Southern Forest Museum & Research Center, Long Leaf, LA

- text and photos © by James D. Hefner unless otherwise indicated.-

Long Leaf is located about 20 miles southwest of Alexandria, LA. This museum is a 57-acre complex, consisting of a sawmill, the company town of Long Leaf, and the remaining elements of the Red River & Gulf Railroad. The complex was donated by the Crowell family after the mill was closed in 1969, and is now on the National Register of Historic Places. The museum was opened to the public in May, 1996, starting with an exhibit at the commissary. A portion of the steam-powered sawmill will later be made operational, along with a stretch of the Red River & Gulf railroad from I-49 at Lecompte to the logging camp, with a depot at Long Leaf. My thanks to Alan Auter, the Museum Curator, for allowing me to enter the complex and show the following to you. Thanks also to Henry Taves, for his clarification and supply of additional information on the Long Leaf complex.

Here we see the "roundhouse," located on the grounds of the mill, with a machine shop located behind it. Like any locomotive servicing facility, there is a pit in the floor to allow access to the underside of the locomotives. Just barely visible on the wall of the machine shop is a steam locomotive air-brake pump. This pump was powered by steam from the mill boiler. The compressed air from this pump was used for a variety of shop uses. (Orginally, an attempt was made to work with compressed air taken directly from the boiler house. But, they could not maintain the air pressure, so the arrangement described here was used instead.) Steam also powered a steam engine, which turned a shaft, which drove all of the machinery in the shop. During a remodeling in the 1950s, the steam engine was replaced by an electric motor, and an electric air compressor replaced the locomotive air-brake pump. An additional electric-power lathe was then purchased and placed where the steam engine used to be, and the steam engine may have been dumped in the wooded area across from the roundhouse.

At the time of my visit in June, 1995, I saw Meridian Lumber 2-6-0 number 202 (Baldwin/40862/1913) parked next to the engine house, and Long Leaf Lumber 4-6-0 number 400 (Baldwin/51175/1919) parked in the woods across from the engine house. (Since my visit, both have been moved inside the roundhouse.) In addition, Red River and Gulf 4-6-0 number 106 (Baldwin/57203/1923) is located inside the Carknocker's Shed on the elevated track past the machine shop. It is planned to restore these three engines to operating condition. It is hoped that two other ex-Long Leaf steam locomotives will be returned to the center, bringing their total steam roster to five. "Railfans" had stolen the works plates and number plates from one of these engines; Engine 106's number plates and whistle were also stolen; the grounds are now under 24-hour armed guard.

Further down the tracks from Engine 400 was Clyde Skidding Machine #321, used to drag the logs out of the forest to the trackside. Located at the opposite corner of the engine house on the elevated track was a huge McGiffert Loader, one of two on the mill grounds. They were self-propelled; once they had reached a location in the woods, they could then squat down onto a set of skids. The loader would then be used to lift the logs that were skidded in from the woods onto the log cars. The loader straddles the logging train, and pulls the train through as it is loading. It is intended to restore these steam-powered machines, perhaps back to operating condition.

Further back in the woods from the Clyde skidder, I found this locomotive graveyard. An integral cylinder/saddle assembly, air reservoir, smokestack extension and the remains of a balloon stack are among the parts I recognized. The scrapped remains of two Two-truck Shays numbers 1&2 are located in these woods, along with a stationary steam engine, pulleys, shafts, and other parts that were removed from the mill. (The mill was mostly converted from steam power to electricity in 1957. Still steam-powered were numerous steam cylinders, pumps, a couple engines, the hugh GE electric turbine, and the "shotgun feeds" for the two log carriages.)

The depot at Lecompte is still in existance, along with quite a bit of rolling stock. If you include the track going north from the mill, there are about 30 log cars (in shambles because the wood parts rotted away), a "brand new" 1955 log car, 4 flat cars (possibly tender frames), two tank cars, and numerous parts (trucks, wheels, etc.) located on the mill site. (The incinerated remains of two Ford Coupé motorcars also exist at Long Leaf. They were victims of a fire about 10-15 years ago.) The RR&G general office at Lecompte was torn down, but architectural plans of it survive.

The pictures in the remainder of this tour were taken by Dan Grey in 1973, and are used with his permission.

RR&G 4-6-0 #106 in carknocker's shed

Red River & Gulf 4-6-0 #106 is seen here peaking out of the car knockers shed. Because it was mostly under cover for the past few decades, it is in better shape than the other two engines.

Old Combine/Caboose; now gone

This wooden Combine/Caboose has burned sometime in the recent past, leaving only the frames behind. The remains of some of the logging cars are also visible. The tracks in this area has since cleared of brush; loggers are beginning to cut the trees. Some trackwork has been done near the roundhouse lately, replacing switches after removing the tracks and clearing out stumps.

A closer view of the sawmill.

This is a closer view of the Sawmill complex. In comparing this photograph to the picture at the beginning of this tour, you can get an idea of how much the grounds have become overgrown since the closing of the mill. It also gives you an idea of how much work has been done in returning the mill grounds to a condition suitable for visitors.

Your Help is Needed.

The Southern Forest Heritage Museum would like your help. You can become a member of the museum, and receive their newsletter and other benefits for an individual membership fee of $25.00. Please address all inquiries to:

Southern Forest Heritage Museum
PO Box 101
Long Leaf, LA 71448-0101

The musuem now has a website: It is There, you will find membership information, hours, driving information, and other information.

Where is this 44-ton Alco, #44?

The museum is also trying to locate this 44-ton Alco diesel locomotive, numbered 44. It was a 380 HP General Electric 44-ton diesel electric, serial number 12914 delivered new on 10/3/1940 to Mississippi Export Railway in Moss Point, MS. It was sold to Crowell Long Leaf Lumber Co. for their subsidiary Red River & Gulf Railroad in 3/1953. It was then sold to U.S. Steel for their Houston, TX warehouse in 11/1973. The locomotive had two 1,000 RPM Caterpillar D1700 V8 diesel engines, two General Electric GT555A1 generators, and four General Electric GE733A1 traction motors with 11.25:1 gear ratio. It was among the first of these built and carried the seventh serial number. (Thanks to Patrick W. Jacob for providing the information on #44.)

Postscript: I have visited Long Leaf again in 2002, and found the place transformed since this visit in 1995. To see my "virtual tour" from 2002, click here.

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Visiting this site was like stepping into the pages of one of Colin Garret's books, which capture the closing days of the steam locomotive operation around the world. His work, along with Wes Barris', were the inspiration for what you see here, and this tour is dedicated to him.

(, "By a new and living way, which He hath consecrated for us...Hebrews 10:20a.