Mississippi Railroads And Railfanning In "The Magnolia State"
Mississippi defines Southern rail operations at their finest; flat and swampy terrain mixed in with lots
of water, coastal operations and port services. Perhaps no other
railroad showcased the Magnolia State like the Illinois Central and
Gulf, Mobile & Ohio railroads, both of which had a significant
presence in the state. However, there were also a number of other classic,
"fallen flag" lines that operated in Mississippi and what made the
state rather unique is that it featured main lines operated north-south
as well as east-west. Today the state is still an important originator
of traffic (particularly with chemicals and petroleum given its location
along the Gulf Coast) with most movements handled by five of North
America's seven Class I railroads, along with one Class II regional, and
a multitude of smaller short lines. Finally, please note that for your
interest throughout the article here there will be links to other pages
here at the site which are related to Mississippi railroads.
Mississippi's rail history date back to 1835 when the West Feliciana Railroad began
operations hauling the southern staple product of cotton. By 1842 the
railroad had completed its main line between between Bayou Sara,
Louisiana and Woodville, Mississippi a distance of 25 miles. The idea
for the West Feliciana, however, dated as far back as 1828 with the
railroad being officially chartered in 1831. The line operated
independently until it became part of the Yazoo & Mississippi Valley
Railroad, which was later controlled by the Illinois Central.
Interestingly the little railroad lasted 136 years until being mostly
abandoned IC in 1978. In terms of where the West Feliciana lay in the
IC's system it was located right along the Louisiana/Mississippi border
on the southwestern edge of the railroad.
Following the opening of the West Feliciana Railroad, the Magnolia State would find itself home to not only the Illinois Central and Gulf, Mobile & Ohio but also several other now-classic railroads.
Interestingly, today Mississippi is home to nearly as many Class I
railroads as during any time in the state's history which include CSX,
Norfolk Southern, Canadian National, BNSF Railway and Kansas City
Southern Railway. While these Class I railroads constitute much of the
trackage operated in Mississippi
the state is also home to Class II, regional Alabama & Gulf Coast
Railway as well as several shortlines. These railroads, which have at
least a minor presence in the state include the Alabama Southern
Railroad, Gloster Southern Railroad, Columbus & Greenville Railway,
Golden Triangle Railroad, Great River Railroad, Kosciusko &
Southwestern Railway, Luxapalila Valley Railroad, Meridian & Bigbee,
Meridian Southern Railway, Mississippi Central, Mississippi Delta,
Mississippi Export Railroad, Mississippi & Skuna Valley Railroad,
Mississippi Southern, Mississippi Tennessee Railroad, Mississippian
Railway Cooperative, Old Augusta Railroad, Port Bienville Railroad,
Redmont Railway, RJ Corman's Tennessee Terminal, Tishomingo Railroad,
Vicksburg Southern, and the West Tennessee Railroad.
Altogether, these railroads operate roughly 2,500 miles of track in
Mississippi although at one time the state was home to nearly 4,400
miles. With a loss of about 46% of its rail
infrastructure since the "Golden Years" of the 1920s this loss is about
average in comparison to the declines other states have witnessed. For
information about Mississippi railroads in terms of route mileage over
the decades please have a look at the chart above. While Mississippi no longer features celebrated passenger trains of the South like the Abraham Lincoln, Crescent, City of New Orleans and Pan American Amtrak continues to operate the Crescent and City of New Orleans
over Norfolk Southern and Canadian National trackage in the Magnolia
State (the Sunset Limited used to stretch as far as western Florida and
included four stops in Mississippi but has yet to resume service that
far east since the Hurricane Katrina catastrophe).
In any event, if you tire of live freight trains or just aren't
interested in that sort of thing Mississippi also includes several
railroad museums. These include the Booneville Rails
& Trails Museum, Gulfport Union Depot, Canton Train Museum,
Crossroads Museum, Sam Wilhite Transportation Museum, McComb Depot, the
Walter Valley Casey Jones Railroad Museum, Corinth Union Station,
Meridian Freight House, and West Point Transportation Museum.
Unfortunately, at the current time there are no excursion trains
or tourist railroads currently operating in Mississippi. While Mississippi may not offer the excitement of
challenging mountainous grades they do feature a colorful mix of most of
North America's Class I systems, Amtrak operations and local shortline
service which should make for an enjoyable trip to the Magnolia State.