Mississippian #77 on the Alberta Prairie Railway
|Dates of operation||1926–present|
|Track gauge||4 ft 8 1⁄2 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge|
In 1944 a bentonite plant was built in Smithville to take advantage of a large deposit discovered there which led to a surge in business for the line and its nickname The Bentonite Road. By 1968 the bentonite deposits near Smithville had been depleted and the plant closed, however several industries had moved to Fulton and continued to provide traffic for the railroad.
In the late 1970s, construction of the Tennessee–Tombigbee Waterway threatened to flood about nine miles of track. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers decided it would be cheaper to abandon the line than pay to relocate it. Local business owners and public officials teamed up with the Appalachian Regional Commission to save the railroad. They successfully lobbied the Interstate Commerce Commission to withhold the sale of the line until the funds to purchase it could be found. In 1986, the Itawamba County Development Council purchased the Mississippian Railway and transferred it over to the Mississippian Railway Cooperative, an entity directly representing industries that relied on the railroad to transport their products. County leaders raised several million dollars to upgrade the severely degraded track to a condition where reliable service could be provided.
Today the Mississippian hauls between 100 and 120 cars a month operating three days a week.
Two famous 2-8-0 Consolidation steam locomotives survive:
- Mississippian #76 is currently under restoration at the Steam Railroading Institute in Owosso, Michigan as of 2014.
- Mississippian #77 hauls excursion trains for the Alberta Prairie Railway in Stettler, Alberta, Canada as locomotive #41.
- "Mississippi Rails". Retrieved 5 December 2011.
- "Hawkins Rails". Retrieved 5 December 2011.
- "Homan Industries". Retrieved 5 December 2011.
- Dabbs v. International Minerals & Chem. Corp. (US District Court for the N District of MS, Eastern Division. February 24, 1972). Text
- Baldwin, Fred D. (2001), Keeping the Line Open: The Mississippian Railway Cooperative, Appalachia Magazine
- Robbie, JT (May 2009), Alberta Prairie Railway: What do a Mississippi steam locomotive, a grocery store owner, and a desire for hope in a small Canadian town have in common?, Trains Magazine
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