INDIANOLA — A lot has happened since 1878, when the Greenville, Columbus and Birmingham Railroad was founded.
In those days, it carried passengers. The railroad changed ownership several times until it fell into bankruptcy.
A.T. Stovall purchased the company in the late 1920s, and the railroad continued to carry passengers until around 1947, when it became a Combine, a combination
caboose and coach train. Eventually, the railroad’s load became entirely freight.
In 1972, the Stovall family sold the railway to Illinois Central Gulf, and after significant portions of the railroad were flooded in 1973, abandonment of the line became
Just when it seemed there was no way to save the tracks, several local politicians and shippers banded together and were able to sell 600,000 shares of stock at $2
per share. The Columbus and Greenville Railway (C&G) was organized in 1974 after acquiring the track and other assets operated by Illinois Central Gulf Railroad. It
began operation on October 29, 1975.
Although the investors struggled some after they acquired the railroad, in recent years they have managed to make substantial improvements to the line.
Today, the property C&G owns and operates includes approximately 207 miles of mainline track and 104 miles of sidetrack, and principally transports bulk freight to
local communities and dozens of shippers across North Central Mississippi and the heart of the farm-rich Mississippi Delta.
C&G celebrated its 25th anniversary of independent ownership Oct. 18 at Delta Western Feed Mill in Indianola.
Roger Bell, president of the C&G gave opening remarks at the ceremony, which began at 11 a.m.
“It gives us great satisfaction to celebrate 25 years under present ownership, because we believe the C&G has made a major impact on this area of our state,” he said.
“Since 1975, the C&G has handled more than 315,000 carloads of freight with revenues totaling more than $110 million. The majority of that revenue has been
reinvested in the communities we serve.”
Over the past 10 years, C&G has installed more than 140,000 new crossties, added 110,000 tons of crushed rock ballast, rebuilt or replaced more than 2,300 linear
feet of substandard and defective bridges, and upgraded its fleet by adding GP-38 locomotives and purchasing more than 200 railcars. This year the railroad is
re-laying 38 miles of heavier, continuous welded rail which will improve safety and allow increased efficiency of train operations.
The ceremony at Western Feed Mill was also the site of an important announcement made by Paul M. Tellier, president and CEO of Canadian National, of a sizeable
financial commitment to the C&G.
The Canadian National-Illinois Central (CN-IC) Railroad has agreed to finance $2.4 million in track improvements to enable the C&G to handle loaded railcars
weighing up to 286,000 pounds.
Delta Western, the largest producer of catfish feed in the world according to a press release by Hammons and Associates, Inc, has committed to route via CN-IC for
the next 10 years a substantial portion of the inbound grain moving to its catfish feed production plant just west of Indianola. Delta Western is an affiliate and the largest
customer of the C&G.
Said Tellier, “The financial support we are providing to improve rail service to Delta Western, as well as other C&G shippers, demonstrates our commitment to
Mississippi and to the Delta region in particular. We consider the Columbus and Greenville one of our key partners in providing competitive, customer-focused rail
service to a state that we or our predecessor companies have served for almost 150 years. The better service we can provide shippers, the better for the region’s
“As Mississippi grows, we grow.”
The improvements to the C&G that CN-IC will fund will also allow Delta Western and other C&G shippers to take advantage of CN-IC’s “Efficiency Trains,” grain
trains of 75 or 100 cars that cycle between origin and destination points. Efficiency Trains operate with incentives for the shipper, the railroad and receiver to load,
move and unload grain within time limits in order to maximize equipment utilization. C&G’s participation in the handling of Efficiency Trains will mark the first time
CN-IC has entrusted the demanding and time sensitive movement of Efficiency Trains to a carrier with whom it interchanges traffic.
“The opportunity to receive CN-IC Efficiency Trains on the C&G in combination with the increase to 286,000-pound capability will significantly reduce our
transportation costs and lower the overall cost of our fish feed by as much as four dollars per ton,” said Lester Myers, president of Delta Western.
“Demand for catfish products is spurring vibrant growth in the catfish industry. We want to stay — and we want to help keep the Mississippi Delta — in the forefront
of that growth. Being able to receive 286,000-pound cars of grain in CN-IC Efficiency Trains at our Indianola production plant will make us both more efficient and
better able to keep pace with the growing demand for our product.”
Wayne Burkes, U.S. Surface Transportation Board vice chairman, was among the attendees at the ceremony.
“With the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway on the east end of the railroad, the Mississippi River on the west end and the many Class I Railroad connections with the
C&G, this makes the area serviced by the C&G attractive for new industries,” Burkes said. “Numerous sites have been developed along the C&G rail line already,
and I believe this will bolster confidence for other industries.”
The $2.4 million project will hopefully be completed by the latter part of 2001, according to Lynn Gibson, executive vice president of C&G.
Allan Hammons, president of Hammons and Associates, which handles public relations for the railroad, sees rail service as an important form of transportation.
“Rail service is still pretty important to a lot of people,” he said. “Lately railroads have really made a comeback. They move a lot of freight and they move it very
cost-effectively. It’s a good medium and a good way to leverage prices between your other surface forms of transportation.”
The CN-IC spans mid-America and Canada, from the Gulf of Mexico to the Atlantic and Pacific Coasts of Canada, serving the ports of New Orleans, Mobile, Ala.,
Vancouver, Montreal and Halifax, Nova Scotia, and the principal cities of Chicago, Detroit, Jackson, Memphis, St. Louis, Buffalo and Toronto, with connections to
all points in North America. Canadian National, headquartered in Montreal, acquired Illinois Central in 1998, received Surface Transportation Board approval to
control Illinois Central in March 1999, and began operating IC as part of the CN system on July 1, 1999.
The anniversary celebration ended with a ceremonial coupling of a CN locomotive with a C&G locomotive specially painted for the event.
Contact MBJ staff writer Elizabeth Kirkland at email@example.com or (601) 364-1042.