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Summer, Sand, and Steam...


Chapter 3

Mr. Lepine's Miss Maud


It was a cold December day when the rusty little steam engine Maud L. was unloaded from the lowboy trailer that had brought her to Cedar Point from Louisiana. Only two people besides the unloading crew were there to greet her: Mr. and Mrs. Roose. Few people still loved this 60 year old symbol of a wealthy plantation owner’s love.

In 1902 Baldwin Locomotive Works received an order for a narrow gauge steam engine from Barker and Lepine’s Laurel Valley Plantation in Thibodaux, LA. The little engine was to have a 0-4-4 wheel arrangement, 30’’ drivers, and 9x14’’ cylinders. By September Baldwin had completed the engine and shipped her to Louisiana. Maud’s final build cost was a little over $7,000.

Mr. Lepine, owner of the Laurel Valley, must have received the engine with mixed emotions. Certainly she was beautiful with her 1875 lines, her maroon drivers, her mahogany cab, and her silver leaf trim; yet Maud L. meant much more to him than just another engine to bring his long trains of sugar cane to the mill. Maud was the symbol of his love.

Right after her arrival, Maud sits patiently waiting to come back to life...

Mr. Lepine had fallen in love with a young lady whom did not share the same feelings. The lady married another. When the heartbroken owner of the beautiful Laurel Valley received his first locomotive, he named it for her- ‘Melodia’… (0-6-2T Porter, 1897; now residing at the Pacific Coast Railroad in CA.)

As the years past, Mr. Lepine did not forget his sorrow. Instead, he watched his beloved give birth to a daughter who was named Maud. In 1902 Mr. Lepine directed that the name Maud L. be painted on the cab of his new engine. The L stood for Lepine. As the plantation negroes unloaded the tiny Baldwin from the railroad flat car on her day of arrival, Mr. Lepine, standing near by, whispered, “I’ll still have my little Maud.”

Plantations at the turn of the century often utilized private railways to transfer the sugar cane from field to mills. No other means could be found to keep the sugar factories, which were increasing grinding capacity, supplied. Most of the private railways used the most common narrow gauge- 3’. As the work on these private roads was not as hard as on regular narrow gauge lines, the engines could be built smaller and lighter. The little engines were often very beautiful and attractive. Each seemed to have her own personality. It was only fitting that most of them were given female names.

Maud L. was already an old girl when she was built. She had been constructed from 1875 blueprints. There was no need to change the simple design which was very well suited for plantation work.

Immediately upon her arrival, Maud was put to work on the 6,000 acre plantation. For 20 years her job was to head up the little trains, with the ancient cars bowed under the weight of the cane stacked high. As the years passed she grew in the affections of the plantation negroes who always referred to her as ‘Miss Maud’.

Then in the early 1920’s the sugar cane growers were stricken by the cane borer. Coupled with the financial crash, this put many of the plantations in great distress. At the Laurel Valley, the hardship forced the closing of the old, small grinding mill. Now the purpose of the railroad was to transport the cane 2 miles from the mill derrick to the main highway on Bayou Lafourche where it would be picked up by trucks for transport to a larger mill. Only 1 locomotive was required for this process, and in 1926, Maud which was smaller of the two locomotives was retired. She sat in the Engine House as Melodia continued to puff and chug across the vast fields. But Melodia’s days of service were numbered when in 1946 new gravel roads made the continued operation of the little road unfeasible. She joined rusting Maud in the old Engine House.

Maud and Melodia were not forgotten. Soon Mr. Arthur E. LaSalle, a friend of the Lepine family and an avid railroad historian, purchased the two little girls. Both locomotives remained stored at the plantation until Melodia was sold to a Alabama man who eventually restored her.

In November 1961 Mr. LaSalle sold Maud L. to Mr. Roose and his partner Mr. Albert Augustus. She arrived at the Point the next month. Mr. LaSalle particularly stipulated in the contract that the engine never be destroyed nor ever lose her name. Along with Maud came Mr. LaSalle and Mr. Clyde Barbour to direct the restoration.

Maud was to be dressed up in fine fashion. First she was completely disassembled. Every nut and bolt came off. Then her boiler was sent to Toledo to be Copied. Her wheels were turned down at the B&O Shops in Willard, OH. Gundlach Sheet Metal began working on a copy of Albert’s headlight for her. A wooden cowcatcher was constructed and Maud’s original wooden cab was slightly re-worked. Nearly $1,000 worth of brass and $400 worth of gold leaf were used to trim the Southern beauty, enhancing her antique lines.

Mr. Barbour, an excellent artist, painted a scene from the Battle of Lake Erie on one side of her sand dome and a stately riverboat on the other. He also did the original paintings on the headlight. Oil burners were installed to eliminate the possibility of showering passengers with soot. To enable her to handle the curved route of the CP&LE, a pony truck was added making her into a 2-4-4T.

By the time the 12 ton engine was again ready to make steam, $35,000 had been invested in her; 5 times her original cost.
In the spring of 1963, Maud L., decked out in green and red paint, brass and gold trim, arrived at Cedar Point to become CP&LE R.R. #1. After some small problems with her pony truck were overcome, Maud began to regularly head up 2-5 coach trains. She quickly became everyone’s favorite.

Getting little Miss Maud to look like a Southern Lady again had been one problem, but getting her to pull those long trains had been quite another. Initially the work was begun by Mr. LaSalle in the Cedar Point maintenance shops. When it was seen that Maud required more work then could be done there, she was taken back to Sam Conti’s Lakecraft Welding shops. While Arthur and Mr. Barbour concentrated on artwork and historical accuracy, Sam worked on her mechanical problems. He replaced many unusable parts such as Maud’s rusted water tank. Finally, with everyone’s work completed yet again, Maud L. was trucked back across the bay to Cp.

Maud after her 2nd rebuild with 22 awaiting hers...

Despite the orneriness she showed on the opening day of the Railroad, little Maud was soon chugging along the bay.
Until August of 1963 when #22 arrived from Lakecraft, Maud was one of the Railroad’s workhorses. Afterwards and for the next five summers she only put in a intermittent appearance. Difficulties encountered in getting the oil burners to generate enough steam, the fact that she would normally have to be fueled up midway through an operating day, and everyone’s desire to preserve Maud as the little line’s showpiece kept Maud inside the Engine House most of the time.

During the winter of 68-69’ Maud’s oil burners were replaced with grates. Once again she would belch out coal smoke from her stack as she had on that day back in 1902 when, fresh from the builder’s shops, she first pulled a train at Laurel Valley. "Oh Yes'm, Miss Maud..."

 

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