Gulf, Mobile and Ohio Railroad

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Gulf, Mobile and Ohio Railroad
Reporting mark GM&O
Locale Alabama
Dates of operation 1938–1972
Predecessor Mobile & Ohio Railroad
Gulf, Mobile & Northern Railroad
Alton Railroad
Successor Illinois Central Gulf Railroad
Track gauge 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge
Length 2,734 miles (4,400 kilometres)
Headquarters Mobile, Alabama

The Gulf, Mobile and Ohio Railroad (reporting mark GM&O) was a Class I railroad in the central United States whose primary routes extended from Mobile, Alabama, and New Orleans, Louisiana, to St. Louis, Kansas City, and Chicago.

From its two parallel lines through eastern Mississippi, the GM&O also served Montgomery and Birmingham, Alabama, as well as Memphis, Tennessee.[1]


The Gulf, Mobile & Ohio (GM&O) was incorporated in Mississippi on November 10, 1938, to acquire the properties of the Mobile & Ohio Railroad (M&O) and Gulf, Mobile and Northern Railroad (GM&N). It acquired the M&O through foreclosure sale on August 1, 1940, and was consolidated with the GM&N on September 13, 1940. The new railroad extended from New Orleans, Louisiana, and Mobile and Montgomery, Alabama, north to St. Louis.[2]

GM&O train at Joliet, IL in August, 1963

During World War II, GM&O trimmed several branches from its system, consolidated shop facilities, and otherwise tightened up the organization. In 1944 the railroad began to investigate acquiring the bankrupt Alton Railroad, which extended from Chicago to St. Louis and from Springfield, Illinois, west to Kansas City. On May 31, 1947, GM&O merged with the Alton and became a Great Lakes-to-Gulf carrier.[2][3]

At first GM&O planned to sell the Kansas City line, which was an east-west appendage to an otherwise north-south system. In 1948 GM&O, Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad (CB&Q) and the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway (Santa Fe) formulated a plan that would result in the sale of the Kansas City line to CB&Q, Santa Fe's use of that line and the connecting CB&Q line at Mexico, Missouri, for access to St. Louis, and CB&Q trackage rights over Santa Fe into Kansas City from the northeast. Several of the railroads serving St. Louis protested Santa Fe's part in the plan. As it fell out, CB&Q acquired trackage rights over GM&O between Mexico and Kansas City and in 1952 opened 71 miles (114 kilometres) of new line across northern Missouri to shorten its own Chicago-Kansas City route. Santa Fe never gained access to St. Louis.[2]

In 1949 and 1950, GM&O acquired the properties of three railroads the Alton had leased: the Kansas City, St. Louis and Chicago Railroad; the Louisiana & Missouri River Railroad; and the Joliet & Chicago Railroad. The M&O had trackage rights on Southern and Illinois Central (IC) track between Memphis in Tennessee, Corinth in Mississippi, and Birmingham in Alabama. In 1952, GM&O acquired trackage rights over the Louisville & Nashville Railroad from Tuscaloosa to Birmingham and ceased its use of the Corinth-Birmingham route. GM&O was the first major railroad to dieselize completely. Its last steam operation was on October 7, 1949,[2] prompting Life to run an article subtitled "The GM&O puts all its steam engines to torch, becomes first major U.S. railroad to dieselize 100%."[4]

GM&O merged with IC on August 10, 1972, forming the Illinois Central Gulf Railroad (ICG).[2] In 1996 IC sold off former GM&O lines to other railroads. On February 11, 1998 IC was purchased by the Canadian National Railway (CN) with the integration of operations beginning on July 1, 1999.

Passenger operations[edit]

Postcard c. 1940 depicting one of the Rebel streamliners
Gulf Mobile and Ohio Abraham Lincoln train between Chicago and St. Louis. ca. 1970

North of St. Louis, GM&O inherited an intensive passenger service from the Alton Railroad:

  • seven trains daily between Chicago and St. Louis;
  • a pair of St. Louis–Kansas City trains operated jointly with the CB&Q;
  • several motor-train locals and mixed trains on branch lines.

