Mississippi Delta Railroad
|Dates of operation||1985–|
|Track gauge||4 ft 8 1⁄2 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge|
|Length||60 mi (97 km)|
|Mississippi Delta Railroad|
The Mississippi Delta Railroad (reporting mark MSDR) is a shortline railroad company operating from Swan Lake to Jonestown, Mississippi, a distance of 60 miles (97 km); the railroad interchanges with the Illinois Central at Swan Lake. Currently the railroad is owned by Coahoma County and was a former subsidiary of Gulf and Ohio Railways shortline group. The current operator is C&J Railroad Company.
The Louisville, New Orleans, & Texas railroad completed construction of the railroad between Clarksdale and Lula in 1884. The Yazoo & Mississippi Valley gained control of the line by 1885 and subsequently fell under the control of the Illinois Central in 1892 upon their acquisition of the Y&MV. The Lula - Jonestown route was constructed by the Mobile & North Western railroad in 1879 and later acquired by the Y&MV.
Gulf & Ohio began operation of the Mississippi Delta railroad in 1985. This included operation of the Delta Oil Mill private railroad from Lula to Jonestown, as well as the route from Lyon and Swan Lake leased from the Illinois Central.
The railroad hauled soybeans, cotton seed byproducts, lint, carbon black, and rubber, with traffic amounting to nearly 4,000 annual carloads in 1995. Annual carloads on the Mississippi Delta railroad declined from 3,273 in 1997, 1,709 in 1998, 591 in 1999, to only 296 by the year 2000. This amount was insufficient to cover the costs of operating the line, as the resulting annual freight revenue fell from $478,298 in 1998 to only $71,069 in 2000. The sharp drop in line traffic and revenue after 1997 was attributed to the closure of the Archer Daniels Midland soybean processing plant in Clarksdale, which accounted for 61% of traffic.
As a result of the sharp decline in annual carloads between 1995 and 2000, Gulf & Ohio sought to abandon the line. Instead, G&O and Coahoma county reached an agreement whereby the latter would purchase the railroad - including the leased portion from Illinois Central - and the former would continue to serve the line until a new long term operator could be found. Gulf & Ohio continued service until June 30, 2001 after which C&J Railroad Company began operation of the railroad.
Currently the railroad still operates from a connection with the Canadian National at Swan Lake, with cottonseed products, propane, and rubber constituting the majority of the 1,000 annual carloads over the line.
In March 2011, plans emerged to create a new tourist excursion train over part of the Mississippi Delta mainline between Clarksdale and Hopson Commissary, approximately 2 mi (3.2 km) south of downtown Clarksdale. Although regular passenger train service over the railroad does not currently exist, the Mississippi Delta Railroad has hosted special trains during Clarksdale's annual blue's festival to Hopson. These trains followed the route to Hopson Commissary that would be used in the planned regular tourist service.
As of June 2015, plans are being made for a Christmas Train that offers a Christmas Light show along the new train route. This event will most likely debut the week after Thanksgiving of 2015 and will be open for the season.
- "Mississippi Delta Railroad". 10 May 2010. Retrieved 7 September 2010.
- Lewis, Edward A. (1996). American Shortline Railway Guide (5 ed.). Kalmbach Publishing Company. p. 168. ISBN 0-89024-290-9.
- Massey, Richard (May 2000). "Mississippi Delta Railroad". Delta Business Journal. Retrieved 24 November 2010.
- "STB Docket No. AB-580X". 15 June 2001. Retrieved 7 September 2010.
- "STB Finance Docket No. 33953". 7 December 2000. Retrieved 8 September 2010.
- "STB Finance Docket No. 33977". 4 January 2001. Retrieved 8 September 2010.
- "STB Finance Docket No. 33975". 4 January 2001. Retrieved 8 September 2010.
- Larry E. Binz. "Excursion Train Being Looked At As Possible Tourism Boost". The Clarksdale Press Register. Retrieved 30 March 2011.
- Panny Mayfield. "Blues-Lovin' Trains Return For Sunflower Festival". Sunflower River Blues and Gospel Festival. Retrieved 30 March 2011.