Louisiana offer little in the way of mountainous operations and stiff grades, as the state is almost completely flat (saving railroads from the headache of such operations). While from a railfan perspective this might be a bit visually boring, the Pelican State is an important source of both originating and terminating traffic with the Port of New Orleans and the lucrative petrochemical industry both located there. Because of this several classic lines tapped into the state, notably wishing to reach New Orleans as it was a vital interchange point and originator of traffic (both passenger and freight). Today, Louisiana is still served by several Class I railroads (six of the seven) and several shortlines allowing for an interesting mix of operations.
Louisiana railroads date back to 1830 (just a few years after the Baltimore & Ohio was chartered!) when the Pontchartrain Railroad was chartered, the first railroad west of the Alleghenies. The railroad was built to connect a small suburb of New Orleans, Faubourg Marigny, with Milneburg a town that sat along Lake Pontchartrain. The railroad was only about five miles in length and was opened a little over a year after it was chartered on April 14, 1831. At the time of the line's construction the lake saw a significant amount of imported goods arriving to New Orleans and as such allowed it to be quite profitable operating as a terminal railroad (as well as moving passengers). By the late 19th century the Pontchartrain Railroad lost most of its freight traffic after ships became too large to navigate into the lake. During the line's last three decades or so it was mostly used as a tourist attraction until it was completely abandoned in 1935, 105 years after it was originally chartered.
Following the Pontchartrain Railroad many classic "fallen flags" or their predecessors reached into Louisiana predominantly looking to reach busy New Orleans. These would include names like (the links below will take you to more information about these railroads):
Today, Louisiana is mostly the domain of Class Is CSX Transportation, Norfolk Southern Railway, Canadian National Railway (which reached the Pelican State when purchasing the Illinois Central), Kansas City Southern, BNSF Railway, and Union Pacific (only Canadian Pacific does not reach the state). The rest is operated by a host of shortlines which include the Acadiana Railway, Delta Southern Railroad, Louisiana & Delta Railroad, Louisiana & North West Railroad, Arkansas, Louisiana & Mississippi, Baton Rouge Southern Railroad, CG Railway, Gloster Southern Railroad, Louisiana Southern, New Orleans & Gulf Coast, Ouachita Railroad, Timber Rock Railroad, and the New Orleans Public Belt Railroad.
For more information about these all currently operating Louisiana railroads please click here. This page is meant to help those looking for a job with a railroad within the state. However, it also highlights all of the companies operating there providing a brief overview and contact information in the event that this is something which you are looking for.
For a more in-depth look at Louisiana in terms of its rail mileage please have a look at the chart below. At one time, the Pelican State carried a rail network that totaled over 5,000 miles although today that number has dropped under 3,000 miles. Since the 1920s (when mileage peaked across the country) the state has lost about 44% of its rail infrastructure. This is actually about average (at least in terms of the numbers) as many states have seen similar declines over the same time period with many of the abandonments coming between the 1960s and 1980s.
While Louisiana no longer offers passenger trains like the original Sunset Limited, Crescent, and the Pan-American our national passenger railroad, Amtrak, continues to operate the Sunset Limited, City of New Orleans, and Crescent, all of which terminate and originate in New Orleans (at the New Orleans Union Passenger Terminal to be exact!). To learn more about some of the classic "streamliners" that operated through Louisiana please click here. This page at the site highlights many of these trains, including all of those mentioned above. Freight and passenger railroads aside, the state is also home to just a few railroad museums (and, unfortunately, no tourist/excursion trains) which include the DeQuincy Railroad Museum, Old Hickory Railroad, and Southern Forest Heritage Museum.
All in all, while Louisiana is rather flat and offers little to see visually, railroads in the Pelican State has plenty to see, whether you are a vacationer, railfan, or just a local, perhaps interested in some sightseeing or something to do!
