Trains, Scanners and Memories (initially written in 2012.)

Let’s go back to Christmas of 1988: I was one going on two. That Christmas had a VERY strong impact on my life and still does. I was given my first flashlight and was also given several toy trains. (Two of the three things I am fixed on even today. The third one is writing.) I had several other memories that are re-surfacing as I write this. The first time I remember seeing a train in real life; I was about one year old and my parents (and grandparents) were driving me to the Children’s Clinic in Thibodaux. I remember seeing a train going across the Lafourche Crossing and sounding its horn. It was powered by a Southern Pacific locomotive because I remember the gray and red colors. I have a very strong memory of my infancy for those of you who didn’t know that already. I also remember going to my maternal grandmother’s house every weekend as a young child. She lived not far from Airline Highway in Metairie. When we would spend the night over there, I remember being woken up several times a night by the noise of locomotive horns from trains passing on the nearby Illinois Central mainline. The final childhood memory I have with trains is on Spring and Autumn days at Saint Mary’s Nativity School in Raceland. During those seasons; the teachers didn’t run the climate controls, rather, they opened the windows. Now that campus is not far at all (as the crow flies) from the former Southern Pacific Sunset Line. The last time I remember hearing a train while in class at that school was when I was in Third Grade in 1997.  This was one of the VERY FEW pleasant memories of going to that school. For some time after that, I forgot about trains and occupied my free time with other things.

In my mid-teenage years, I cultivated an interest in radio communications and scanners. This would come to re-ignite my interest in trains.

What got me re-interested was the fact that I could listen to railroad communications on my scanner. I had just turned sixteen and it was on a Saturday night in February 2003. That previous Christmas, with the cash I got, I purchased a scanner (Uniden BC-80xlt.) On that February night, I was searching the VHF High Band and heard a conversation on 160.29 MHz. I, at first, thought it was from the Feds (they too operate on VHF High Band around 160 MHz.) Little did I know, this actually was an engineer and dispatcher discussing a track warrant. They were talking very fast and I had no idea what they were talking about.

A short time later, I discovered a web page dedicated to scanner listening for my area (Cajun Frequencies; By Cliff Shewmaker, Jr.) I happened to be looking at the page for frequencies in Terrebonne Parish. Accidentally, I came across the aforementioned frequency. It was listed as Union Pacific Railroad in Schriever (partially incorrect; the rail line and frequency belong to BNSF). I figured out that there were railroad communications that could be intercepted on a scanner. This definitely further invoked my interest in railroading. Also, later in 2003, I discovered the art of writing.

In 2003 and 2004, my little sister would take gymnastics classes in Schriever. My mom drove her from school in Houma and I would always tag along. While waiting, I would usually walk to the Amtrak depot or underneath the Schriever overpass. For a moment, I thought the line might be abandoned. One day, in the Spring of 2004, while out on one of my walks, I was underneath the Schriever Overpass standing on the tracks. Suddenly, I heard something that sounded like a heavy truck. I thought nothing of it, as I had assumed that the tracks were abandoned. The sound was getting louder. I kept looking towards the top of the Schriever Overpass and saw no truck passing. Then, it dawned on me, a train was coming. I thought to myself “Oh shit, this line is not abandoned, that’s a damn train!” Pardon the language of my inner thoughts. Hurriedly, I ran off the tracks. Seconds later, the train came barreling through. The ground shook as it passed by. I remember seeing several Tropicana Juice cars (one of my favorite kinds of rolling stock.) I think that train was powered by a CSX locomotive. On that day, I was amazed by the sheer power and bulk of that train. That did it, I hooked on trains from that day on. However, it wasn’t until age twenty-four that I had been able to really entertain this interest.

Anyway, may I enjoy Writing, Flashlights, and Trains for many years to come.

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