Morgan Effigy
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Vermilion Historical Society
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Ken Dupuy A Ride on the Train

by Kenneth A. Dupuy


Let's take an imagined trip on one of the first train rides from Abbeville to New Iberia. Whether the person was young or old, sophisticated or naive, the experience must have been exciting. For one thing, the train provided a speed that few Abbevillians had ever experienced. There was much less dust and fewer bumps than going by stagecoach, buggy, wagon or by horseback. Also, the view of the passing scenery was from a somewhat higher vantage point than before. On the trip, there was the rhythmic ticky-tac sound made as the steel wheels passed over the spaces between the individual sections of rails. We mustn't forget the authoritarian barker-like voice of the conductor announcing the train departure—"All Aboard!"—at each station at which the train took on passengers. The locomotive's long, high-pitched whistle and general mechanical grumblings flew into the open windows, along with the soot and smoke whenever the wind was blowing in the wrong direction. After awhile the distinctive voice of the conductor would be heard commanding, "Tickets, please," as he entered each passenger car. Then the snip, snip, snip sound would be heard as he punched each passenger's ticket.

And what sights! The bystanders and friends and relatives of the passengers were able to see the train as it reluctantly departed. The train struggled slowly and laboriously to overcome inertia. Steam and smoke spewed out like labored breathe on a frosty morning. The smoke and steam also seemed to express visually the train's difficulties in getting started. Once the train was on its way, there were wonderful sights for the passengers and crew. The cotton fields, appearing like snowed-on crops, the pickers bowed down, as though paying homage to these plants. The pickers would be wearing long-sleeved shirts to protect themselves from the prickling parts of the plants.

There would be serpentine levees undulating across the rice fields—I'm uncertain when such levees were first used in this part of the world. Also, travelers were privy to seeing long-necked, white herons periscoping through the green seas of young rice plants. Also, we mustn't forget the flocks of blackbirds moving about like swirling mists.

In crossing through the towns along the way, passengers would spy boys with beaming, curious faces waving at those on board, or testing their mettle as they raced with the passing train. Most of these boys were probably dreaming of the day when they would take their first rides on "the train," and into the future.

That trains helped Abbeville grow and prosper, there is no doubt. They helped to move it along through the decades into the 1890s' future and into our present. The railroad also assisted in the development of the western part of Vermilion Parish. Those first proponents of rail service for Abbeville seemed to have had grand foresight.

[Read also the reports from the Abbeville Meridional about the long struggle to bring the railroad to Abbeville, and Ken Dupuy's description of the celebration upon the completion of the railroad.]