It is quite surprising that there were so many Louisiana logging railroads for a two reasons: first, that the southeast is not generally thought of as an important timber region; and second, that railroads could be laid in an area so rich with swampland. Despite this there were dozens and dozens of logging railroads dotting the state during the early 20th century. The earliest of Louisiana's lines dated back to the 1890s while remained in use for only 30 or so years and were gone by the early 1930s due to both the Great Depression and the fact that trucks were then reliable enough to be used in heavy industrial applications. The overall operations in Louisiana were about one would expect of logging railroads; crudely built track and that was a few miles in length serving a local mill and interchange point with a main line system. Interestingly, most of Louisiana's logging lines were built to standard-gauge although a few were various narrow-gauge operations (36 or 42 inch).
Red River & Rocky Mount Railway
The Red River & Rocky Mount Railway was chartered in May, 1904 by the Antrim Lumber Company. During peak operations the railroad utilized about 14 miles of track with the sawmill located at Antrim, which was also the location of an interchange with the St. Louis Southwestern Railway (Cotton Belt). It was a standard gauged line and had a fleet of four locomotives. The railroad was abandoned by 1913.
Natchez, Ball & Shreveport Railway/Big Creek Railroad
These logging lines were owned by the Ball & Brother Lumber Company. They began operations in the early 1900s and at their peak operated about 40 miles of trackage, which served two mills (one at Pollock and the other at Ball, both of which were located at interchanges with the St. Louis, Iron Mountain & Southern Railway a Missouri Pacific subsidiary) and a vast acreage of virgin timber. The railroads had a total fleet of 4 locomotives and remained in use until about 1913.
Bernice & Northwestern Railway
The Bernice & Northwestern Railway was owned by the Bernice Lumber Company
and originally chartered in 1902. It was a standard-gauge line that
began from a connection at Bernice, Louisiana with the Chicago, Rock
Island, & Pacific Railroad (the Rock Island) and reached
Summerfield, 15 miles away. From this point the company owned about nine miles of logging spurs to haul timber back to the mill at Bernice.
Black Bayou Railroad
The Black Bayou Railroad was owned by the lumber company of the same name and incorporated in 1904. The financial panic of 1907 resulted in the property being purchased by the Southern Lumber Company
that year. Overall, the railroad owned some seven miles of track,
starting from a connection with the Kansas City Southern at Myrtistown
and heading west to the Texas state line. From this point the railroad
operated about eight miles of logging branches and hauled the timber to the company mill about half-way along its main line. The logging railroad remained in use until about 1925.
Oakdale & Gulf Railway
The Oakdale & Gulf Railway was incorporated in February,
1916 as a line that primarily served the interests of the Bowman-Hicks
and Forest lumber companies. It
operated from a connection with the Missouri Pacific at Oakdale and ran
nearly 12 miles to Ward where another connection with the MP was
located. The O&G served the lumber mills of Forest and Bowman-Hicks
at Oakdale and also another mill at Wards owned by the Rice interests.
Additionally, it served the Independent Naval Stores Company near
Adams. The logging line was a shortlived affair and operations were
abandoned by November, 1927.
Kentwood & Eastern Railway
The Kentwood & Eastern Railway was incorporated in 1905 and owned by the Brooks-Scanlon Lumber Company.
It operated a three-foot narrow-gauge line and at its peak owned
around 35 miles of track. The railroad had a connection with the
Illinois Central at Kentwood where the company's mill was also located.
Much of its trackage was used simply to tap nearby timber reserves.
Louisiana & Pacific Railway
The Louisiana & Pacific Railway was a complicated logging line that primarily was owned by the Calcasieu Long Leaf Lumber Company.
It was chartered on June 6, 1904 and built to standard gauge. At its
peak the system operated well over 130 miles of track reaching such
towns as De Ridder, Lake Charles, Bundicks, Lilly Junction, Walla,
Longville, Fayette, and other small lumber camps. Early on the company
sold about 44 miles of track to the Southern Pacific which renamed the
line as the Lake Charles & Northern Railroad. This left the L&P
with five disconnected branches all of which interchanged with the
LC&N and the railroad was able to acquire trackage rights over much
of the line to serve the numerous mills along its properties.
