Abandoned Rails of Cleveland

Picture Point of Interest

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The railroad turntable, just south of Cleveland, can be found in the overgrowth, with the concrete stiles of the surrounding roundhouse visible enamating outward from the turntable pit. Photo by Matthew Nichols, February 2009.

Matt Nichols shares photos of abandoned rails around Cleveland, MS. Once served by four railroads, the last railroad was the Columbus and Greenville Railway; the tracks for its mainline through town were taken up in 1999.

One artifact of note that still remains in Cleveland is the former Yazoo & Mississippi Valley Railroad turntable, built in 1916 (and subsequently owned by Illinois Central). Accompanying the turntable is also the foundation of the roundhouse it once served, complete with concrete service pits and some tracks. However, an urban developer has bought the land on which the turntable and roundhouse sit with intentions to prepare the land for an incoming neighborhood. Matt was able to get pictures of the roundhouse and turntable beforehand, but, sadly, the roundhouse foundation has since been demolished and removed. Fortunately, the turntable has been saved and donated to the city for restoration; ultimately it will be included as part of a rail-trail through town.

Thanks to Matthew Nichols for contributing information about this route.

Great pictures, Matthew!

According to "those in the know", Cleveland never had a roundhouse, just a turntable with service pits.

The concrete loading dock belonged to the Federal Compress. Just about every community served by railroad in the Mississippi Delta had at least one cotton compress.

There was once a communications tower somewhere to the east of the railroad yard. I don't know if the adjoining building remains or not. God bless.

Chris Balducci
Cleveland, MS


Thanks! Some fellow DSU students and I have been trying to find out more about Cleveland's railroad history, do you know of any places to start looking?

Matthew N
Oxford, MS


Great pics! Thanks for taking the time to do this. I plan to retrace as much of the old Hwy 61 route as possible, and will stop by and check out what's left of the turntable. Looks like the new neighborhood is built out (Feb '14).

Moss Point, MS


Does anyone know the length (of the rails) of this table and if it still exists? People I know in Colorado need an 80-foot table for their roundhouse restoration.

Bob Yarger
Gansevoort, NY


I have driven over several times just to look at the turntable , which as most of you know has been cleaned of debris and is the centerpiece of a nice housing development . I enjoy pieces of history like this . I will go back . I have pictures on my phone and if I knew how I would share them .

Eddie Rowe
Crossett, AR


If someone visits this turntable, could they please measure the length of the rails on it and report back? While the table has been incorporated into the housing development, it's not unthinkable that it could later be considered an eyesore -- and scrapped. If it's 80 feet long, I have a place it could go.

Bob Yarger
Wilton, NY


It is amazing to see the photos of the old yard at Cleveland. They are very personal to me. Hopefully the good people of Cleveland will never allow the turntable to be removed from the area. I was personally touched when I realized that the turntable still existed and Cleveland is on my list of destinations when I visit the area next spring.

I was born in Cleveland, Mississippi in 1953. My father was a section foreman for the Illinois Central based in Shelby, Mississippi at the time. Just a few years later my family was stationed at Cleveland and lived in one of the section houses located within the boundary of the Cleveland yards. The house was within easy walking distance of the turntable. The turntable itself was still used occasionally at that time to turn engines.

According to a 1943 Memphis Division (track) Profile of the Yazoo & Mississippi Valley Railroad (which I have a copy in my possession) the following outline details the facilities located in the Cleveland yard in 1943:

1) a 75' steel turntable built in 1907 (no roundhouse appears in 1943 but that doesn't mean that there wasn't one prior to 1943;

2 three (3) section houses, one for section foreman and two for laborers families;

3) at least two wooden water tanks, one at the depot and one in the yard, both were 100,000 gallon capacity tanks 20' by 30', one built in 1926 and the other in 1938. There were 3 water spouts from the tanks that serviced the engines. Water was supplied by the city;

4) there were two penstocks, one at the depot and another in the yard (indicating that Cleveland was a distribution point of livestock to and from the area;

5) the depot boasted a large cotton platform at the depot 24' by 80' (to service the transport of the Delta's largest commodity from the area);

6) auxillary buildings including a pump house, tool house,(on the main line opposite the largest yard) and a yard office, coal chute, engine tool house, oil house shop, sump, wood bin, sand house, cinder conveyor (within the yard).

7) Looking at the profile, it can best be described that Cleveland had two yards. The largest had a seven track "stub end" yard with an additional five track service yard at the turntable; the second yard was a five track siding yard extending north of the main yard and past the depot (the depot having a service track on its west side).

8. The section houses were inside the yard boundaries and made it difficult for my mother to see my older brother off to school on mornings when trains blocked the tracks between the house and Sharpe Street. I remember seeing a steam engine, probably a switcher, pass behind our house on its way to the turntable and back. The turntable pit would fill with water after heavy rains and the presence of frogs attracted us small boys. My Dad let me and my brother and sister shoot his 22 cal. rifle at targets on the backside of a tool shed in the yard. My Dad also raised a very productive peanut patch on open ground as you entered the stub end yard.

9. If memory serves me correctly, by 1959 or so the IC mail train was so slow that the City of Cleveland hosted a race between a mule and the train. The mule won!

10. The IC ran a passenger train called "The Planter" through Cleveland on its route from Memphis to New Orleans through the Mississippi Delta via Vicksburg and Natchez. Train 15, the southbound Planter, and Train 12, the northbound Planter, carried one 6 Section Buffet-Sleeping Car and the remainder were coaches. One would assume that the trains also carried a baggage and mail car as well but the condensed schedule of 1948 does not indicate it.

I would suggest that anyone who is interested in more information about the Cleveland facilities contact the Illinois Central Historical Society (they have a website) or consult any one of the many books available about the IC.

I would really appreciate some confirmation that my email has been received by the website.

Bill Cummins

West Chester, Ohio

Bill Cummins
West Chester, OH


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