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Louisiana Eastern Railroad

Since his death, Spence has been called "innovative, brilliant, and eccentric." He accomplished great things in his lifetime and dreamed of greater. Perhaps Spence should be best remembered for his 1953 observation, "Few things in my life ever gave me more of a thrill than owning those engines."

Louis R. Saillard - Railfan & Railroad - August 2009

Louisiana Eastern

The Louisiana Eastern Railroad was one man's vision for a major trunk line to bypass a congested New Orleans rail scene, but in fact that railroad never materialized beyond a small gravel pit operation and an eccentric collection of second-hand steam locomotives. After making his fortune on steam valve patents, Paulsen Spence returned to the South and began developing industrial railroad operations in the gravel-rich region of southeastern Louisiana. Beginning in 1947 with the tiny Comite Southern, in 1950 Spence purchased the nearby Gulf & Eastern Railroad and its related sand and gravel operations. Throughout the 1950s, he purchased nearly three dozen recently retired steam locomotives in a variety of wheel arrangements and sizes, storing them on the Gulf & Eastern property -- which he renamed Louisiana Eastern. In addition to using some of the locomotives to ferry gravel moves out to a mainline connection with the Illinois Central, railfans in the area grew fond of short tourist hauls operated on the weekends with one of the steamers. As noted, Spence had visions of developing much larger gravel operations in the area and even managing a through-line that would offer a freight bypass around New Orleans. However, the entrepreneur died suddenly in the fall of 1961, and with no one else to take on the daunting project of maintaining his impressive fleet of second-hand steam, most of the equipment was scrapped.

Four Louisiana Eastern kettles still exist today: at the Stone Mountain Scenic Railroad, the Southeastern Railroad Museum, the Wilmington & Western Railroad, and the Reading & Northern.

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