Additionally, the company had interchanges with the Santa Fe, Frisco, and Kansas City Southern.
Central Coal & Coke Company
The Central Coal & Coke Company operated its own railroad
beginning in 1897 to serve its mills in Neame and Carson, Louisiana. In
1902 it created the Missouri & Louisiana Railroad to serve its
timber reserves in southern Missouri and the line also connected to its
Louisiana property. In September, 1914 the Central Coal & Coke
changed its name as the Neame, Carson & Southern Railroad and
created a separate company for its timber operations, the Delta Land
& Timber Company. The NC&S operated about 81 miles of track
while the M&L operated another 44 or so miles, all of which was
standard gauge. In 1925 a major mill was destroyed by fire in Neame and
by November, 1926 the entire property and operations were abandoned.
Red River & Gulf Railroad
The Red River & Gulf Railroad was owned by the Crowell & Spencer Lumber Company and its history dated as far back as 1892. It was a standard gauge line radiating from Long Leaf Junction (where there was a connection with the Missouri Pacific) in three directions. It reached such communities as Forest Hill, Holdup, Togo, LeCompte, Louisiana Junction, Audebert, Cocodrie, Causey, Big Cut, Melder, Bliss, Elmelhine, Lewiston, Walding, Stille, Hood, Comrade, Mathis, Hutton, Alco, Dusenbury, and Kurthwood. The primary mill was located in Long Leaf while a secondary mill was located in Meridian where the railroad also had a connection with the Rock Island. The RR&G remained in use until the early 1940s.
Mansfield Railway & Transportation Company
This railroad dated back to 1881 when the town of Mansfield,
Louisiana built a small two-mile railroad to connect with the Texas
& Pacific Railway at Mansfield Junction. In 1905 the railroad was
purchased by the DeSoto Land & Lumber Company, which constructed a mill at nearby Oak Hill and a large tract of timber. The company
extended the railroad about eight miles to reach these reserves and at
its peak stretched 16 miles to the logging camp of Hunter. The railroad
and logging operation were later purchased by the Frost-Johnson Lumber Company.
Interestingly, the Mansfield Railway was unique in that it did not
actually transfer the cut logs directly to the mill but did so via the
Kansas City Southern Railway.
Bodcaw Valley Railway
The Bodcaw Valley Railway was chartered in 1904 and owned by the Frost-Johnson Lumber Company. The history of the property dated back to ownership under the Whited & Wheless Lumber Company
until Frost-Johnson purchased the property. In any event, the
railroad, built to three-foot narrow-gauge, operated from a connection
with the St. Louis Southwestern Railway (Cotton Belt) at Alden Bridge
and extended 24 miles eastward to tap nearby timber reserves. Log loads
were transferred to the Cotton Belt, which then hauled them the short
distance to the company mill. The railroad remained in use until about the mid-1920s.
Sibley, Lake Bisteneau & Southern Railway
This railroad was originally built by the Long-Bell Lumber
Company in 1899. At its peak it connected Yellow Pine, where the
company mill was located with Sibley where it interchanged with main
line railroads. A standard-gauge operation the SLB&S operated about
30 miles of track and owned a fleet of six locomotives. Along with its
logging operations the railroad also provided some mixed freight and
passenger services. In 1942 the railroad and entire timber operation
was abandoned after reserves played out.
Monroe & Southwestern Railway
The Monroe & Southwestern Railway was owned by the
Grayling Lumber Company and chartered in 1904 to tap its timber reserves
located on the west bank of the Ouachita River. To reach the company
mill at Monroe the railroad transferred its loads of logs to the St.
