Sibley, Lake Bistineau
& Southern Railroad
In R. A. Long’s youth, farm boys had shivered with longing at the sound of the steam locomotive’s whistle as the train passed in the night. Lure of other places, the promise of high adventure on the rails, came from its plangent call. America was in love with its trains, and Long was no exception. It was a love he never outgrew. The logging railroads of Long Bell were witness to that.
Few mill owners were inclined to spend the money it took to build ballasted roadbeds, lay heavy steel rails, or buy good rolling stock. Generally, tracks were narrow-gauge, ballast light, and at best, locomotive and flatcar operable only. Not so the four carrier roads of Long Bell’s railway system in the South, whose eponymous names sounded so agreeable to the ear. Long knew how to name a railroad. The Sibley, Lake Bistineau & Southern, the De Ridder & Eastern, the Woodworth & Louisiana Central, the Louisiana and Pacific - all traveled in style. They were high rollers, so to speak, running over heavy ballasted standard-gauge tracks laid with forty-pound steel rails.
By 1904 the Long Bell Railway System was operating two hundred sixty-nine cars, using seventeen locomotives to haul timber from the logging camps in the woods to the four sawmills they served. The most extensive line was the Sibley, Lake Bistineau & Southern whose forty-five miles crossed two parishes and into a third and doubled as a traffic line for local residents. Rolling stock consisted of seventy-seven flatcars, four steel cars, eight boarding cars for loggers, and two red cabooses. Its four mighty locomotives recalled the glory days of logging roads when all across the state of Louisiana the piney woods reverberated with passing thunder.
The Sibley, Lake Bistineau & Southern Railway was built in 1899 by the Long Bell Lumber Company of Kansas City to connect their mill at Yellow Pine with their timber lands to the south and with the big railroads at Sibley. The SLB&S ran south from Sibley 28 miles to Camp Long. The line was built primarily for hauling timber but it was also used to carry passengers as well as cotton up to Sibley where the freight cars were transferred onto the Vicksburg Shreveport & Pacific Railroad for shipment to other terminals or to other final destinations. The train made one run per day ... it left Yellow Pine at 6:15 am and arrived at Sibley at 7:00. Then it left Sibley at 7:45, arrived at Camp Long at 10:40, left Camp Long at 11:00 and arrived back at Yellow Pine at noon, where it remained until the next morning. The railroad was operated daily between the forests of fine timber and the mill, where the logs were manufactured into lumber that was sent to all parts of the world.
By 1942 the timber that was once so abundant, was depleted and the once bustling saw mills were no more. The SLB&S Railroad rails were ripped up as the railroad was no longer needed to bring timber in or haul lumber out. The steel rails were immediately taken up and likely used to support the War efforts.