Waters to West Point

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Note: Thanks to Tom Lucas for information on the Columbus & Greenville Railway.

According to the November 1999 issue of Railfan & Railroad: "About 11 pm on Thursday December 1, 1983, James Vail and Terry Smith crossed the Tombigbee River Bridge with two GP7s as C&G Extra 608/618 East. Later that night a barge that had broken loose upstream crashed into the bridge, destroying two bents and damaging two others." Waverly Bridge and this section of the CAGY between Columbus and West Point was abandoned soon after. Photo by Chris Martin.

The abandonment of this ~10 mile section of the original Columbus & Greenville Railway between Columbus and West Point was because of the barge accident mentioned in the caption of the photo. However, there were already plans in place for C&G to use the ICG mainline from Columbus to Artesia, MS then from Artesia to West Point, MS to get back to their original C&G line. The C&G had plans to abandon the line anyway because the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers were re-channeling the Tombigbee Waterway. One option was to have the 1878 built bridge rebuilt to a higher level but the Corp had already built a new $3 million bridge for the ICG 8 miles or so down river and really didn't care to invest the same amount in another bridge so close to that one. Thus, the trackage rights agreement with ICG came to be, but was hurried by the barge accident.

This line was originally built by the Greenville, Columbus & Birmingham Railroad in 1878. The first of what was to become the C&G, was chartered as the Greenville, Deer Creek, & Rolling Fork RR in July 1870. It was not until Jan. 1878 that the first spike was driven, and it was at that time it was called the Greenville, Columbus, and Birmingham RR. It was narrow gage line that time, and ran from Greenville to the Sunflower River, with a branch extending southward to Rolling Fork, and Sharkey on Deer Creek, a total of about 52 miles.

In 1881, in an effort to build a southern transcontinental RR, the GC&B merged with two other roads, in the hopes of connecting Atlanta with the Texas & Pacific RR, at Texarkana AR. That company became the Georgia Pacific Railway, with rails from Atlanta GA. to Greenville MS.. This venture was backed by the Richmond & Danville RR, which in Sept 1894, merged with the East Tennessee, Virginia & Georgia, RR to become the Southern RR. In 1895 the Southern leased the GP RR, and named it the Southern RR of Mississippi.

The Southern of MS. never crossed the MS. River to connect with the Arkansas Valley RR, [Which later became the Missouri Pacific RR ] However between 1889 / 1892, there was a rail car ferry connecting the two. .During a period of decline the Southern turned over operation of the Southern of MS.. to another Southern backed company, the Mobile & Ohio.

In or around 1905, a ten stall roundhouse was built in Columbus, along with a large passenger, and freight depot combo, a few blocks away. The roundhouse had dirt floors, with brick lined work pits. In 1936, a wooden wall was built between the east, and west ends, five stalls on either side; then concrete was pored over the dirt floor of the stalls on the west end. The west end was used as a loco maitaince facility, and the east end was where locos were kept fired up, waiting for call.

The old timers say that during the steam era, there were upwards of a hundred men working in the roundhouse, and shop together on three shifts. In the shop there was on each machine two men, a machinist, and a helper. One old timer said that it was like a mad house on all three shifts seven days a week.

The depot is a two story structure with a partal basement under the freight end. The upper floor became headquarters for the road. It was the meeting point of the passenger services of the Southern, and the Southern of MS... In 1908 a machine shop was built onto and behind the roundhouse. The road worked with modest prosperity until after WW I, Passenger service on the C&G was discontinued in 1948 The depot was sold after, the ICG took over that operation in 1972. The new owner used it as a restaurant; today it is for sale again.

In 1918 During WW I the old Southern of Mississippi, became part of US Army history, in a trench in France. As the American troops were waiting for orders in their trenches, an officer, ask "Does anyone know where the Southern crosses the Dog?" To which a solder replied, "YES SIR!, Moorhead Mississippi." This prompted a reunion of a sort between two Mississippi boys who had never formally met. The question, and answer "Morehead", became a pass word during WW II, when the American army was again fighting the Germans.