Louis, Iron Mountain & Southern Railway (Missouri Pacific), which
carried them the short distance to the mill. Overall, the
standard-gauged railroad operated about 10 miles of main line trackage
and owned a fleet of four locomotives.
New Orleans Great Northern Railroad
The New Orleans Great Northern Railroad, famously remembered as the Nogan,
was incorporated in early January, 1905 and owned by the Great Southern
Lumber Company. The entire timber operation was well funded and the
railroad served the company mill at Bogalusa, Louisiana. It was built
to standard gauge and was quite large for being predominantly a logging
railroad, operating some 70 miles of track. By the early 1930s the line
was in financial trouble given that much of the area's timber had been
depleted. By July, 1933 the railroad was sold to the Gulf, Mobile &
Gulf & Sabine River Railroad
The G&SR was chartered in 1906 and was owned by the Gulf
Lumber Company. It operated two primary branches; one at Stables
connected with the KCS and extended about 16 miles altogether to reach
nearby by timber reserves while another operated between Nitram (and a
connection with the AT&SF) and Fullerton covering about 10 miles.
Between the two branches and additional logging spurs the G&SR
operated about 40 miles of track.
Alexandria & Western Railway
The A&W was chartered in 1909 and owned by the Bayou Rapides Lumber Company. At its peak the railroad was just under 5 miles in length and operated between Alexandria and Gardner, Louisiana. Actual service of the railroad started in 1914 but it was a short-lived operation. After being sued the entire operation was abandoned by 1925.
North Louisiana & Gulf Railroad
The NL&G was owned by the Huie-Hodge Lumber Company and
officially incorporated in late January, 1906. Originally, the railroad
operated about 14 miles of two unconnected branches; a 10-mile section
between Hodge (where it interchanged with the Rock and the town was also
the location of the company mill) and Danville as well as a 4-mile
section between Bienville and Walsh. However, after taking over the
latter branch in 1909 the NL&G went on to complete a 16-mile new
section of railroad to link both lines, opening in the route in 1911.
After 1916 the NL&G's original charter expired and the railroad was
eventually reincorporated in 1927 under the same name. Interestingly,
it remained a viable shortline until the late 1970s continuing to carry
pulpwood to the paper mill at Hodge.
Kentwood, Greensburg & South Western Railroad
The KG&SW was owned by the Kent Lumber & Brick Company
and was first chartered in early February, 1905. It was a narrow-gauge
line and originally operated about 22 miles of track from Kentwood
(where the company mill was located) to Nettles. A few years after
opening the operation was purchased by the Natalbany Lumber Company and
extended an additional five miles to reach more timber reserves. In the
spring of 1921 the mill caught fire and by that summer operations were
Arkansas & Gulf Railroad
The Arkansas & Gulf was a very crude operation, originally
chartered in 1905 and owned by the Kimball Lumber & Manufacturing
Company. The railroad was just a short operation, extending from
Kimball, Arkansas (where the mill was located along with an interchange
with the St. Louis, Iron Mountain & Southern/Missouri Pacific) to
Laark, Louisiana. Overall, it was only seven miles in length although
in all it owned about 17 miles of lines, including logging spurs and
Tioga & Southeastern Railway
The Tioga & Southeastern Railway was controlled by the Lee
Lumber Company who incorporated the line in 1905 to serve its logging
operation around Tioga, Louisiana where the mill was located (and there
was also a connection with the StLIM&S). The history of the
operation dated back to the Louis Werner Sawmill Company who had already
built 10 miles of railroad around Tioga. At the T&S's height it
operated a system of about 15 miles of main line trackage between Tioga
and Violet, as well as additional logging spurs (all of which were
standard-gauge). The railroad remained in use until about the
Mill Creek & Little River Railway
This logging line was owned by the Little River Lumber Company
and was incorporated in 1905. It was a very small operation, although
it was built to standard gauge, and hauled logs on a three mile main
line to Manistee, Louisiana where the mill was located. It's connection
to the national network was via the StLIM&S and along with its main
line the railroad operated several miles of logging spurs.
