Columbus & Greenville Railway

King Cotton - No. 1

cagy_logo When local interests reorganized the Columbus & Greenville in 1974, the new management worked into the purchase from the Illinois Central Gulf an office car for use by the new shortline. Built in 1917 by the Pullman Car Works, the car had been office car #9 for the Illinois Central Railroad. For a time it was the personal business car for Wayne A. Johnson, president of the Illinois Central from 1945-66. When the car was sold to the Columbus & Greenville in 1974, it became #1, dubbed "King Cotton" -- an appropriate moniker for the office car of the Delta Route. The shortline made some use of the car on its own rails, but in the late 1970s and throughout the 1980s King Cotton was leased or loaned to a number of groups for use on Amtrak specials or excursions -- including several regional political campaign tours. For some time it was stored in Birmingham, Alabama, for ready connection to Amtrak routes, but later it was maintained in Columbus. Later #1 was on loan to the Tennessee Valley Railway Museum in Chattanooga. But in 2012, the car was sold to the eastern New York tourist hauler Saratoga & North Creek Railway, who renumbered her #15 and included her in their heavyweight fleet.

Columbus & Greenville #1
"King Cotton"

  • built by Pullman Car Works in 1917 as office car
  • first assignment as Illinois Central Railroad #15
  • to United States Railroad Administration #67
  • to Illinois Central Railroad #15, later #1 "Bette Junior"
  • later Illinois Central Railroad #9, mid 1950s
  • to Illinois Central Gulf Railroad #9, 1972
  • to Columbus & Greenville Railway #1, 1975
  • to Saratoga & North Creek Railway #15, 2012

Columbus & Greenville #1 - King Cotton "King Cotton." Could there be a finer name for the official business car of Mississippi's most unflappable shortline? The name is larger than life: a relished contrast to the always-scrapping-by history of the little road that came back from oblivion -- twice! -- and which had the good sense to get handsome #1 thrown into the purchase price the second time around. My father always had a warm place in his heart for King Cotton, and as such we went to find it whenever we got word that it was in New Orleans for some event or another. My own favorite memories of #1 go back to 1989 and the NRHS special. She was tucked in close behind the engine, her normal place on the rear of a passenger extra trumped by a visiting CSX theater car with a better view for Mr. Sam and company. I remember watching #1 ply the C&G's often meager track at 15 mph, thinking to myself what a hefty piece of equipment she was for 80 and 90 pound shortline rail. At one point in that trip, we watched as her heavy 6-wheel trucks slowly dug new courses through a packed dirt road crossing. Even so, tough as the car may be, it carries itself well -- elegant, even. Many a southeastern mile #1 has rolled off for the Delta Route; everywhere she goes, an ambassador for the "Railroad that Cares."

Riding to City of New Orleans

Rooters Find Fine Routes

January 22, 1986

by Barbara Brotman and Patrick Reardon, Chicago Tribune

NEW ORLEANS -- Soon this city's hotels will be bulging with Super Bowl revelers, but Floyd Tayloe does not care. He will be traveling to New Orleans inside his own accommodations.

Tayloe will arrive by private rail car, a mahogany-paneled relic of a gentler time that by night will become lodging for the Birmingham, Ala., insurance salesman, along with the chief executive officer of the Columbus and Greenville Railway, four guests, a chef and a porter.

They will spend the Super Bowl week nights parked on tracks in the lesser-used parts of New Orleans' Union Passenger Terminal, several blocks from the Superdome.

If previous experience holds true, Tayloe says, life in the station will be pleasant until the night before their departure, when the car will be moved to a departure track next to the Greyhound Bus terminal and "we get to hear them call out every station stop from here to L.A. all night long."

With seemingly every hotel room here already booked, some sports fans are arriving inside their own accommodations--owners and crews of huge yachts, drivers of recreational vehicles and more private rail car travelers.

Amtrak will store 28 private cars over Super Bowl weekend inside its New Orleans station, including 15 cars owned by the Southern Pacific Transportation Co. and being used by Southern Pacific executives to entertain clients.

A group of Chicago podiatrists will arrive in their own private car. It is called the Silver Foot.

Private rail travel is civilized, says Tayloe. "We use silver, linen, fresh flowers and crystal," he said. He leases the King Cotton car from Columbus & Greenville Railway and has stayed in some of the finest train stations in the nation.

