B-R (Baton Rouge) Branch

I had been trying to come up with some info on this fascinating line for quite a while, but when I read Mike Palmieri's post and subsequent follow up posts on the subject I knew I had found what I had been trying to say....

From Mike Palmieri....

"Construction of the branch began at Lafayette in 1906 and service began in 1911. This was five years after the Colorado Southern, New Orleans & Pacific (later the MP) completed its line between Anchorage and Texas, and two years after the Standard Oil refinery at Baton Rouge opened.

"The branch began in Lafayette, crossed the SP's Cade-Port Barre branch at Breaux Bridge (M.P. 8.2), crossed the New Iberia & Northern (later MP) at Nina (M.P. 12.2), crossed the T&P at Grosse Tete, and connected with the New Orleans, Texas & Mexico (formerly the CSNO&P) at the west end of Anchorage Yard. SP trains crossed the Mississippi River on the NOT&M ferry GEORGE WALKER, and the passenger trains used the Y&MV Baton Rouge depot along the river. The last remnant of the line -- between Lafayette and Breaux Bridge --isnow operated by the Louisiana & Delta. As Brian mentioned, it now begins just east of the BNSF Lafayette Yard, at BR Jct. BR Jct was previously about a half mile farther west, and I suspect the branch originally had aconnection to the south, as the trains using it would have originated andterminated at the Lafayette depot or old SP yard.

"The branch had swing bridges over Bayou Teche at Breaux Bridge, over theAtchafalaya River at Atchafalaya. and over Bayou Des Glaises at Des Glaises. From the present end-of-track in Breaux Bridge, the line continued east-northeast is a straight line, crossing the present I-10 about mile west of the West Atchafalaya Basin Levee near Henderson. Then the track turned slightly to the east and ran in a straight line almost all the way to Port Allen. The right-of-way is about 1,000 feet north of I-10 for most of this distance, and is now occupied by a power line. West of Port Allen, the line crossed the present Hwy 415 about half way between I-10 and US 190, then turned to the north and connectedwith the NOT&M.

"Through service on the line ended just 16 years later, when the Great Flood of 1927 damaged the pivot pier of the Atchafalaya River bridge. Apparently the railroad attempted to repair the bridge, but was unsuccessful, and the bridge was removed in May 1928. Train service wasstill provided over the entire line, put passengers and freight were transported across the Atchafalaya River by boat. In 1931, the SP received permission from the ICC to discontinue service over the NOT&M ferry and IC into Baton Rouge, 7.5 miles. In 1932, the SP applied for permission to abandon the line from Lenora (M.P. 14.9) to Sunrise (M.P. 48.13). (That's what the ICC abandonment decision called the connection.) In 1934, the ICC granted permission to abandon the line from Atchafalaya to the NOT&M connection at Sunrise, 29.9 miles; but permission to abandon the line from Cleon (M.P. 15.5) to Atchafalaya -- 4.37 miles -- was not granted until 1938. Permission to abandon the line from Fournet (M.P. 13.0) to Cleon -- 2.20 miles -- was granted in 1942. This last segment was abandoned because of the construction of the West Atchafalaya Basin Levee. The line between Champagne and Fournet (1 mile) was abandoned in 1951, but I don't have any dates for the abandonment of the line from Breaux Bridge to Champagne (4.8 miles).

"The 1931 abandonment decision says that the branch was built for the primary purpose of providing a short route for through traffic between Lafayette and Baton Rouge, 57.4 miles vs. 234 miles via New Orleans. The 1934 abandonment decision says that the line was built to establish a new through route between the east and the west via the SP and IC; but that service was interrupted by high water in 1912, 1916, 1922 and 1927. The line was built when both the SP and IC were under Harriman control."

From Rick Pitcher....

"The SP Baton Rouge branch was built between 1904-1911. It ran between Baton Rouge Jct. in Lafayette and Sunrise, the railroad ferry landing on the west bank of the Mississippi River opposite Baton Rouge. The ferry landing is also known as Anchorage. Only the pilings for the ferry ramp now remain along River Road.

"The line was subject to frequent disruptions by flooding, as you can imagine by seeing the remaining grade. It was severed in the flood of 1927 when the center pier of the Atchafalaya River drawbridge was undermined. The superstructure was removed in May 1928.

"After the line was severed, T&NO operated the line as 2 separate branches, with turnaround service between Lafayette and the west bank of the Atchafalaya and between the east bank and Baton Rouge. T&NO served Lafayette by way of trackage rights until October 31, 1931, when the eastern end (29.9 miles between Atchafalaya and Sunrise) was abandoned. Additional abandonments on the west end took place in 1938, 1942, 1951, and 1963, leaving 7.7 miles between Lafayette and Breaux Bridge in service today.

"I have seen few, if any, photos of operations on this line and would welcome any leads in that regard. Years ago I saw copies of a thesis or dissertation from USL (now UL-Lafayette) on the building of the Baton Rouge branch. I went to the library there a couple of times in the early 1980s when I was in Jennings, but I was never able to locate the document. Maybe when I retire I'll have time for all the railroad research projects and writing I would like to do!"

And from Pat Flory....

"My late uncle Garland Holloway was an SP fireman in those days, who ran over that line. He used to tell me stories when I was a most young railfan, about 12 or 13, about when the flood waters were rising, being on a last run of sorts trying to save some of the set- out cars at various places, the water being well over the rails in several places at the time. He said they literally didn't know if they were going to make it, it was so bad, and people were coming in boats and hanging all over the engine and the few cars they had, trying to get out.

"Another story he used to tell.... apparently at that time the SP had a line from Cade, LA, to St. Martinville. He was actually running the engine on some way freight or switching operation in Cade. The track of course crossed a gravel road that later became US 90 and is now LA 182. He said some kids put something on one of the rails as he was backing a wood caboose over the road, and the thing derailed and turned over in the middle of the road and was totalled. He said you can not imagine the most unholy sound it made, and the HEHEHEHEHEHE! more than most-unholy language of management when he, of course, had to stand on the carpet about the whole thing.

"I only wish that I had the sense back then to milk more stories out of him."

Thanks to Mike Palmieri, Rick Pitcher and Pat Flory for their insight into this most mysterious of SP Lafayette Division branch lines.

 

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