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Gulf & Mississippi Railroad / SouthRail

Mississippi regional

The Gulf & Mississippi Railroad was a short-lived regional railroad, utilizing over 700 miles of mostly former Gulf, Mobile & Ohio trackage purchased from the Illinois Central Gulf in 1985. The passage of the federal Staggers Act in 1980 allowed Class 1 systems like the ICG to spin off massive quantities of secondary and tertiary trackage for handling forest, paper, and chemical products. The Gulf & Mississippi was the first to take advantage of this new arrangement, building a regional system from three historic secondary lines in Mississippi divested by the ICG:

1948 GM&O map of Mississippi routes / collection

1998 SouthRail Official Guide map / collection

The creation of the Gulf & Mississippi was a bold venture, but the Deep South regional was plagued by problems almost from the start. The Illinois Central Gulf had performed minimal upkeep on its secondary and tertiary lines in Mississippi, thus the cash-strapped GMSR could never make adequate headway on restoring deteriorating roadbeds and replacing worn-out and under-weight GM&O-era rail. Furthermore, unlike its eventual purchaser MidSouth, the GMSR was a north-south regional in a profitable east-west territory. By 1988, less than five years into its existence, the road was facing bankruptcy.

The adjacent MidSouth, another Staggers-era ICG spinoff (yet much more profitable), acquired the struggling system in April of 1988 through a new subsidiary SouthRail Corporation. Most GMSR lines survive today in the Kansas City Southern system, which purchased MidSouth (and thus SouthRail) in 1994.