The ICG in McComb, Miss. – 1988

My friend Ron Findley and I used to take an occasional day trip simply to check out different places, and to watch whatever trains happened to pass through the area. One of our favorite locations was McComb, Mississippi. We would generally start our trip trackside In Hammond, Louisiana, then head north on U.S. Hwy. 51. That highway largely parallels the former Illinois Central mainline, which runs between New Orleans and Chicago. One passes through a half dozen communities during this trip prior to reaching McComb, and we generally made sure to get trackside at each location just to check the “state of things”.

Then we’ve reached McComb. This was once a bustling railroad town, and right at the edge of the business district was a large locomotive servicing facility. It contained a major roundhouse and turntable, locomotive shops, and a large car building and repair facility. The mainline was double track through here, and the train load was pretty heavy.

But by 1988, things were different. The Illinois Central had merged with the Gulf, Mobile and Ohio, forming the Illinois Central Gulf Railroad, and a very significant portion of this area in McComb had been scaled back.

One of our favorite vantage points was on a street overpass just north of the depot. Some years ago the bridge had been replaced with a new concrete structure with sidewalks, and it made for easy access to this birds-eye viewing point. Here are a couple photographs that Ron recorded during that day in early February of 1988.

ICG Engine Facilities, McComb, Miss.
Looking generally south, just beyond the sand tower was the former roundhouse. If you look carefully, you can make out the turntable pit just right of the tankcar. The turntable bridge has been removed, and is laying upside down just beyond the pit. Virtually every building of this shop complex has been razed in the years since the photograph was taken. The exception is shown more clearly in the photo below.
ICG Depot, McComb, Miss.
Panning a bit to the right, that’s the depot on the right. It was in decrepit condition at this time, but a few years later would receive a full restoration and addition. Part of the building is still in use as the Amtrak station. The two closest tracks are the mainline headed down to New Orleans. The building just left of center in the distance was the car shop. It still exists today, though it has served in various private interests over the years. The McComb business district is just starting at the far right of the view, extending east and north of this view.

The vacant area just south of the depot, and extending all the way through the ground where the automobiles are parked, is now the site of the McComb RR Museum’s outdoor exhibits. Its centerpiece is a former I.C. 4-8-2 steam locomotive. Also displayed are several passenger cars, an experimental aluminum refrigerator car, a caboose, a heavy railroad crane, and various other pieces of equipment, all under a nice roof. The entire exhibit is very nicely done, and well maintained.

As an historical note, just days after these images were taken, the ICG Industries divested themselves of their railroad interests, and a new railroad was created under its former name, the Illinois Central Railroad.

An Old Rock Island Caboose

In recent months I’ve posted a number of caboose photographs. Today I was looking through copies of images taken by my friend Ron Findley, and I came across this shot of an old Rock Island Railroad caboose. I had forgotten about this old caboose, and decided to share it with you.

The backstory: In May of 1989 Ron and I were on a trip in south Arkansas, scouting out the various shortline railroads in the area. One of those happened to be the Warren and Saline River Railroad, whose current owner was the Potlatch Corporation. We located the plant and followed the back-roads around it looking for signs of railroad. We discovered these two cars on the plant property, just inside its fence. They were obviously in disuse, but still were largely intact. The caboose was recognizable as an old Rock Island cab, probably acquired by the W&SR along the way since they had a connection to the Rock.

While trying to get shots though the tall fencing, a car came down the road and stopped. The man inside asked if we were interested in railroads, and we assured him that we were there hoping to see the equipment for the W&SR. Well with that, the man introduced himself as the plant manager, and told us to follow him. He led us around to the entrance far away, then led us to different areas inside the plant to explain what all they had and did. And finally he said, “Well I suppose you’d like to see the railroad equipment also”. So we drove around to the backside of a building and there parked was the roster for the Warren & Saline River Railroad. After photographing the locomotives and facilities, he lead us back to the caboose and boxcar so we could get good shots of them from inside the plant without the fence. And here is my favorite view of the caboose.

