Mississippi Central Railroad
|This article needs additional citations for verification. (September 2014)|
MSCI locomotive 1605 in Holly Springs
|Locale||Southern United States|
|Dates of operation||1993–present|
|Predecessor||Natchez Trace Railway|
|Track gauge||4 ft 8 1⁄2 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge|
5 ft (1,524 mm) and converted to
4 ft 9 in (1,448 mm) in 1886
|Length||51 miles (82 km)|
|Headquarters||Holly Springs, MS|
|Mississippi Central Railroad|
Mississippi Central Railroad (reporting mark MSCI) is a short line railroad operating over 51 miles from Oxford, Mississippi to Grand Junction, Tennessee owned by Pioneer Railcorp. The railroad's principal commodities are wood products and fertilizer. The MSCI offers connections to the BNSF Railway in Holly Springs and Norfolk Southern Railway in Grand Junction.
Early History (1852-1861)
In 1852, the Mississippi Central Railroad was chartered by the Mississippi Legislature to build a railroad from Canton, Mississippi to Grand Junction, Tennessee passing through the towns of Grenada, Water Valley, Oxford and Holly Springs. The first passenger trains from Holly Springs to Oxford ran in 1857. Passenger service further south to Water Valley bagan in 1858. On January 31, 1860, the final spike was driven in Winona, Mississippi establishing the first ever rail link between the Great Lakes and the Gulf of Mexico. The 26 miles (42 km) line was constructed with 5 ft (1,524 mm) track gauge.
Civil War (1861-1865)
In November 1862, General Ulysses S. Grant began the Mississippi Central Railroad Campaign down the line with the ultimate goal of capturing Vicksburg, Mississippi in conjunction with General William Tecumseh Sherman. Grant established a base in Holly Springs and began advancing south along the railroad. Confederate soldiers built earthwork fortifications to defend the railroad's Tallahatchie River bridge near Abbeville but retreated south without firing a shot when they learned of a flanking maneuver by Grant. Skirmishes were fought along the railroad to Oxford and in the streets of the town itself. The Confederates were pushed further south past Water Valley, Mississippi but managed to damage a railroad trestle and lead a successful ambush at Oakland, Mississippi that stalled the Federal advance.
While Grant was stalled, Confederate General Van Dorn lead a successful cavalry raid on Grant's supply base at Holly Springs, burning most of his supplies and then moved north destroying the railroad and telegraph lines along the way. With the railroad destroyed Grant had no way to resupply his army and was forced to end the campaign and retreat to Memphis, TN.
Illinois Central Years (1872-1982)
After the Civil War, the Mississippi Central was rebuilt under the guidance of Absolom M. West and eventually the Illinois Central Railroad started to acquire the line in 1872. Illinois Central established their regional headquarters in Water Valley, MS and based a large maintenance facility there. Famed engineer Casey Jones regularly operated passenger trains along the line and it was said locals could set their watches by him due to his strict adherence to published schedules. In 1927, Illinois Central started to shift traffic to their Grenada-Memphis route and closed the maintenance facility in Water Valley. In 1941, passenger service ended along the route and five years later the regional headquarters was relocated from Water Valley to Jackson, TN. Finally, in 1982, 30 miles of track between Oxford and Bruce Junction in Coffeeville was abandoned and the remaining northern portion of the line sold. Illinois Central continued to operate the southern portion of the line from the junction of the Mississippi and Skuna Valley Railroad to Grenada, MS.
Present Day (1982- )
In March 1982, Kyle Railroad started operating the line under the name Natchez Trace Railway. In 1993, Pioneer Railcorp purchased the line and resurrected the name Mississippi Central Railroad. The primary customer is a particle board plant in Oxford.
In the mid-2000s, all track south of University-Oxford Airport was abandoned and the airport runway expanded over the right of way. MSCI's tracks now end at the airport's perimeter fence. The remaining abandoned right of way has been turned into two different rail trails (Oxford Depot Trail & Thacker Mountain Rail-Trail) and the Gertrude Ford Parkway in Oxford, MS.
MSCI currently operates three locomotives:
- In 2003, the University of Mississippi completely restored the depot in Oxford. It is now used as a meeting venue.
- The depot in Water Valley houses the Casey Jones Museum. An Illinois Central banana reefer and caboose are on display there.
- The large passenger depot in Holly Springs has been preserved, and is being considered for use as a meeting venue.
- The depot in Winona survives as a restaurant  and gym. A monument in front of the depot commemorates the completion of the Mississippi Central Railroad.
- "Pioneer Railcorp: Mississippi Central". Retrieved 5 December 2011.
- Ditto, Susan (2004), The Story of the Depot, University, MS: Department of History, University of Mississippi
- Harrison, Greg, Oxford to Bruce Junction, Abandoned Rails
- Sides, Don, The Mississippi Central Railroad Campaign, Coffeeville, MS: Civil War in Mississippi
- Schulze, Bruce (2002), Confederate earthwork north of the Tallahatchie River, near the Mississippi Central Railroad., Civil War Album.com
- "eNotes Mississippi Central". Retrieved 5 December 2011.
- "Don's Depot: Natchez Trace Railway". Retrieved 5 December 2011.
- "A Civil War Biography - Absolom Madden West". Retrieved 5 December 2011.