Woodworth & Louisiana Central Railway
The W&LC was chartered in 1900 and owned by the Rapides
Lumber Company to serve its mill at Woodworth, Louisiana. The location
also included an interchange to the StLIM&S. The railroad also
extended six miles to La Moria where additional connections were located
with the Rock Island, Southern Pacific, and Texas & Pacific (MP).
The W&LC was a combination of both narrow-gauge and standard-gauge
lines and operated, in total, about 24 miles of main line and several
additional miles of logging spurs. The railroad remained in use until
Victoria, Fisher & Western Railroad
The VF&W was owned by the Louisiana Long Leaf Lumber
Company and initially incorporated in November, 1902. It was a rather
large logging line, operating 31 main line miles between Victoria (and a
connection with the T&P) and Cain. Including logging spurs the
railroad operated about 60 miles of track. The VF&W both hauled
logs from the timber reserves as well as finished timber to interchange
points. The lumber company operated two mills during peak operations,
one at Victoria and the other at Fisher.
Christie & Eastern Railway
This logging line was owned by the Peavy-Wilson Lumber Company
and was a late operation for the industry, as it was not officially
incorporated until February, 1917. It was a standard gauge railroad
that operated between Sandel to Peason; the former town held an
interchange with the Kansas City Southern while the latter was home to
the company mill. Overall, the C&E was just over 10 miles in
length. By February, 1934 the timber reserve had been depleted and the
mill closed. As a result, by that June rail operations were abandoned
Louisiana Central Railroad
The Louisiana Central Railroad was owned by the Pickering Land & Timber Company and officially incorporated in 1905. The railroad operated two branch lines that were not connected: the first extended from a connection with the KCS at Barham (where the mill was also located) to Bayou Toro, nearly 10 miles away (this line also operated about 10 miles of logging spurs); the second branch operated between Pickering (where an additional connection with the KCS was located) and Cravens where another interchange was located with the Santa Fe. This line also hosted two online mills. Altogether, the LC operated about 75 miles of track (including all spurs) and was entirely standard gauge.
Dorcheat Valley Railroad
This little logging line was just six miles in length from
Cotton Valley to Gleason. Owned by the Porter-Wadley Lumber Company and
chartered in 1905 the railroad hauled logs to the mill near Cotton
Valley where there was also a connection with the Louisiana &
Arkansas Railway. Overall the logging railroad owned a total of 26
miles of track, including spurs.
Zwolle & Eastern Railway
The Zwolle & Eastern Railway was owned by the Sabine
Lumber Company, who initially did not feel the need for a railroad to
serve its needs when it first opened in 1899. The railroad was
incorporated in 1904 and built to standard gauge, eventually completing a
14-mile main line connecting Zwolle with Blue Lake. The line connected
with the KCS near Zwolle while the mill itself was located at nearby
Gibson. The logs were hauled from the lumber camp of Blue Lake,
Roosevelt & Western Railroad
The R&W was a logging line primarily owned by the J. B. Schuh Lumber Company. The railroad was chartered in 1909 and operated from a connection with the StLIM&S at Roosevelt, eight miles away to nearby timber reserves. The online mill was situated near Roosevelt at a location known as Lynchville.
For more reading about the history of southern railroads and how the came to shape the South you may be interested in the book Railroads in the Old South: Pursuing Progress in a Slave Society. The book is nearly 300 pages in length and it mostly discusses how transportation arteries, like railroads, helped to shape and transform the South during an era of slavery and political turbulence. Written by author Aaron Marrs the book has received excellent reviews for its rich history and well researched presentation. In any event, if you're interested in perhaps purchasing this book please visit the link below which will take you to ordering information through Amazon.com, the trusted online shopping network.
Check out the website's digital book (E-book), An Atlas To Classic Short Lines, which features system maps and a brief background of 46 different historic railroads. To learn more please click on the image below.