RI Caboose at Warren AR

CN Train Meets a Cargo Ship

In December of 2004 a friend and I traveled down to the Bonne Carré Spillway at Norco, Louisiana. Our purpose was to photograph the recently restored TN&O/SP steam locomotive #745. It was making a break-in and testing run, and it would be traveling over the Kansas City Southern trestle that crosses the spillway.

While waiting, we heard an air horn behind us and turning around, we saw a Canadian National train heading south on the CN’s (formerly Illinois Central) trestle which also crosses the spillway. I spied a large cargo ship just beyond in the Mississippi River, and captured both of these as they were passing each other. Looking closely, you can see the weir that is at the entrance to the spillway. It’s that dark colored “wall” behind the trestle, viewable between the trestle bents.

CN Train Meets a Cargo Ship

Wikipedia has a good description of the spillway: The Bonne Carré Spillway is a flood control operation in the Lower Mississippi Valley. Located in St. Charles Parish, Louisiana, about 12 miles west of New Orleans, it allows floodwaters from the Mississippi River to flow into Lake Pontchartrain and thence into the Gulf of Mexico. The spillway was constructed between 1929 and 1931.

Adding to this: The control structure is a 1-1/2 mile long concrete and wooden weir parallel to the edge of the river. The concrete forms the support piers, and large wooden beams (needles) create a wall. The needles can be lifted out to allow water to flow into the spillway, removing as many as needed to control the flow. It’s quite interesting, and you can read more by following the link above.

Steam on the Masthead

I thought I’d provide a little explanation about the artwork in the masthead of this Louisiana Central blog. This beautiful painting is by railroader and artist Tony Howe. It is my favorite piece by this gentleman, and a cropped version of it is used here by permission of the artist.

Tony calls this “Wausau Southern Lumber Co. Log Train”, and describes it thusly “A Wausau Southern Lumber Co. log train heads for the company’s sawmill at Laurel, Mississippi, in the 1920’s”. In answer to a recent question by Everett Lueck, Tony explained the “true” identity of the train: “It was based on the W H B Jones photo of RR&G (Red River & Gulf) #106, but I changed it a bit to match the Wausau Southern Lumber Co. Baldwin 2-6-0. Wausau Southern’s log cars were the same basic design as Crowell’s (the Crowell & Spencer Lumber Company based at Long Leaf, Louisiana). The parts in parenthesis are added by me to further the explanation.

And featured below is the full painting . . .

Wausau Southern Sunset

Thanks Tony!

The Tremont & Gulf Rwy #30

The Tremont & Gulf Railway was a shortline railroad located in the north-east corner of Louisiana. In 1917 the company ordered a new 2-8-2 steam locomotive from the Baldwin Locomotive Works, to be built to their design. Assigned the number 30, she was a coal burning locomotive, producing steam at 185 psi, which sent power to her 54″ drivers via a pair of 21″ x 26″ cylinders. She had a tractive effort of 36,097 lbs. Many years later the line dieselized, and in 1954 she was sold to the Magma Arizona Railroad as their #7. She was retired in 1968 and again changed hands a few times to private owners, finally coming to rest with the Texas State Railroad as their #400. She has operated there off and on since.

Early in 1994, the 400’s paint was refreshed, with her temporarily receiving the original lettering and number for the Tremont & Gulf. On the weekend of March 5/6 a special event was held. Organized by Louis Saillard and company, an “authentic” excursion train traveled the line. Several props had been prepared to set back the time perhaps 50 years. Station signs for the old T&G were installed in several locations, and there even appeared at a road crossing one of the old square grade crossing signs bearing the words “LOUISIANA LAW STOP” (older folks from Louisiana will certainly remember those). There were some great “run-bys” of the locomotive pulling a mixed freight train with period correct freight cars, and heavyweight passenger cars. It was a spectacular event which I thoroughly enjoyed.

The photo below is one of just a few that I have left, having survived the Great Flood of 2016. It was a last second “grab” shot taken just minutes before the train’s departure.

