Columbus & Greenville Railway

The first spike of the Greenville, Columbus and Birmingham Railroad, today known as the Columbus & Greenville Railway (reporting marks, CAGY) , was driven in Greenville on January 5, 1879 by Mrs. H. B. Theabold who was a prominent Greenville, Missisippi citizen. The track was completed eastward to Stoneville on March 31, 1878, and the first scheduled passenger service was started April 8, 1878, with two round trips scheduled daily between Greenville and Stoneville, Mississippi. Passenger train service was extended as each track segment was completed. The construction of the station at 205 Central Avenue was authorized in 1886 and the building was completed in 1888.

Columbus & Greenville SD28 #702 is seen here at Greenwood, Mississippi on May 17, 1972. A rare model few were purchased this was acquired new by CAGY in 1965. Warren Calloway photo.

It was what I call mock fortress architecture in which the top of the walls all around looked like a fort with no overhang and fake gun ports. The main line was completed between Greenville and Atlanta June 18, 1889, and through train scheduled service began between Greenville and Atlanta on July 8. 1889. The ownership and name of the railroad also changed to Georgia Pacific Railroad in 1889. A through Pullman sleeping car was operated on this train for many years.  On September 1, 1894, the ownership and name again changed to Southern Railway in Mississippi. The Southern Railway in Mississippi was part of the Southern Railway, but, in 1892 the Mississippi legislature passed a law that any new railroad operating in Mississippi had to be chartered in Mississippi, thus the “IN Mississippi” part of the name.

Columbus & Greenville DRS-6-4-1500 #604 at Columbus, Mississippi in June of 1972. Warren Calloway photo.

In 1912 the Southern Railway in Mississippi enlarged the station building with a fifty foot addition on the rear and completely remodeled the building. They removed the “fortress” wall tops and added roof overhangs all around the building to the basic present look of the building.  On November 6, 1920 The Southern Railway in Mississippi changed the name to Columbus and Greenville Railroad. On August 6, 1923 Mr. A. T. Stovall purchased the railroad and renamed it the Columbus and Greenville Railway. During the Columbus and Greenville era, the premier passenger train between Columbus and Greenville was the “Deltan”. The “Deltan” C&G Train Number 11/12 made a across platform connection with the Southern Railway Train Number 11/12 to and from Atlanta. The “Deltan” was completely air conditioned in 1938. The last run of the Deltan was July 15, 1948.

One of Columbus & Greenville's celebrated Baldwins, DRS-6-4-1500 #605, is seen here in Greenville, Mississippi on May 17, 1972. Warren Calloway photo.

All scheduled passenger service ended in 1949 although special passenger trains were still run. The last “Special” was a football special from Columbus to Greenville and back in 1957. The Stovall family operated the railroad until it was taken over by the Illinois Central Gulf Railroad on September 29, 1972.  The Illinois Central Gulf, also formed in 1972, was a massive system (for its time), controlling much of the trackage in the center of the country along the Mississippi River between Chicago and the deep south near New Orleans. It consisted of the Gulf, Mobile & Ohio and Illinois Central railroads, which both operated in the same regions and served many of the same markets. Similarly, both railroads were unique in that they operated north-south main lines instead of the more traditional east-west systems.

An official, 1940 system map of the Columbus & Greenville Railway. Author's collection.

Columbus & Greenville All-Time Locomotive Roster

Builder Model Type Road Number Notes Quantity
GE65-Ton41-42Ex-U.S. Army2
EMDGP7102, 608, 614-615, 618, 621, 701-704Ex-GM&O, Ex-FEC, Ex-Southern10
EMDSW1507, 509, 510-514, 520-522, 524Ex-Fernwood Columbia & Gulf, Ex-TRRA, Ex-IC11
BLWDRS-6-4-1500601-605Bought New, 19465
BLWAS416606Bought New, 19511
EMDSD28701-702Acquired new.2
EMDCF7801-810Ex-Santa Fe F7As10
EMDGP7u1000-1003Ex-C&NW, Ex-CStPM&O4
EMDGP382000, 2777, 2880, 2884-2885Ex-Southern5
EMDGP118715, 8718, 8720Ex-IC3

Columbus & Greenville's only AS416, #606, is seen here in Greenville, Mississippi on May 15, 1972. Warren Calloway photo.

On October 30, 1975, a group of local investors purchased the railroad and operated it as the Columbus and Greenville Railway. The railroad continues operation today as the Columbus and Greenville Railway although ownership changed in July, 2008, to Genesee and Wyoming, Inc., which owns and operates railroads in the United States and other countries as well. The current Columbus and Greenville Railway operates between Greenville and Greenwood and between Columbus and West Point. The track is out of service between Greenwood and West Point although efforts are underway to possibly restore service between Greenwood and West Point. 

All information on this page is courtesy of Harold Holiman.

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Header Photo: Drew Jacksich

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