, lying between the high lands of Bayou l'Ours and Bayou Boeuf.

    "This swamp has crevasse water-marks from three to four feet, and is ... a little more than two miles in length..." Next, after a stretch of cultivated land nearly 20 miles from Bayou Lafourche, surveyors reached Bayou Boeuf, "... 590 feet in width, banks 8 feet above tide water ..."

    Beyond the bayou, the line continued straight across a mixture of swamp and cultivated land, past Bayou Ramos to the Atchafalaya at a point less than 27 miles from Thibodaux. Of this distance, Phelps noted that less than six miles was through overflowed swamp land, "... the balance on high, level, and arable alluvial lands."

    The route, he reported, would require five bridges, plus several culverts across small bayous and drains. The land being essentially flat, he said no railroad cuts would be required, "... nor embankments, except in the swamp portions, sufficient to elevate the road above the highest crevasse water, and in other portions to secure a good foundation."
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    Only about half the route, Phelps said, was subject to "... immersion from 1 to 4 feet, in times of extreme high water of the Mississippi River, caused by breaks of the levee in the parishes of Point Coupee and West Baton Rouge." But still he favored laying the rails on embankments, not trestles.

    "Many engineers and others are of opinion, that the best manner of building railroads across overflowed swamps," he conceded, "is on a construction of trestle work. I conceive that a more substantial and cheaper road-bed can be obtained by throwing up solid embankments of earth ... more than one foot above the highest crevasse water-marks ..."

    Even with the embankments and bridges, Phelps estimated the cost at less than $1,200 per mile. He said a possible alternative route along Bayou Shaver would cost as much per mile, would serve more plantations directly, but was 12 miles longer.

    "The question then would present itself, whether the additional local business of the longer route would justify the outlay of its additional first cost of construction ...

    "On the longer route many more curves would be required than on the other, consequently less velocity in transit could be obtained with the same degree of safety."

    He rejected the Bayou Shaver route because it did not lend itself to the construction of a permanent railroad bridge across the Atchafalaya, just where it widened into a bay.

    "I have taken a cross section of the bay, above the mouth of Bayou Boeuf, the result ... proves clearly to my mind that if the bottom shall be found sufficiently firm, a permanent bridge can and certainly will be constructed across the bay, sooner or later ...

    "To conclude: it results from my survey and investigation, that a route for that portion of the proposed New-Orleans and Opelousas Rail-Road, lying between Thibodaux and Berwick's Bay (now Atchafalaya Bay), has been found much more favorable ... than had been expected.

    "There are no formidable obstacles to be overcome, and, in my opinion, the whole work may be constructed between said points, in the most durable and permanent manner, including bridges, culverts, station-houses and depots, sufficient for the working on the road, at a cost not exceeding two hundred and seventy-five thousand dollars."

    The investors must have been pleased. Within five years the railroad from Algiers to present-day Morgan City was a working reality. It remains part of a heavily used coast-to-coast rail line today, more than a century and a half later.

    Foresight .....

    Next, is a little more on the birth of the NOO&GW which would become the Southern Pacific, locally.
    I looked for any hint which would take the proposed railroad over my bayou bridge.

    No connection to the old trestle could be found. I must guess it was a cypress mill railroad.

    A great map can be found HERE.

    My quest resumed.

    I found that washing machine manufactures had paid the cypress mills a visit.
    This gave me some names.

    The closest mills to the trestle are Ramos (east of Morgan City) and Donner (west of Gibson). But wait, Gibson had a mill, also.

    It's simple, (of course not) that the Gibson mill tapped the cypress forest north going up the Bayou L'Oures natural levee and crossing the bayou on a dummyline off the main route, shooting north into the swamp forest.
    That is all imaginary, but, why would a trestle be in them middle of nowhere?
    Ramos, being a larger mill, could have also been one. It could have crossed Bayou Boeuf with the SP?
    But, Ramos's RR was only 4 miles long.  As the crow flies, it's 6 miles to the trestle.

    Wait, back stoke.
    South of the trestle there is visual proof something was near.

    This is looking north from the highway (662) toward the bayou and trestle.

    Turning around to the south, you see this.
    There had been a road crossing here and the highway dept. had provided a bit of  blacktop. 


    The red line is my rough guess where the rails crossed.

    There is an opening and what may be a pipe or a tree, LOLs.

    Just a bit to the northwest is this gate to the same property. What was there? Was it a mill or storage site?


     The rails either stopped or continued south from here which means it's all still a mystery .... to me.

    It's probably time to ask the locals. I sure wish that fella would have elaborated on that trestle.
    Or, I could have asked the right question instead of being so proud of myself for recognizing a blanking trestle.