Louisiana Eastern Railroad

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Louisiana Eastern Railroad
Reporting mark LE
Locale Midwestern to Gulf Coast, United States
Dates of operation 1947–1963
Track gauge 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge

The Louisiana Eastern Railroad (LE) was a proposed railroad that was to serve as an alternate line bypassing the congested rail lines in New Orleans, Louisiana. The railroad was envisioned by Paulsen Spence in the late 1940s and early 1950s, and while most US railroads had or began to replace their steam locomotives with diesel locomotives, the LE was to operate exclusively with steam locomotives which Spence had collected over time. He died in 1961, and the railroad had never fully materialized.


Paulsen Spence, an entrepreneur who had patented steam valves, started a gravel industry in 1947, with a rail spur leading to an area which he had named "Sharon Junction" where the spur connected to the Illinois Central Railroad's main line. This spur, known as the Comite Southern, was operated using retired steam locomotives and served as the basis for the Louisiana Eastern.

In 1950, Spence purchased another industrial spur, known as the Gulf & Eastern Railroad, which also served a gravel plant and connected to the Illinois Central at Shiloh, Louisiana. This line had been formed in 1946 and already operated a retired steam locomotive.

These two lines had been combined under the title of the Louisiana Eastern Railroad, and were soon upgraded, with heavier rails and reconfigured switches. Throughout the 1950s, Spence had continued to collect steam locomotives that had been retired from main line railroads when they started to switch to diesel motive power. Over thirty steam locomotives of various designs had been acquired for the road, transporting gravel to the Illinois Central and providing occasional excursion trains for railfans who admired the railroad's use of steam engines until the 1960s.

The railroad's demise[edit]

Paulsen Spence died in 1961, and thus his vision of a through freight line operated with steam locomotives had never been realized. Upon his death, there had been very little interest by others in maintaining the railroad and its engines. The remaining equipment was largely scrapped over the course of 1962-63, the final steam locomotive to operate on the road was no. 11, former Abilene & Southern 2-8-2 No. 20, which last ran in June, 1963, and scrapped shortly thereafter.[1]

Preserved equipment[edit]

Of the collection of over thirty steam locomotives, only four survive today. These engines are:

Stone Mountain #104, formerly Louisiana Eastern #1 on display at the Southeastern Railway Museum since 2008.
Stone Mountain #60, formerly Louisiana Eastern #2 on the Stone Mountain Scenic Railroad being pushed by a diesel.
  • Number 2, 4-4-0, built by Baldwin in 1923 as San Antonio and Aransas Pass Railway number 60. Became the second number 1 after no. 1's sale before being sold to Stone Mountain as well. The engine was named the "Texas II" and operated until 1984. The locomotive was donated to the Gulf and Ohio Railways in 2012, where it is awaiting restoration for use on that railroad's Three Rivers Rambler tourist operation.
Former Louisiana Eastern #4, now hauling passenger trains as Reading Blue Mountain and Northern Railroad 425.
Former Louisiana Eastern #98, returned to service after a massive overhaul, double-heading with Wilmington and Western #58.


  • [1]
  • Louis R. Saillard. "Paulsen Spence and the Louisiana Eastern Railroad". Railfan & Railroad, August 2009

External links[edit]