TSRR - T&G Weekend

The Bridge at Vicksburg

Back in the spring of 1996 a friend and I motored up into Mississippi to check out the various railroad facilities there. We got as far as Vicksburg, and while there we found a spot overlooking the big bridge spanning the Mississippi River. As luck would have it, a Kansas City Southern freight train appeared, and I recorded this view of the train as it was reaching land on the east bank of the river.

This bridge has both the rail line and the old US Highway 80 on it. That’s the roadway angling up at right from the bridge. A few years after this image was made, automobile traffic was halted, being transferred to the new I-20 bridge just downstream. There is some interesting history on this bridge, follow this link to read its story.

This slide is a rare flood survivor . . . glad to still have it.

KCS Train at Vicksburg, MS

Short Wood (Pulpwood) Hauler

In the South, pulpwood is commonly known as short wood to the people in the business, especially with railroaders. The pulpwood industry was significant and vibrant throughout the South until recent years. I used to see car after car of these loads on lines such as the Illinois Central, the Gulf, Mobile and Ohio, and the Louisville and Nashville.

And very common, especially in small towns, were the trucks used to haul the short wood to the rail-side for loading. Virtually all were rather old and beat up, and no two were exactly alike. They were most often “home-made” adaptations, frequently on a truck that had it’s originally bed or box removed, and having been modified for the purpose of hauling wood.

In the spring of 1995, Ron Findley and I were making our way up north following the railroad tracks along Hwy. 51 from Hammond, Louisiana and up toward Mississippi. We spotted this hauler in Summit, Mississippi, just north of McComb. This tired and decrepit old machine is about the most pitiful of all I’ve ever seen (and I’ve seen some pitiful examples!). These vehicles were almost always grossly overloaded with regard to weight. And this old fella appears to have a broken back.

Pulpwood Truck - Summit, MS
This truck is a relative “heavy-weight”, with its twin axles at the rear. It appears to be a 6×6. Note the crane behind the cab to enable it to load/unload much larger diameter logs, and to higher heights. Without that, you’re limited to a log one can handle by manpower alone.
Pulpwood Truck Rear View
I believe this track is where the short wood was loaded onto the railcars. Seen on the ground just across the track is an example of the pulpwood logs, typically five feet in length. The white building in the background is the Summit Town Hall.

More About the WSLCo. Shays

Last week I posted a photograph taken during my trip to the Georgetown Loop Railroad, one of just a few slides that had been spared in the Great Flood of 2016. I was recalling that there were three of these 3-foot narrow gauge Shays operating on the line at that time. So I dug around a bit and found photographs of all three of these machines, each recorded by Brian Cazel. Unfortunately none of these locomotives are still operating on the line, their last service there occurring in 2004.

However, all of these Shays still exist. I’ve given a little information on each in the photo captions.

West Side Lumber Co. Shay #8
#8 is a 3-truck Shay built in 1922 by the Lima Locomotive Works in Lima, Ohio for the West Side Lumber Company. It weighs 154,400 lbs and has 12” x 15” cylinders and 34” drivers. An oil burner, it operated at a boiler pressure of 200 psi delivering 36,150 lbs tractive effort.

In 1966 she was sold and transported to the Georgetown Loop Railroad, where she operated until 2004, then was displayed until 2008. She then went to the Royal Gorge Route Railroad in Cañon City, Colorado for a period, and finally to the Moffat Road Railroad Museum in Granby, Colorado in October 2021.
West Side Lumber Co. Shay #12
#12 is a 3-truck Shay built in 1927 by the Lima Locomotive Works in Lima, Ohio for the Swayne Lumber Company railway as their #6. It weighs 113,500 lbs and has 11” x 12” cylinders and 32” drivers. An oil burner, it operated at a boiler pressure of 200 psi delivering 25,830 lbs tractive effort.

She was sold to the West Side Lumber Co. in 1940 and renumbered to 12. At some point she went to the West Side & Cherry Valley Railroad as their #12. From there she was sold and moved to the Georgetown Loop Railroad, where she operated until 2004.

