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The Rebel

Last revised: April 13, 2024

By: Adam Burns

The Gulf, Mobile & Ohio, acclaimed as 'The Rebel Route,' traces its illustrious moniker to its initial lineup of passenger trains, fondly christened as Rebels by a predecessor road.

However, the GM&O's passenger services aren't widely celebrated, primarily because it withdrew from the competitive Deep South passenger market in the mid-1950s, facing stiff competition from titans like Illinois Central and Louisville & Nashville.

Despite this, it's noteworthy that GM&O was a frontrunner in embracing innovation - it began experimenting with the streamliner concept as early as the mid-1930s, demonstrating its forward-thinking approach in a historical rail landscape.

Inauguration

Despite its limited fleet, the Gulf Mobile & Ohio's streamliners left a lasting imprint that endures in the collective memory of the railroading community and fortunate passengers who had the opportunity to experience the ride.

In many ways, the GM&O mirrors the tale of the eastern Chessie System. Both served as compelling figures in their respective regions - the Midwest and South for the GM&O - although their operations were relatively ephemeral.

Established in the dawn of the diesel era, the GM&O's operations spanned a mere four decades, disappearing by the early 1970s. Yet, throughout its brief existence, the railroad demonstrated resounding resilience, standing its ground in a fiercely competitive market - a legend that continues to live on today.

Photos

A glass plate negative by Harris & Ewing (photographer) featuring the original "Rebel" trainset, circa 1935. It was manufactured by American Car & Foundry. Unlike most other early semi-articulated trainsets, the "Rebel's" cars could be freely interchanged, which became a common setup for future streamliners. The small fleet included three buffet-coach cars and two sleeper-observations.

Gulf, Mobile & Northern

The quintessential passenger train fondly recalled today can trace its origins back to predecessor Gulf, Mobile & Northern. This trailblazing entity etched its name into history by launching the very first streamliner in the South — the celebrated Rebel — in 1935.

Constructed by American Car & Foundry, the trainset was powered by an engine furnished by the esteemed American Locomotive Company (Alco). This seamless collaboration resulted in a groundbreaking chapter in the annals of Southern railroading, reflecting innovation and engineering excellence.

This distinctively engineered car was powered by a 2-B wheel arrangement and boasted 600 horsepower, featuring a model 531 prime mover crafted by Alco-predecessor, McIntosh & Seymour.

This particular design propagated the power for many of Alco's earliest diesel locomotives, including the widely recognized HH series switchers.

In addition to powering the locomotive, the car was thoughtfully equipped with a baggage compartment and an compact space reserved for a trolley Post Office, showcasing functionality fused with innovative design.

Design

The trainset was styled by noted industrial designer Otto Kuhler, recognized for his iconic designs including Baltimore & Ohio's Royal Blue, Milwaukee Road's Hiawathas, and Lehigh Valley's Black Diamond. Kuhler envisioned a shovel-nosed look, adorned with gleaming stainless steel and accentuated with a bold crimson band that spanned the length of the train.

Initially, the train's route meandered from Jackson, Tennessee, to either New Orleans or Mobile, Alabama, diverging at Union, Mississippi. However, in the wake of the 1942 merger between M&O and GM&N, the route was extended to St. Louis. Subsequently, traditional streamlined passenger equipment supplanted the distinctive trainsets, marking an important shift in the train's operational profile.

Timetable (1940)

Though perhaps not as renowned as titans like the Super Chief or Empire Builder, the original Rebel ushered in two transformative enhancements in passenger rail services. It introduced the concept of a streamlined 'trainset,' bearing similarity to the Burlington's renowned Zephyr 9900.

What set the Rebel apart was its flexibility to interchange or supplement cars, a feature not found in the Zephyr and many other equivalent trainsets of that time. These counterparts were primarily rigid, offering semi-permanent coupling, which starkly contrasted with the Rebel's adaptable configuration - a revolutionizing step in rail travel dynamics.

This adaptability granted GM&N the leeway to interchange any consist as per requirements. Its versatile equipment fleet comprised three buffet-coach cars and a duo of sleeper-observations.

Recognizing the need for expansion, an order was placed in 1937 for an additional power car and two coach-sleepers. Interestingly, lower patronage numbers north of Jackson, Mississippi, meant that normally a three-consist layout sufficed, while southward journeys necessitated the addition of an extra coach.

This strategic and dynamic positioning underscored GM&N's responsive approach towards passenger demand and operational efficiency.

