No, Richard Jacobs wasn't waiting for a train. He was touring the railroads east and west of New Orleans on his recent swing along the Gulf Coast. Shown is the loading platform at Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, next to the CSX Gulf Coast mainline and siding. This formerly was the Louisville & Nashville line between New Orleans the the Florida panhandle and once used by Amtrak's Sunset Limited.
Barbara and I are back to spring-like Wayne County after 10 days in New Orleans, Louisiana and the Gulf Coast. Spring down there was 70 to 80 degrees with bright sunshine every day. The most clouds we had were light and only lasted part of the third and tenth day.
We flew to New Orleans on Thursday, April 8. We rode streetcars for two days to visit the Aquarium, IMAX Theater’s movie Hurricane on the Bayou, the Jazz Festival at Riverside Park, and, of course, Bourbon Street. We stayed in the Garden District on St. Charles Avenue near Tulane University, which made for easy transportation to town on the streetcar. On Saturday, we rented a car and headed for Lafayette about 200 miles west.
We stopped in Houma to visit the Southdown Plantation/Terrebonne Museum, New Iberia to visit the plantation home “Shadows on the Teche,” and St. Martinville to visit St Martin de Tours Catholic Church, one of Louisiana’s oldest. After supper we visited the Longfellow-Evangeline State Historical Site. The site’s museums were closed that late in the day, however. We drove on to Lafayette for a two-day stay at the Drury Hotel.
We were off to Avery Island on Sunday to visit the Tabasco factory and store. We then toured Jungle Gardens and Bird City, home to hundreds of nesting egrets. Back in Lafayette, we visited the Amtrak station and then went to visit and then attended mass at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine at 7 p.m. A great edifice, indeed!
Monday we took a swamp tour on Lake Martin out of Breaux Bridge. We then drove on to Baton Rouge to visit the old state capitol and went on board the USS Kidd, a destroyer escort from WWII. We did a brief tour of the Illinois Central Railroad freight house, depot and the Cotton Exchange, now all part of the “Belle of Baton Rouge” Casino.
Tuesday we visited the LSU Rural Life Museum, a recreation of a mid-1850s Louisiana village. The acreage is part of the LSU agricultural station. We then drove to Mobile, Alabama, and to Gulf Shores on the Gulf of Mexico.
Wednesday started with a walk on the beach followed by a drive to Fort Morgan located at the mouth of Mobile Bay. It was an active fort (both USA and CSA) until late in WWII. The auto ferry that goes across the bay docks nearby. We stopped at St. Andrews by the Sea church on the way back to town, then drove to Port Orange and had supper at “Suds and Sea” overlooking the beach. I had fried oysters and hush puppies. Only the grits were missing.
Leaving Gulf Shores on Wednesday, Barbara spotted a restored depot museum. It was a former Louisville & Nashville depot at the end of the spur line from Bay Minette, east of Mobile. It had a restored L&N freight train and a 22 by 60 foot O-gauge train layout with over one quarter of a mile of track. Several model trains operated at a time. It was very impressive.
The head man, Bill Gordon, is a retired Monon shop worker from Lafayette, Indiana. After visiting, we drove to the USS Alabama Battleship Park on Mobile Bay for a tour of the displays. We did not go onboard, however. Leaving, we then drove to Bellingrath Gardens for lunch and a tour. We toured the beautiful grounds, the home, and took a history cruise on the Fowl River. We then headed west toward Biloxi, Mississippi. Route U.S. 90 followed along the CSX/L&N line from New Orleans to Mobile. We spotted a crew change of a freight train at Pascagoula, Mississppi.
Friday in Biloxi started with a tour of “Beauvoir,” the former home of Jefferson Davis, president of the Confederacy. We also visited the Confederate cemetery there with its grave of the Unknown Confederate Soldier. We traveled on to see the lighthouse and train station site. The depot was gone, but the platforms remained. A CSX hi-railer and a westbound manifest greeted us there. A trip on a shrimp boat followed, accompanied by a crowd of noisy sea gulls. They were after any catch thrown overboard. After supper, we visited the Beau Rivage casino to try our luck (not much). Then we walked to the Hard Rock Café to look around.
Saturday in Biloxi, Mississippi, started with a return visit to the Hard Rock Café and Casino for a look-see and photos. We then did the Rue Magnolia walking tour to see the old town. The Magnolia Hotel, Biloxi’s first, was still undergoing restoration from hurricane Katrina’s damage. Most of the other buildings were in nice shape however.
Driving west, we visited the L&N Station at Bay St. Louis and adjacent CSX/L&N mainline. The depot is now the visitor’s center. After lunch, we headed for NASA’s John C. Stennis Space Center. It is in a remote area of Mississippi and home to NASA’s rocket engine test facility. The Apollo mission engines were pre-flight tested there, along with the Space Shuttle’s engines.
We saw the two huge Saturn engine test stands and a new test stand being built. It is planned for the Constellation program’s engines. Heading west on I-10 to New Orleans, we found ourselves on a six-lane highway at 70 mph entering the city. We checked in at the Comfort Inn & Suites near the airport.
After Sunday’s breakfast at the hotel, we returned the rental car and boarded our flight back to Cleveland. After landing, we picked up the Trail Blazer and drove back to Apple Creek/Orrville in Wayne County. It was a fine trip with great weather, pleasant folks, and a variety of things seen and done.
NOTE: We put 837 miles on the rental car plus 100 miles round trip on the Trail Blazer from home to the airport.
To read Jake’s report on his swing along the former L&N Gulf Coast route and view a gallery of photographs, click on the link below
To read his report on his visit to the Foley Railroad Museum in Alabama, click on the link below: