This abandoned railway is originally part of a longer line between Jackson, TN, and Canton, MS, that was chartered by the state of Mississippi in 1852 in order to connect east-west railroad lines to the north with the Gulf of Mexico. The line was constructed by the Mississippi Central Railroad in 1853 and was completed in 1860. A partnership with the Illinois Central railroad ensued when the IC sought passage to the Gulf of Mexico in 1872. However, in 1927, the IC began moving freight traffic to a parallel line between Grenada and Memphis, TN. Passenger service along the line ceased in 1941, with freight traffic continuing to dwindle. The end came in 1982 when IC filed for abandonment of this section of line, between Oxford and Bruce Junction.
The line north of Oxford is still in use by the Mississippi Central (a reincarnated version of the original owner of the line) and services a Georgia-Pacific plant at Oxford. Bruce Junction, to the south, is where the Illinois Central meets The Mississippi and Skuna Valley Railroad, which goes east to Bruce, MS and was abandoned in 2012.
This line is notable because it was frequented by Casey Jones, an Illinois Central engineer whose express train ran into the back of freight train on April 30, 1900; he was immortalized by a folk song that was written about him and the wreck.
Today, remnants of the right-of-way still exist. The grade crossings in town still had their signal lights in place up until 2007, even though the tracks were long gone and the crossings paved over. The last hint of these rails still survives in the median of a 4-lane highway. Also, part of the line was obliterated when the University-Oxford airport at Oxford extended a runway over the corridor. The passenger depot in Oxford has also been under restoration and is used by the Ole Miss today.
Towns along the line:
- Water Valley
Thanks to Matthew Nichols for contributing information about this route.