Saturday, February 15, 2014
So far, my research has told me that the barge was around between 1910 and 1930, but it could have been built long before that because the SP went all the way to New Orleans. In 1892, they proposed the building of a bridge across the Mississippi to facilitate their trains crossing the river. Unfortunately, a depression hit the United States and put a stop to that idea.
So, from about 1910 to the mid-1930s the SP ran the trains across the Mississippi on the Mastodon, the Southern Pacific Railroad's ferryboat, powered by tugboats. The barge took the Sunset Limited passenger train across the Mississippi River from the SPRR dock at Elmira Street (in what is today referred to as Avondale) to the Elysian Fields terminal on the New Orleans side.
The barge operated close to 10 miles up-river of New Orleans. The area where it operated is close to 2.5 to 3 miles west of the current Huey P. Long bridge. The Huey P. Long bridge was built in the mid-1930s and it incorporated both rail and vehicular traffic. This would have quickly ended the career of the Mastodon.
Today, this bridge is a huge railfan location and one can find post cards of trains crossing on the Huey P. Long bridge just like there are post cards of the trains crossing on the Mastodon.