Among its innovations, The Rebel pioneered onboard hostess services, possibly becoming the first train to provide such an amenity. It could seamlessly connect Jackson with New Orleans in a span of just over fourteen hours, while the journey to Mobile clocked in under thirteen hours, maintaining an average speed of 32 to 34 mph.

After the amalgamation of GM&N and Mobile & Ohio in 1940, the Rebel's tracks were extended to St. Louis - a facet documented in 'Streamliners, History Of A Railroad Icon' by Mike Schafer and Joe Welsh. Indeed, the Rebel's distinguished legacy stands as a vivid chapter in the annals of streamlined rail transportation.

Timetable (April 18, 1938)

Read Down Time/Leave (Train #1) Milepost Location Read Up
Time/Arrive (Train #2)
8:30 PM (Dp)0
Jackson, TN
8:20 AM (Dp)
F 8:38 PM3
Bemis, TN
F 8:13 AM
F 8:51 PM11
Parkburg, TN
F 8:02 AM
F 8:57 PM15
Deanburg, TN
F 7:56 AM
9:05 PM20
Silerton, TN
7:48 AM
F 9:10 PM23
Pine Top, TN
F 7:43 AM
9:19 PM28
Hornsby, TN
7:34 AM
F 9:25 PM32
Series, TN
F 7:27 AM
F 9:31 PM37
Lacy, TN
F 7:21 AM
9:39 PM40
Middleton, TN
7:15 AM
F 9:46 PM45
Brownfield, MS
F 7:06 AM
9:52 PM49
Walnut, MS
7:01 AM
F 9:58 PM52
Tiplersville, MS
F 6:55 AM
10:05 PM56
Falkner, MS
6:48 AM
10:18 PM65
Ripley, MS
6:36 AM
10:28 PM71
Blue Mountain, MS
6:25 AM
F 10:35 PM76
Cotton Plant, MS
F 6:17 AM
10:45 PM (Ar)83
New Albany, MS
6:05 AM (Dp)
11:00 PM (Dp)83
New Albany, MS
5:50 AM (Ar)
11:20 PM94
Ecru, MS
5:30 AM
11:36 PM102
Pontotoc, MS
5:17 AM
11:59 PM117
Houlka, MS
4:50 AM
12:18 AM127
Houston, MS
4:31 AM
F 12:37 AM139
Mantee, MS
F 4:09 AM
F 12:57 AM151
Maben, MS
F 3:46 AM
1:02 AM154
Mathiston, MS
3:42 AM
1:31 AM170
Ackerman, MS
3:11 AM
2:05 AM (Ar)188
Louisville, MS
2:35 AM (Dp)
2:15 AM (Dp)188
Louisville, MS
2:15 AM (Ar)
F 2:30 AM197
Noxapater, MS
F 1:59 AM
2:57 AM213
Philadelphia, MS
1:36 AM
3:20 AM (Ar)228
Union, MS
1:10 AM (Dp)
Time/Leave (Train #1/New Orleans Section) Milepost Location Time/Arrive (Train #2/New Orleans Section)
3:35 AM (Dp)228
Union, MS
12:45 AM (Ar)
3:57 AM241
Sebastopol, MS
12:24 AM
4:10 AM250
Walnut Grove, MS
12:11 AM
F 4:18 AM255
Tuscola, MS
F 12:02 AM
4:26 AM260
Lena, MS
11:55 PM
F 4:37 AM267
Ludlow, MS
F 11:44 PM
F 4:51 AM278
Koch, MS
F 11:29 PM
F 4:55 AM281
Goshen Springs, MS
F 11:25 PM
F 5:05 AM287
Fannin, MS
F 11:16 PM
F 5:15 AM295
Luckney, MS
F 11:05 PM
5:30 AM (Ar)302
Jackson, MS
10:50 PM (Dp)
6:15 AM (Dp)302
Jackson, MS
10:30 PM (Ar)
6:43 AM324
Gatesville, MS
9:59 PM
6:58 AM335
Georgetown, MS
9:47 PM
7:04 AM340
Rockport, MS
9:37 PM
7:17 AM350
Wanilla, MS
9:25 PM
7:27 AM357
Monticello, MS
9:15 PM
8:05 AM385
West Columbia, MS
8:40 PM
8:27 AM404
Angie, LA
8:15 PM
8:32 AM409
Varnado, LA
8:09 PM
8:40 AM (Ar)417
Bogalusa, LA
8:00 PM (Dp)
8:45 AM (Dp)417
Bogalusa, LA
7:55 PM (Ar)
9:04 AM435
Talisheek, LA
7:33 PM
9:25 AM452
North Slidell, LA
7:15 PM
9:35 AM453
Slidell, LA
7:05 PM
10:35 AM
New Orleans, LA (City Park Avenue)
6:10 PM
10:45 AM (Ar)488
New Orleans, LA (Terminal Station)
6:00 PM (Dp)
Time/Leave (Train #21/Mobile Section) Milepost Location Time/Arrive (Train #22/Mobile Section)
3:40 AM (Dp)228
Union, MS
12:35 AM (Ar)
3:58 AM238
Decatur, MS
12:21 AM
4:15 AM247
Newton, MS
12:07 AM
F 4:30 AM255
Roberts, MS
F 11:50 PM
F 4:42 AM262
Montrose, MS
F 11:38 PM
4:50 AM267
Louin, MS
11:31 PM
5:04 AM274
Bay Springs, MS
11:20 PM
F 5:18 AM282
Stringer, MS
F 11:06 PM
F 5:29 AM288
Mossville, MS
F 10:56 PM
5:45 AM (Ar)298
Laurel, MS
10:40 PM (Dp)
6:00 AM (Dp)298
Laurel, MS
10:25 PM (Ar)
F 6:13 AM307
Lanham, MS
F 10:12 PM
6:27 AM315
Ovett, MS
9:58 PM
F 6:53 AM320
Rhodes, MS
F 9:50 PM
6:46 AM327
Richton, MS
9:40 PM
F 6:56 AM333
Hintonville, MS
F 9:29 PM
7:08 AM340
Beaumont, MS
9:19 PM
7:21 AM347
McLain, MS
9:06 PM
7:31 AM353
Leaf, MS
8:56 PM
7:42 AM359
Merrill, MS
8:45 PM
7:48 AM363
Bexley, MS
8:40 PM
8:00 AM369
Lucedale, MS
8:28 PM
F 8:04 AM371
Evanston, MS
F 8:24 PM
8:14 AM377
Shipman, MS
8:14 PM
8:27 AM386
Wilmer, AL
8:01 PM
8:38 AM393
Semmes, AL
7:50 PM
F 8:46 AM398
Orchard, AL
F 7:42 PM
8:59 AM405
Mobile, AL (Government Street)
7:30 PM
9:10 AM (Ar)409
Mobile, AL (Conception Street)
7:20 PM (Dp)