Fittingly, the King Cotton was built by Chicago's Pullman Co. in 1916 and contains a lighted mural depicting Chicago's waterfront. The car was used by the president of the Illinois Central Railroad until Columbus & Greenville acquired some Illinois Central track and the King Cotton.

Designed as a train's final car, the King Cotton has a rear observation platform, an interior observation lounge with sofas and armchairs, three state rooms with baths, a shower, kitchen, dining room, crew's quarters, telephones, TV and cassette music system because "it's kind of hard to play records while you're moving," Tayloe said.

Three spectacular yachts have already weaved between Louisiana's offshore oil rigs and moored at Schubert's Marine in Lake Pontchartrain. The Southerly, a 144-footer chartered by the Gannett newspaper chain, is so huge that it was stranded for a day outside the entrance to the canal where it was to be moored.

"The tide was too low," said Ward Stallings, dock manager at Schubert's. Gannett has hired an armed guard to protect the boat in the harbor. The Southerly and the Circus II, a $7 million, 140-foot yacht owned by a Florida Budweiser distributor and chartered by Anheuser-Busch, will be used for business entertaining. But the 100-foot Cherosa of Palm Beach, Fla., is Super Bowl home to fans of the Patriots--David and Rhoda Chase, owners of the Hartford, Conn., Hilton and their Yankee crew.

"We were in Miami for the playoffs," said the boat's captain, Andrew Urquhart. "They won, and--boom!--we bolted out of there and came here."

Fifty-year-old Bunky Hipple will enjoy considerably less luxury at the Parc D'Orleans trailer park, where he positioned his pickup truck and Air Stream trailer Tuesday after driving all night from Orlando. Hipple describes his occupation as "I go to Super Bowl games and I go to the races."

"It's the best party in the world," said the veteran of 16 of the previous 19 Super Bowls and holder of four tickets to Sunday's game. Of all the Super Bowl cities he has visited, he said, "New Orleans has the best parties." The Parc D'Orleans is expecting "a partying crowd," said Pat Trascher, trailer park owner and mother of a young son who knows all the words to the "Super Bowl Shuffle." "There are plenty of people coming in without tickets and just want to be part of the party."

At the nearby New Orleans Mardi Gras Camp Ground, manager Andre Lebat says that most of those staying in the park will use their recreational vehicles mainly for resting up from strenuous exertions in the French Quarter. "Most of them want to start partying early before the Super Bowl," he said. "It's going to be a nuthouse, plainly."

According to police, some fans are heading to New Orleans in their campers without trailer park reservations. Others have canceled reservations made in more confident days, Lebat says.

"We had a lot of Florida reservations early, but they canceled," he said. "You can understand that."

New Owner, New Home

In the spring of 2012, after several years in storage at LaFayette, Georgia, Columbus & Greenville #1 was sold through a dealer to the eastern New York tourist hauler Saratoga & North Creek Railway. Renumbered SNC #15, King Cotton will join a growing fleet of refurbished passenger cars in use by the railroad. In May of 2012, the Chattanooga & Chickamauga Railway removed #1 from storage and handed the car off to the Norfolk Southern for transport to Saratoga Springs, New York.
HawkinsRails thanks rail professional David Powell for use of his pictures of King Cotton in transport
HawkinsRails thanks railfans Anthony Giminiani and John Sesonske for use of their pictures

"It sure beats the scrapper's torch." That's what my old man used to say about aging railroad equipment that ended up living second (or third) lives in improbable places. And what could more unlikely than a Magnolia state shortline's "King Cotton" finding a new home -- and new mileage -- on a New York tourist line that serves the ski slopes? Nearly a century-old #1 will be a long way from Mr. Johnson or Mr. Wilhite's home rails in the Mississippi River valley ... but Saratoga Springs sure beats the junk line.

By all accounts, new owner S&NC looks to be a classy operation, and it will be interesting to see how they put their new #15 to work in their operation. Upscale tourists north of New York City: not a bad gig for the third act of Illinois Central's well-travelled #9. It's a move uptown that would have made Mr. Sam proud.

Still ... sad to see the C A G Y painted over. No more good will tours for the Delta Route. (Lump in the throat.) Call me sentimental.