The Napoleonville Branch ran from the main line of the SP at Thibodaux Jct. near Schriever, LA to just past Napoleonville to the Glenwood Sugar Refinery. It was cut back to Supreme at some point where it served the sugar refinery of the same name until the later 1990's.
Our journey along the Napoleonville Branch begins of course at Schriever. This was at one time the terminal of three SP branches, the Houma, Napolenville and Lockport Branches. In the last few years of the SP's operation of the branches, all three branches were worked by one crew with a single engine. In its heyday, the Napoleonville Branch had its own engine, crew and caboose assigned to it. They would tie the engine and caboose up at Schriever along the lead to the Houma Branch. Diesel power was typical of Louisiana Branch Lines of the SP with SW's into the 1970's changing to GP-9's into the 1980's and finally to GP-38-2's in the final few years prior to the sale of the branches to the Louisiana and Delta. In fact, according to J. O. Miller who started with the T&NO in the late 1940's, the Napoleonville Branch was the first branch in the area to run with diesel power. He claims that the first diesel down this line was T&NO #13, an EMD model SW-8. The crews were apparently somewhat wary of the number 13 and were hesitant to operate the engine at first. As with most things new, there is always some apprehension at first.
From Schriever, we head east along the passing siding on the north side of the main line past the "borrow pit" and through Devil's Swamp to the east end of the siding. It is here at Thibodaux Jct. that the Napoleonville line begins. It actually is a continuation of the siding with the normal position for the switch being for the siding prompting a note in the timetable explaining why a switch set for what appears to be the diverging route is indeed the normal route. In steam days, there was a wye here to facilitate turning of the small steam engines that operated the line. The east leg of the wye has been removed, but evidence of its presence can still be seen. The line continues through cane fields and makes a gentle 180 degeree bend passing south of Francis T. Nichols University. It then makes some gentle curves and heads down the middle of the street just south of the city of Thibodaux. It is here that we encounter the first few industries. The remnants of a former spur into a power plant are present. The line then passes in front of National Beverage. This appeared to be a small but consistent customer with no more than a car or two ever seen by myself at their spur.
The tracks then cross over LA hwy. 20, the main thoroughfare between Houma and Thibodaux. The tracks cross in a broad sweeping curve with the junction to the "bayou track" just past the crossing. This track was used as a lead to a lumber mill about a mile from the branch main along Bayou Lafourche. Brakeman Gary Brubacher recalled spotting and picking up the last flat car of lumber there before the spur was taken out of service. The spur was routed down the middle of Church Street.
A residential area provided the backdrop for the next few miles of running parallel to Bayou Lafourche until the line crossed the Thibodaux Bypass Road. Just past lay the Leighton sugar refienry which shipped bagasse by rail at one time. The Celotex Corp. actually had a plant co-located next to the mill that baled and loaded the bagasse. Celotex was the shipper of the bagasse, not the mill. The bagasse was sold to Celotex prior to shipment.
The branch followed Bayou Lafourche along its west bank through cane fields until the town of Labadieville where a simple run around track was used to store cars in the 1990's. Prior to that, I cannot comment. A few miles down the line lay the mill at Supreme. I only visited this mill a few times durning SP's operation of the line, so I can only guess as to how the operations were prior to then. I can say that the mill was situated about a mile from the branch main toward the bayou. It was about a half mile from the mill to LA hwy. 1 which runs along the bayou on its west bank. Two switches diverged from the branch main curving toward the mill and paralleling each other. One was of course used for storage. I remember seeing many Airslide hoppers and a few tank cars (for molasses) stored there. In the off season, raw sugar (not fully processed) was brought into the mill from Florida, processed and molasses and white (table) sugar was railed out. I have a few photos of the "dummy" engine that the mill used during the L&D's operation of the line. It was a small four wheeled switcher that could shuffle the cars while the branch train was not present. The branch main extended about a mile past the switches for a lead and ended unceremoniously in the middle of a cane field. This is the only way I remember the line. However, in years past, the line extended on to its prior namesake. At some point after the line was abandoned past Supreme, the branch became known as the Supreme Branch.
The branch at one time continued on through Little Texas and Elm Hall. At Elm Hall Jct, a spur peeled off into the city of Napoleonville to a lumber yard and a freight depot. Little remains today of what was once the spur. At one time, the end of the line was the Glenwood Sugar Refinery. The plant was also served by a branch of the T&P railroad from Donaldsonville. That branch crossed Bayou Lafourche in a large S-curve and contiunued on across the bayou from the SP branch to serve the town of Thibodaux. It has been reported by some old time SP engineers that the two branches DID connect at Glenwood and on at least one occasion, detour trains were routed from Schriever to Dondaldsonville. This is said to have happened during steam days.
The Louisiana & Delta railroad purchased the line along with several other SP branches in the late 1980's and operated it until the late 1990's when the mill shut down at Supreme. Some friends and I did manage to ride the entire line a few months prior to its removal in a Fairmont motor car. The welded rail was eventually removed and re-installed by the L&D on the Cypremort Branch. The tracks down the middle of the street have been removed in the city of Thibodaux. All that remains of this branch are fond memories.
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