At Moorhead MS. the Southern of MS., crossed the Yazoo Valley RR,and was then called by the locals " The Yellow Dog", from what I gather, the YV RR had yellow cabooses. The old YD later became part of the Illinois Central RR as it spread it's tentacles into the south.The IC still crosses the C&G at Greenwood, and Winona.

In 1920 the name of the railroad was changed to the, Columbus, & Greenville Railroad. In 1923, under new management it became the Columbus and Greenville Railway. They bought some used engines, that kept them going through WW II.

During WW II The C&G helped the Baldwin Locomotive Works design a 1,500 HP diesel road switcher with six axles, and in 1946, took delivery of the first one built. The final tally of these units to the C&G was five, with the last being delivered in 1951.. The first one [# 601 ] is now on permanent display in front of the C&G machine shop. It was retired after 38 years of continued service. The last steam engine #178, a Baldwin, built in 1900, was retired in 1951, and is now on permanent display at a park in Columbus, along with a baggage, a diner, a coach, and a caboose, all from about 1900.

In 1972 the C&G was sold to the Illinois Central Gulf RR., which intended to shut it down, but some local shippers took the ICG to court, and the C&G remained in service. In Oct of 1975, the road was bought by some investors, but the ICG kept two like new SD28s that had belonged to the C&G.

1987, saw the last of the original 60 lb. Rail replaced, it had been down a hundred years.

Today, the C&G is called the CAGY, and runs a variety of power, GP7s, CF7s, and two GP38s. The CAGY operates two even smaller roads, the Chattooga, & Chikamauga RY, with HQ in LaFayette GA. And the Luxapalila Valley RR., HQ Columbus.

A large portion of the C & G between West Point and Greenwood is in the process of being abandoned also. In February of 2001, an approach to a bridge west of Carrollton in Big Sand Creek bottom, fell through with two cars, right behind the engines, fortunately with no injuries. Only the engines were able to complete the trip to Columbus. The cars all had to be pulled back to Greenwood, where they were switched off to the CNIC. All the trains running from Greenwood, to Columbus, used three crews, usually changing at Winona, and West Point MS.

The Federal Railway Commission, became concerned about the right of away, because a similar accident had occurred to a bridge west of Indianola MS crossing Indian Bayou in Dec. of 2000. After a quick inspection, the FRC ordered the 90 miles of track between West Point MS, and Greenwood closed pending further inspection. The kind of inspection ordered by the FRC would come to several hundred thousand dollars, and would take over a year to complete, because the CAGY has over four miles of bridges and trestles in that 90 miles of ROW. The feds wanted a core drill hole to be bored through every pylon to check for rotting.

The CAGY was faced with a dilemma. First there weren't any funds to pay for that kind of inspection. Second, that portion of the road had no revenue, and thus any repairs could not be recovered by this portion of track. The affected portion of the line would remain closed until further notice. This closure trapped over a dozen cars in various places, and an American crane that the road could use elsewhere. In addition there is a SW900 on the east end at the roundhouse in Columbus, belonging to the Delta Western RR in Indianola, MS. This little switcher has friction bearings on her trucks, and NO class 1 RR will transport it for that reason.

In June 2001 the CAGY presented a map to the US Surface Transportation Board showing the closed portion of C&G rails to be abandoned. After 60 days an application for abandonment can be filed. The next month, the CAGY announced that they intended to apply for an abandonment of the line from West Point to Greenwood, to take effect in the next two years.

Thanks to Chris Martin for contributing information about this route.

The federal agency requiring the inspection was the U.S. Federal Railroad Administration, part of the U.S. Department of Transportation. The writer may have been confusing this agency with the now-defunct Interstate Commerce Commission.

Art Miller
Alamosa, CO
12/29/2008

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State of MS is looking to invest $100 million with mostly federal help to re-open the line between West Point and Greenwood. There was a rails to trails plan ("C&G Trail")that was started, but quickly dissolved when the possibility of restoring the line came about.

Rick Powell
Ottawa, IL
5/31/2010

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Retired Columbus & Greenville 4-6-0 #178 on display at Propst Park in Columbus, Mississippi, is a former Mobile & Ohio locomotive, built by Rogers Locomotive and Machine Works of Paterson, NJ circa 1897.

Dennis Williams
Houston, TX
4/16/2011

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