Mississippi Central Railroad

Standard Gauge, 77.5 and 80-lb rail

Headquarters: Hattiesburg, MS (Forrest Co.)

Years of Operation: 1904-1967

Predecessor RoadsPearl & Leaf Rivers

Successor Roads: Illinois Central 

Miles Operated:  Natchez to Pines: 164.0 miles

Hattiesburg to Tallahala: 

Locomotives Owned: 

See also: J. J. Newman Lumber Co.

Equipment:

On Dec 31, 1916- 16 locomotives, 12 passenger cars, 1 combine, 5 baggage, mail & express, 96 box, 838 flats, 40 ballast, 4 coal, 6 cabooses, 23 other (per Poor's Manual)

 

Click Map for Larger Version

History by David Price and Tony Howe:

            As the Pearl & Leaf Rivers Railroad was expanded, the new goal to reach Natchez was chosen and the railroad was renamed the Mississippi Central on February 13, 1904. 

In 1908 the much publicized first through passenger train was pulled from Hattiesburg to Natchez by engineer A. S. Trigg.

The J. J. Newman Lumber Company, owner of the Mississippi Central, was huge. By 1905 its timber holdings had reached 400,000 acres and the company estimated its total capital investment at $26,000,000. Another huge sawmill was built at Bude in 1912, and called the Homochitto Lumber Co. The Mississippi Central tied these mills together, provided a backbone to many logging branches that supplied these mills, and gave ready and profitable choices of outlets for finished lumber. J. J. Newman, Homochitto, and the Mississippi Central were part of the holdings of the United States Lumber Company, whose president and prime-mover was Fenwick Peck.

In 1921, the Mississippi Central adopted a new slogan, “The Natchez Route,” and for several exciting years did a brisk through-freight business between Natchez and the port city of Mobile utilizing leased trackage between Hattiesburg and Beaumont and trackage rights over the Gulf, Mobile & Northern to Mobile. Five new mikado locomotives were purchased new in 1921 to handle the increased business. The 1920's proved to be the pinnacle of profit and tonnage for the Mississippi Central.

Mississippi Central also operated two additional branches out of Hattiesburg. Construction started on what was called the “Pascagoula Extension” in 1906. It was planned to complete this line to Pascagoula to give the company an outlet to the Gulf. For various reasons, the line was never completed more than 14 miles to a point called “Pines.” Its primary function was to tap Newman timber lands east of the G&SI, and many miles of logging spurs were built by the lumber company eastward off of it. It also became the  basis of Mississippi Central’s access to Camp Shelby during World War I. The line was removed in 1921, but was quickly relaid in 1941 to serve Camp Shelby, only to be removed again after World War II.

The second branch was even more short-lived. On November 23, 1921, MSC leased a 12-mile branch extending east from Hattiesburg to a point known as Tallahala in Perry County. This line had been built as the logging railroad of the Tallahala Lumber Co. in 1917 and logs were hauled by the G&SI to Tallahala’s mill at Ora, near Collins. In 1921, Major-Sowers Saw Mill Co. bought the logging railroad and timber land, and built a large sawmill at Tallahala. After this mill cut out in January 1929, the line was quickly abandoned. 

Mississippi Central survived the closing of the big mills in the early 1930's. Location of a $30-million paper mill on the MSC at Ferguson on the east side of the Pearl River in the mid-1960's spelled the end of Mississippi Central ownership. Heavy debts made further capital investment by the railroad extremely difficult. In 1965 an agreement was reached for the Illinois Central to purchase the Mississippi Central, and this became a fact on March 29, 1967. After several years of more or less business-as-usual operation, through traffic to Natchez was discontinued. Finally the eastern segment was abandoned between the paper mill at Ferguson and Hattiesburg. Rails were finally removed in the early 1990's, and a popular hiking and biking trail, the Longleaf Trace, now occupies the right-of-way between Hattiesburg and Prentiss.

 

An early view at Mississippi Central's engine facility at Hattiesburg.

Mississippi Central's main shops at Hattiesburg.

