Below is a sneak peek of this content!The Southern Belle Observation Car ended a classic streamlined train. KCS Southern Belle Train Postcard showing the observation car on the Southern Belle, the premier train of the Kansas City Southern Railroad. The Southern Belle train ran from Kansas City to New Orleans, stopping in Joplin, Texarkana, Shreveport, Alexandria, and Baton Rouge. KCS inaugurated the route on 2-September-1940. Pullman-Standard delivered...
Norfolk Southern MOW equipment on the New Orleans #BackBelt.
Norfolk Southern MOW
Maintenance-Of-Way (MOW) equipment seen recently on the Norfolk Southern “Back Belt.” This equipment does crack clearing and ballast balancing.
One of my regular train-watching spots is at the Canal Boulevard underpass on the Norfolk Southern “Back Belt.” The PJ’s Coffee at 5555 Canal has some of the best baristas in the city. I sit out at the end table on the patio, which is wonderfully socially distant. Additionally, that corner offers a great view of the underpass.
The Back Belt
This section of Norfolk Southern track in New Orleans derives its name from its location. The tracks along the Mississippi River in the area are the “Public Belt.” The New Orleans Public Belt Railroad owns most, if not all, of the trackage along the river. The state created NOPBRR to avoid fights between railroads. Everyone shares the tracks along the wharves and warehouses.
So, if the “Public Belt” is the “front” set of tracks, the Norfolk Southern cross-town tracks are in the “back.” The Back Belt links yards in the West with the NS Gentilly Yard and the CSX yard in New Orleans East. Additionally, westbound trains travel along the Back Belt to the “five mile bridge” over Lake Pontchartrain.
The Back Belt stays busy. Short consists move freight in both directions. Amtrak’s Crescent (New Orleans to New York City) departs Union Passenger Terminal downtown, then travels the back belt out of town. NS monitors track conditions. They repair track when necessary.
So, these two MOW vehicles pop up, heading eastbound at Canal Boulevard. They get to the western side of the underpass and stop. I took one photo, expecting them to continue eastbound. But like a raccoon in an overturned trashcan, they backed up, heading out of sight. Oh well, I got the one photo.
Fast forward two weeks later, the same thing happens! I managed to get another photo. A few days later, I spotted the same vehicles at the mouth of the old Bernadotte Street Yard, further down on Canal Boulevard. The Bernadotte Yard connected to the Back Belt behind Greenwood Cemetery. The original plan was to build a wye here, but it ended up being only two of the three sides. Still, the MOW vehicles could park on the old yard entrance track. They curved up onto the eastbound Back Belt. From there, they switch from the wye curve and head West.
Below is a sneak peek of this content!New Orleans Opelousas Great Western Railroad in the 1850s. New Orleans Opelousas Great Western Railroad From a collection of pamphlets and other documents, this image is titled, Sketch showing the ROUTE of the New Orleans, Opelousas, and Great Western Railroad through Louisiana by H. Erskine Barnes Assistant Engineer This "sketch" is interesting, in that it's part of a collection of...
AMTK Crescent plus ATIP car on the #backbelt in New Orleans.
cross-posted to New Orleans Railroads.
AMTK Crescent plus ATIP
Amtrak Crescent #20 Northbound on the NS #BackBelt, 15 minutes out of Union Passenger Terminal in New Orleans (NOL). The red car directly behind the engines is DOTX 221, a Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) Automatic Track Inspection Program (ATIP) car. DOTX 221 was originally a VIA Rail (Canada) sleeper-lounge-buffet car. It was later sold to Hartwell Lowe Corporation, who operated it as private car, “Belle McKee.”
DOTX 221 uses the classic Tuscan Red livery of the Pennsylvania Railroad (PRR). Norfolk Southern absorbed PRR. So, it’s good to see a bit of a shout-out to a classic livery.
Amtrak restricted special cars prior to the pandemic. The rules for hitching along on scheduled trains present challenges for most “private varnish” cars. Additionally, cars with open observation decks don’t fit the requirements at all. So, the number of special cars coming and going from New Orleans is limited. AMTK Crescent plus ATIP is a treat.
While the private cars aren’t rolling, DOTX 221 continues its job. This car belongs to the Federal Railroad Administration. So, it’s not restricted.
The Automated Track Inspection Program (ATIP) cars operate as part of regularly scheduled trains. Rather than running special consists for track inspection, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) hitches rides. So, track inspection happens on a consistent basis. Trains run normally.
FRA hitches ATIP cars to Amtrak trains because they (usually) stick to schedule. They also move at a faster clip than freight consists. The FRA gets their data with minimal disruption.
Amtrak currently operates the following consist on the Northbound Crescent out of NOL:
- 2 Genesis engines
- 3 Coach cars
- 1 Cafe car
- 2 Sleepers
- 1 Bag-dorm car
Additionally, the Crescent still operates on a 3-trains-a-week schedule, cut back from daily, due to the pandemic. So, #20 departs NOL on Sundays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays. It returns to NOL on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays. Hopefully we’ll see more “special” trains like AMTK Crescent plus ATIP.