The merger also brought about a new train known as the Gulf Coast Rebel (affectionately known as the "Big Rebel"), operating between St. Louis and Mobile along a route spanning 648 miles. 

This particular Rebel maintained the beautiful crimson/silver livery with power provided by a GE-Alco DL-series, slant-nosed diesel locomotive.

Interestingly, while the original Gulf Coast was advertised as a streamliner it utilized modernized heavyweight equipment within its consist rebuilt at the old M&O's Iselin Shops in Jackson.

It also carried rebuilt Pullmans, which were overhauled at Pullman's shops in Chicago.  During 1947 the GM&O ordered new lightweight cars from American Car & Foundry, which reequipped the Gulf Coast Rebel and other traditional trains.  


Final Years

The Rebel and Gulf Coast Rebel, though perhaps the most renowned passenger trains in the railroad's repertoire, were part of a broader service portfolio that included the Abraham Lincoln (Chicago – St. Louis), Alton Limited (Chicago – Mobile), and Ann Rutledge (Chicago – St. Louis), among others.

However, the Gulf, Mobile & Ohio found itself unable to match the opulence and rapid transit times offered by Illinois Central's eminent trains, such as the Panama Limited and City of New Orleans.

Imbued with this realization, alongside other factors, the railroad strategically inclined more towards freight services and gradually de-emphasized passenger operations. By 1958, it had discontinued all trains operating south of St. Louis, which regrettably encompassed all of the Rebel services.

Sources

  • Johnston, Bob and Welsh, Joe. Art Of The Streamliner, The. New York: Andover Junction Publications, 2001.
  • Schafer, Mike and Welsh, Joe. Streamliners, History of a Railroad Icon. St. Paul: MBI Publishing, 2003.
  • Solomon, Brian.  Streamliners:  Locomotives And Trains In The Age Of Speed And Style. Minneapolis:  Voyageur Press, 2015.

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