Mississippi Central's depot at Bude on the left and the Homochitto Lumber Co.'s office on the right.

Mississippi Central 105 was built new by Alco-Brooks in 1904. Here fireman Ed Berry and engineer Spec Brinson pose with the 105 at Hattiesburg on October 3, 1931. 

Mississippi Central 100 at the depot in Natchez in 1910.

4-4-0 Number 98 at Hattiesburg on October 3, 1931. The locomotive still runs today on tourist line Wilmington & Western.

An early MSC passenger train at the Hotel Hattiesburg, which MSC and G&SI used as their passenger depot in Hattiesburg.

Mississippi Central No. 140 was built by Alco in September 1923 for the MSC. 

Mississippi Central motorcar 300 was built by the Four Wheel Drive Auto Co. in the early 1920's when the MSC leased GM&N branch from Hattiesburg to Beaumont. After the railroad lost that lease, the cars sat unused at the shops in Hattiesburg, where this photo was taken on August 3, 1938.

Builder's view of 4-4-0 Number 98.

Builder's photo of Alco 2-8-2 Number 142 in 1929.

Mississippi Central combine 293

The east end of the Mississippi Central yard looking west on May 1, 1948. The large shop building is just out of the photo to the right.

MSC Number 101 at Brookhaven in August 1940. Mississippi Central used the Illinois Central depot in Brookhaven. 

Rare color photo of MSC Number 130 at Brookhaven.

Mississippi Central 150 and 141 doublehead on a freight 52 leaving Brookhaven for Hattiesburg in June 1953. 

Excellent view of 4-6-0 Number 115 at Brookhaven on September 10, 1948.

Mississippi Central 150 at Brookhaven in 1953.

MSC 101 at Brookhaven on February 28, 1941. 

Train 1 leaving Brookhaven.

150 and 141 at Brookhaven yard in April 1953.

MSC 115 with a westbound work train at Brookhaven in November 1948. 

2-8-2 Number 123 on the passenger train at Brookhaven.

Mississippi Central converted a number of flats, such as 8007, to pulpwood cars starting in the 1920's.

Mississippi Central's office building on Bouie St. near the shops in Hattiesburg on Sept. 4, 1952.

New SW-9's at Hattiesburg shops on September 14, 1953.

MSC 201 leads a westbound freight out of the Hattiesburg yard on June 3, 1953.

MSC SW-9 Number 203 at Hattiesburg on September 14, 1953.

202 and 201 at Hattiesburg in 1966.

The black SW-9 is a hint of things to come as the merger into Illinois Central is about a year away in this 1966 photo at Hattiesburg.

MSC 205 at Hattiesburg in 1966.

Mississippi Central 204 in IC-inspired black.

Pullman-Standard 40' boxcar 5002.

MSC 211, an EMD GP-28 was built in 1964.

MSC 36' boxcar 101 was still used for company service in 1966.

The depot in Bude has been preserved.

Mississippi Central's depot in Roxie in 1954.

Mississippi Central caboose B-13 in color.

MSC B-18 at Brookhaven in December 1937.

Caboose B-11 at Brookhaven tower on an arriving freight on July 26, 1948.

Caboose B-14 in the Hattiesburg caboose track on Sept. 3, 1952.

Caboose B-19 was rebuilt from what appears to be an ex-Southern Railway SU-class 36' boxcar.

Caboose B-12 at Hattiesburg in August 1966.

MSC caboose 1 at Hattiesburg in 1966.

The Mississippi Central depot at Bassfield looking east. Today the Longleaf Trace, a popular hiking and biking trail occupies the mainline right-of-way here.

The MSC depot at Prentiss didn't last much longer after this photo taken on June 26, 1974.

Mississippi Central's classic depot at Sumrall in 1970. 

Mississippi Central's 3 track stub terminal at Natchez about 1970.

MSC No. 124 switches Hattiesburg yard, a regular assignment for the engine.

STEAM ROSTER by Gil Hoffman here.

 

 

 

 

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For more information contact Tony Howe at howe6818@bellsouth.net or David S. Price at dsprice46@bellsouth.net

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