#Fiction – Pontchartrain Railcar Atlanta Excursion – a story by Edward Branley
Pontchartrain Railcar Atlanta Excursion
“That horn is loud!” Silver said.
“Yeah, but then, New Orleans drivers are stupid, so—” Chuck replied.
“So, you don’t want to kill people on Canal Boulevard,” Ren added.
“No, we don’t want to end up with serious damage to the switch engine!” Chuck laughed.
“So, that’s your engine? What are they up to?” Silver asked.
Chuck thought for a moment. “I assume they’re assembling a consist for a special train trip tomorrow. There’s a paralegal convention in Atlanta that starts Friday. A group of those folks came to New Orleans today, for some pre-game with decent food. One of those online data services companies chartered our equipment to take the group from here to Atlanta tomorrow.”
“Sounds expensive,” Ren said.
“It’s not cheap. I guess it’s worth it to the data company.”
“When those paralegals tell their bosses they need something to win cases, they often get it,” Silver said.
“Ahhh. Well, they’re taking four of our charter cars over to Atlanta. Pontchartrain Railroad, my friends, provide the engine. They take the same route Amtrak does.” Chuck paused for a moment as they heard the sounds of one railcar coupling to another
“Let’s grab another beer and watch them,” he suggested.
They walked from the patio at Second Line Brewery, crossed one of the tracks in the railyard, and walked down, to a block from where the Pontchartrain Railcar Company shop stood. Chuck motioned for them to stop.
“So, they’re putting the consist together. They just connected one of the coach cars to an observation car. That coach is set up as conference and meeting rooms. Companies can have meetings while the train goes from one city to another. Captive audiences,” he chuckled.
“Nice,” Ren said.
“To be fair, that observation is a moving barroom. It’s a lounge car where folks can relax. We can even put out a nice buffet there. The next car in sequence will be a diner. It’s got a full kitchen, and can seat forty or so folks at a time. So, if you don’t want to go to the conference sessions, you can hang out in the diner or the observation car. It’s a comfortable trip,” Chuck continued.
“Long trip, too. Amtrak takes like ten hours to get to Atlanta!” Ren said.
“Ah, but this ain’t Amtrak! This train won’t make any of the stop. They’ll keep up a good pace, and should get to Peachtree Station in about six hours,” Chuck explained.
They watched as the small yellow switch engine grabbed a fourth car, pulled it forward, then backed it onto the track with the other three cars.
“That’s backwards!” Ren said.
“Yup. That’s one of our ‘business cars’ with an open platform. We’ll use it for a ‘headquarters’ for the event staff. It’s backwards so the vestibule can connect with the other cars. Besides, it’s not safe to let people hang off the back,” he grinned.
“What if you want to take a nap?” Silver asked.
“Hmmm…well, if someone wants to crash, there are sleeper compartments in the business car. If do a trip for you, we’d take one of those, so you can sit out back and nap when you please,” Chuck said.
“Do those compartments have locks?” Ren asked with a wicked smile.
“Perv!” Silver exclaimed. “They do, don’t they, Chuck?”
The food truck serving dinner that evening at the brewery was set up when they returned to the patio. Tara and Fabian joined them for tacos. As they ate, they heard another train horn.
“That one seems louder than the earlier one!” Ren said.
“Could be. Come see, you’ll like this,” Chuck said, as he stood up and walked over to the train tracks. The group followed.
A restored Alco PA-1 diesel engine backed into the railyard. It was painted dark blue. A large yellow fleur-de-lis was painted on the side, along with “PONTCHARTRAIN” in the same yellow. The engine slowly backed up and switched to the track where the four railcars waited. The crew coupled the engine to the four cars. After another blast of the horn, the train pulled forward. They all waved as it passed them by.
“Where are they off to, now?” Silver asked, after they settled back at the table.
“You know the train track that goes over City Park Avenue by the Interstate?” Chuck asked, pointing more-or-less in the direction of I-10. “They’re heading that way. That track leads back to the station. They’ll use a turnaround track, and back into Union Passenger Terminal, all set to head out in the morning. They’ll go to Atlanta. We’ll leave the observation and coach cars there, where another group will take them on Friday to New York. The diner and business car will come home.”
“New York? We totally have to do this!” Silver said.