Columbus & Greenville Railway

Along the Mainline

Company letterhead in the post-ICG era of the Columbus & Greenville boasted that the little road offered "unparalleled service from the Delta to the hills." In terms of geographical competition, at least, that statement remained accurate throughout its corporate history.

Contributing to its eccentricity, the C&G lived its entire life as an east-west shortline in a north-south mainline world. Including its namesake terminals, the Delta Route crossed other, bigger railroads eight times in its 170-mile trek from the vicinity of Alabama in the east to the mighty Mississippi River in the west. Before the era of Class 1 consolidations, these numerous diamonds in the line represted a rich variety of Deep South railroads -- Southern, the Frisco, Mobile & Ohio, Gulf Mobile & Northern, Illinois Central, Yazoo & Mississippi Valley and the like.

In terms of physical profile, the C&G climbed 255' in elevation over 45 miles as it moved westward from the foothills of the Tombigbee River basin near Columbus. From Mathiston through Eupora and on to Winona, the right-of-way plied the highest points on the line--the highest, still a mere 447' feet above sea level. After Winona, the line come down from the hills to the banks of the Big Sand Creek and Greenwood, dropping some 307' in 30 miles. From Greenwood to Greenville, the Delta Route profile lived up to its nickname--traveling 55 miles over the flat Delta lands with little rise and fall along the way.

INSPECTION PHOTOS
sample

In the spring of 1917, agents of the Interstate Commerce Commission travelled the Southern Railway in Mississippi (precursor to the C&G) from end to end. Going town to town on nothing more than a small 2-axle gasoline motorcar, the agents took pictures of almost every structure along the line. This Mississippi tour was part of a larger ICC effort of the time to evaluate the state of the nation's railroads. These inspection images are indicated below by the notation "1917 inspection," and we are grateful to be able to have in our C&G collection copies of these historic prints.

maps

Route and profile maps / published Sep 1958 Trains / collection

Columbus

See our Columbus page for the entire Columbus gallery.

Waverly

West Point

Moving westward from Columbus along the railroad, the town of West Point was the first major community after the Tombigbee River and the first interchange point en route. Here the C&G met the Mobile & Ohio mainline (later GM&O) and an Illinois Central secondary route between Kosciusko and Aberdeen. Prior to 1980, C&G trains leaving Columbus approached West Point directly from the east. But the Tennessee-Tombigbee waterway project put an end to the railroad's use of the bridge over the Tombigbee. After the bridge was decommissioned, C&G movements detoured through Artesia then northward to West Point on the old M&O main. The depot in West Point, built by the Southern Rwy in Mississippi, was demolished by the ICG in the early 1970s.
Click to see the West Point area plotted on a Google Maps page

Notes on West Point interchange / JCH

Cedar Bluff

Pheba

Maben

Click to see Maben plotted on a Google Maps page
journal_jch

maben_jenny In the summer of 1989, Ralph and I were on U.S. 82 following the C&G between West Point and Eupora, and I remarked to Ralph that Charles Lindbergh, in his book We, related how he ran out of gas in his "Jenny" biplane and landed in a field somewhere near our location. He was lost, but had been following the C&G mainline. He managed to land in a field near the railroad, but damaged his propellor and was forced to spend a week in nearby Maben until he could get a replacement prop. Ralph shrugged off my remark as mere trivia. Just then we crested a hill and saw a historical marker up ahead. We stopped, and it told about that particular incident. Needless to say, I crowed about that sign for a long time. The spot very likely looked then like it had back in 1927 when it happened.

tag_quote

maben_lindbergh A small but dark storm area was drifting in my direction, and only a mile or two away. I wanted to get my plane into a grove of pine trees at one side of the slope behind me, and tie the wings down before strong wind gusts arrived. So I opened my throttle, blew the tail around, and taxied across the little meadow at the highest speed I dared. It was too late to stop or ground-loop when I saw a ditch ahead, almost completely hidden by grass. I had barely time to pull the throttle shut. There was the crash of wood as my wheels dropped in and the propeller struck the ground. The tail rose, like a seesaw run amuck, until it was almost vertical in air. I though my Jenny was turning upside down. Then it settled back to an angle of some forty-five degrees.I climbed out of the cockpit down to the wing, and then to the ground, and surveyed my damaged plane. It was splattered with mud, but I could find nothing broken aside from the propeller. If I’d followed my landing tracks, or if I’d even been ten feet farther over, I wouldn’t have hit the ditch at all. Raindrops began to patter on fabric. Northwest treetops were boiling in the wind. The rudder drummed against the flippers with a heavy puff. Several men and boys came running up.What’s the name of the nearest town? I asked. Well suh, if you go nawtheast, you come to the city of Maben. If you go sauthwest, you come to the city of Mathiston. When you all landed, you jist about split the difference between ’em. What’s the closest big city? Well suh, if you go ’bout a hundred miles sauth, you come to Meridian. That’s about the biggest un we got ’round heah. Meridian, Mississippi! That’s where I’d started from — I’d flown north instead of west! I thought they were going to say I was in Louisiana.

