Columbus & Greenville Railway
Deep south shortlines have always been loose-car railroads, connecting online shippers with Class 1 lines and distributing rolling stock from the mainlines to local destinations. Loose-car railroading requires plenty of switching, and in almost any decade one could find plenty of local switching jobs all across the Delta Route. Whitcombs and later Electro-Motive SW1s handled much of the local duties in the last decade of the original C&G. In its post-ICG incarnation, the road pushed its aging Baldwins and GP7s into switching duties as each new batch of second-hand power sent the older units to the yards and locals.
commercial siding list / 1947 company timetable
In early 1971, I went by Greenwood, Mississippi to see if there was any Columbus & Greenville action. There was! I found Baldwin #601 switching the cotton oil mill on the west end of town. I drove up to the mill fence and took several pictures and began to talk to the engineer. He invited me up for a cab ride while he switched, which I accepted! We went down into the mill trackage and brought out several loaded cars and set them out on the C&G main. We then took several empty cars back inside. Looking out from the fireman's window in the cab, I was amazed at how badly the tracks were out of alignment, and how as #601 rolled over the worst places it rose and settled back with bumps and dips. My guess is that it was 5 mph track. And to think the main was in that shape all the way west to Greenville, some 50 miles away.
In the summer of 1972, John came upon Baldwin #605 running along the Mississippi River levee spur near Greenville, Mississippi, with three gondolas in tow. The Baldwin has just switched the Midwest Wire plant, and soon returned back up the levee with eight new cars in consist. In both directions, the brakeman on the turn rode the pilot of #605. No doubt they wanted to catch as much breeze as possible amid the Mississippi summer heat. At the time of this Greenville switching job, #605 was in her 25th year of service on the Delta Route.
In the early 1970s, John shot little SW1 #505 hard at work on Greenwood, Mississippi switching duties. The 600 horsepower switcher is working back and forth down the C&G mainline through town, and the Greenwood municipal generating plant can be seen down the line.
The city of Greenwood, Mississippi has in some form operated its own municipal street lighting and electrical system since 1894. In the mid 1960s, in response to greater demand, the city built a new electrical generating station on the west side of town. Ten years later, the newly-independent C&G saw a large boost in revenue by hauling some 30 hopper cars per week of coal to Greenwood -- first in interchange cuts originating on other roads in Kentucky; later, from barge shipments on the Mississippi River unloaded in Greenville and hauled solely on the Delta Route. The generating facility has been a major C&G customer ever since.
In the summer of 1989, dad and I travelled the entire length of the Delta Route from Columbus to Greenville. Early one morning in Greenville, near the close of our time on the CAGY, we found well-worn Geep #608 shuffling cars near the small yard facility.
The first of six GP7s procured from the Florida East Coast Railroad in 1978 to ease the strain on the remaining Baldwins, #608 retained her FEC number after her move to Mississippi. At the time of these photos, the Geep was 37 years old and had been bumped to local switching duties by the arrival of the ex-ATSF CF7s for road power.
Beside its dual role as the eastern terminus of the railroad and the home of its historic shop complex, Columbus yard has always been a busy place due to the number of interchange points with other railroads. Historically, Columbus interchange partners included the Southern Railway, the Gulf, Mobile & Ohio, and the St Louis-San Francisco. More recently, Columbus sees traffic from the Norfolk Southern, Burlington Northern-Sante Fe, and the Kansas City Southern. Below, Geep #621 lugs hard on a cut of interchange hoppers moving through Columbus in the mid-80s.
Columbus, Ms / 1986 / collection