By 1947 GM&O's passenger service south of St. Louis consisted of the Rebel trains, the first streamliners in the South, between St. Louis and New Orleans and the St. Louis–Mobile Gulf Coast Rebel. In addition subsidiary Gulf Transport operated an extensive bus system between St. Louis and the Gulf Coast. Rail passenger service to New Orleans ended in 1954, and the St. Louis–Mobile train was discontinued in 1958.[2]

In addition to the Rebels, the GM&O also operated a number of other named trains:

  • Alton Limited (later The Limited): Chicago–St. Louis
  • Abraham Lincoln: Chicago–St. Louis
  • Ann Rutledge: Chicago–St. Louis
  • Midnight Special: Chicago–St. Louis
  • Night Hawk: St. Louis–Kansas City
  • Prairie State Express: St. Louis–Chicago
  • The Mail: Chicago–St. Louis

The Bloomington–Kansas City motor train run endured until 1960. When Amtrak took over the nation's passenger trains, GM&O was operating three trains daily between Chicago and St. Louis and a Chicago–Joliet commuter train. Amtrak continued the operation of the two daytime Chicago–St. Louis trains (Ann Rutledge) until 2009; the Chicago–Joliet train survived the ICG merger and its route is currently operated by Metra.[2]


GM&O PARLOR CAR #2008, is currently located on rt.46 east in Belvidere NJ as part of what is now a closed restaurant and is unfortunately being left neglected and forgotten about. Pics available

In popular culture[edit]

  • Sonny Boy Williamson recorded the song "GM&O Blues" in 1945.[6]
  • GM&O EMD E7 #103 and passenger cars were featured in the 1967 film In the Heat of the Night.[6] Although the film's opening and ending shots of the GM&O are implied to be in a fictionalized version of Sparta, Mississippi, GM&O had ceased all passenger service south of St. Louis, Missouri, eight years before filming was done in 1966. The actual filming location was Sparta, Illinois. The location where the GM&O locomotives and cars were filmed was in Sparta Illinois also. The train was leased from GM&O with a train crew to comply with union and operating rules of the road. The train came from St. Louis and traveled south along a GM&O right of way towards Sparta Illinois. At the time of filming, GM&O had not merged yet with the Illinois Central Railroad. The opening scene of the film shows the train crossing a main street in Sparta at night with the bright headlamp on the lead engine approaching town from an overhead shot. This was done using a scaffold across the tracks. This scene shows Virgil Tibbs detraining and entering the depot station. The train was then driven south to an available turntable and parked for the night turning the engines around for the return trip to Sparta to shoot the final scene which was shot the following day and was among the final scenes of the film showing Tibbs boarding the train and saying goodbye to Gillespie. As the train leaves Sparta, a close up shot of Tibbs riding in a passenger car was taken by helicopter as the train travels the opposite direction with the scene expanding the view showing it meandering through the countryside as it leaves Sparta.
  • The GM&O is referenced in Adrian Belew's "The Rail Song," a nostalgic song about the heyday and subsequent decline of the American railroads. Originally on 1983's Twang Bar King album, the song can also be found on the Desire of the Rhino King compilation and in an acoustic version on both The Acoustic Adrian Belew and the Salad Days compilation.[6]
  • The album cover of the 1989 Traveling Wilburys song "End of the Line" features an upside-down photograph of the Ann Rutledge at Lincoln, Illinois, in 1953.[6] in the 1981 movie Escape from New York you can see a Gulf mobile and Ohio Railroad passenger car in the rail yard where the holding the president

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Maps of GM&O and predecessor lines
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Drury, George H. (1994). The Historical Guide to North American Railroads: Histories, Figures, and Features of more than 160 Railroads Abandoned or Merged since 1930. Waukesha, Wisconsin: Kalmbach Publishing. pp. 150–153. ISBN 0-89024-072-8. 
  3. ^ Lesley Barker, St. Louis Gateway Rail: The 1970s, Arcadia Publishing, 2006, p. 51
  4. ^ "Locomotive Graveyard". Life Magazine. December 5, 1949. p. 155. Retrieved November 24, 2014. 
  5. ^
  6. ^ a b c d "The GM&O In Pop Culture". The GM&O Historical Society. 2005. 

External links[edit]