Charles A. Lindbergh - The Spirit of St. Louis - 1953

Mathiston

In the early years of the C&G, Mathiston, Mississippi was the Delta Route's only connection to the Gulf, Mobile & Northern railroad. The GM&N mainline stretched north-south from Mobile on the coast to Jackson, Tennessee and finally Paducah, Kentucky, crossing the C&G nearly 50 miles west of Columbus. The interchange featured an impressive wooden interlocking tower, but after the formation of the Gulf, Mobile & Ohio in 1940, the Mathiston crossing become redundant alongside former M&O junction at West Point. In the Illinois Central Gulf era, the former GM&O mainline was downgraded to a segmented branchline and the Mathiston interchange was removed.

Eupora

Click to see the Eupora depot area plotted on a Google Maps page

Tomnolen

Stewart

Kilmichael

Winona

Just one mile shy of being the halfway point on the C&G, the town of Winona, Mississippi, in Montgomery County, was for decades a major interchange point with the Illinois Central Railroad. The IC mainline from Jackson to Memphis crossed the Delta Route here, and in the early steam era the IC maintained a handsome wooden interlocking tower and a water plug. At 359' above sea level, Winona was the last town westward before the C&G made its moderate descent to the Mississippi Delta. Greenwood, the next community westbound of any size, sits at 127' in elevation. Winona was the site of summertime accident in 1946. Mixed train #109 and Mikado #506 picked a switch that had been left open in the small yard area. The train lurched down the spur at track speed, with the large Mike plowing off the end of the siding. The veteran engineer was killed in the wreckage.
Click to see the Winona area plotted on a Google Maps page

McCarley

Carrollton

Situated along the Big Sand Creek almost 100 miles from Columbus, the community of Carrollton, Mississippi boasted a handsome Southern Rwy in Mississippi station and freight house fashioned with bricks and morter -- in contrast to the numerous diminutive wooden depots that dotted the mainline. In 1912, in the Sou Rwy era, train #51 with two locomotives and numerous cars struck a gathering of cattle and left a pile of wreckage and three crewman deaths in its wake.
Click to see the North Carrollton area plotted on a Google Maps page

Malmaison

Greenwood

Situated near the Tallahatchie River, Greenwood, Mississippi was the location for the C&G's second primary interchange with the Illinois Central, this time crossing the more western (through Yazoo City) of the two Jackson-Memphis mainlines. In the passenger era, both railroads maintained a passenger station in town and both structures are still standing. The ex Illinois Central depot remains active today (although without an agent), a flag stop for Amtrak's City of New Orleans. Currently, Greenwood is the eastern terminus of the remaining C&G operations on the Delta end of the line, making it the major interchange point with the Canadian National. The line east of Greenwood has been mothballed due to decreased traffic and deteriorating track and bridge conditions.
Click to see the Greenwood depot area plotted on a Google Maps page
See also our Switching Jobs collection for more Greenwood photographs

Moorhead

The north-south line that crossed the C&G at Moorhead, Mississippi was originally constructed by the Yazoo Delta Railway, incorporated in 1895. Among turn-of-the-century Sunflower County locals, the little pike was referred to as the "Yellow Dog" -- a play on the "Y. D." initials on the Yazoo Delta equipment. Five years after incorporation, the Yellow Dog was purchased by the larger Yazoo & Mississippi Valley. Fifteen years later, having travelled through the Mississippi Delta, W. C. Handy published a song entitled "The Yellow Dog Rag," noting that "he's gone where the Southern crosses the Yellow Dog." "Southern" here refers to the Southern Rwy in Mississippi, parent to the C&G. The depot at the Moorhead interchange lasted until 1957.
Click to see the Moorhead area plotted on a Google Maps page

Paul Moon drawing / 1976 / collection

Notes on Moorhead crossing / 1972 / JCH

journal_rwh
July 2017

moorhead_mydog Hanging on the wall in my upstairs hallway is a print of Cloar's 1965 painting (above) commemorating the diamond in Moorhead, Mississippi, where the Columbus & Greenville crossed the Illinois Central Gulf -- formerly the Southern Railway in Mississippi crossing with the Yazoo & Mississippi Valley, aka the "Yellow Dog."

The scene looks east, towards Greenwood and Columbus, and evokes such good memories of my visits to the Delta Route during my childhood years. Once, during late summer, we plied the entire line from east to west, Columbus to Greenville, taking pictures of stations and noting crossings such as the one in Moorhead -- dormant by the time of our 1989 visit.

Cloar's work is classic Deep South nostalgia. Indeed, didn't southerners invent nostalgia? Certainly fans of the Columbus & Greenville -- these days, a shadow of its former self -- are card-carrying members of that backward-looking fraternity. Join me in a round of the Yellow Dog Blues.

Baird

Stoneville

Greenville

See our Greenville page for the entire Greenville gallery.

Links / Sources

This page was updated on 2017-07-08