Her last stop was at the Colorado Railroad Museum in Golden, Colorado, where she was placed in storage. I understand that she did see brief operations there from 2011-2014, but has since returned to storage.
West Side Lumber Co. Shay #14
#14 is a 3-truck Shay built in 1916 by the Lima Locomotive Works in Lima, Ohio for the Sierra Nevada Wood and Lumber Company as their #10. It has 11” x 12” cylinders and 32” drivers. An oil burner, it operated at a boiler pressure of 200 psi. I haven’t seen other specs for her, but would assume they would be similar to #12 above.

She was sold to the West Side Lumber Co. in 1939 and renumbered to 14. She was again sold to Hal Wilmunder and became Camino, Cable & Northern #4 at Camino, California in 1965. She then went to the Colorado Narrow Gauge Railroad as #14 in Central City, Colorado in 1974, and finally moved to Silver Plume, Colorado to become Georgetown Loop #14 in 1981. She ceased operations there in 2004.

She’s now stored at the Colorado Railroad Museum in Golden, Colorado. A couple years ago volunteers did a cosmetic restoration, painting the locomotive’s exterior and restoring her to the West Side Lumber Co. paint. The latest photograph I’ve seen of her was dated in 2023 and she appears to be in reasonable condition.

WSLCo. Shay #14 at the Georgetown Loop

Back in the summer of the year 2000 I took a trip out to Colorado to ride a few of the narrow gauge railroads there. My first stop was at the Georgetown Loop operation, located adjacent to Interstate 70 near Georgetown, Colorado. At that time the railroad was operating with three of the former West Side Lumber Company Shay locomotives.

Shay #14 had the duty on the day I boarded the train, and she did a splendid job of hauling the equipment up the 4% grades on the line. Pictured below is the view of the train crossing over the famous trestle that is part of the Georgetown Loop itself. I wish I still had the images taken from further back that show the full height of this spindly trestle . . . it’s tall at 95 feet!

WSLCo. Shay #14 on Trestle

A Work Car Residence

The story I was told was that an Illinois Central employee had become injured and was unable to continue working. Through a series of circumstances, he was allowed to use this old work car for his residence. Located in Hammond, Louisiana, the car was parked on the east side of the Chicago to New Orleans mainline on a short piece of unconnected track several hundred yards north of the depot. I remember approaching this car many years ago thinking it was abandoned. I was surprised that someone was still inside!

And many years later I assumed that the man had passed, as during some intensive track right-of-way work, the car was pushed further away from the track and was overturned on its side. Over the years the trees and underbrush have completely enveloped the car, and it is quite difficult to locate now. A few years ago Ron Findley and I did manage to find the car, and we took several photos of what little remains of it. Hardly anything is recognizable beyond the trucks.

The photograph below was taken by Ron in February of 1988 when the car was apparently still the residence of the old railroad worker. If any of you readers have more information about the car you’d like to share, please do so in the comments.

Ex-IC MOW Car, Hammond, La.

A Caboose Deadline

Okay, I said last week that the caboose “series” had ended. But this week I came across this photograph taken by friend Ron Findley of a caboose deadline that I thought was interesting.

The location is McComb, Mississippi and the date is February 18, 1988. Ron and I made a trip to Hammond, Louisiana that day, then followed Hwy. 51 north until we reached McComb. This deadline of Illinois Central Gulf cabooses was sitting in one of the yard tracks just south of the depot and locomotive servicing area. I think you’ll find at least one of every model of steel cabooses that the I.C./ I.C.G. ever ran in this lineup! It was the early days of the demise of these cars and railroads were taking them out of service in droves. Some found a second life as a storage building or a cabin, some in museums . . . most ended up in scrap yards.

It was the end of an era. Folks under the age of 30 years likely have never seen one of these bringing up the rear of a train.

Caboose Deadline, McComb, Miss.

As a side note, just eleven days after this photograph was taken, the parent company of the Illinois Central Gulf spun off their railroad assets, and the railroad reverted back to its original name of Illinois Central.

Yeah, Yet Another Caboose

Several weeks ago I posted photographs of an old Missouri Pacific caboose, the #509, that was designated as a Terminal Cab. In that post I pointed out several differences between that caboose and others that I had commonly seen or ridden in. Today I’m going to feature the T&P Caboose #13146, and I think it’ll be the last caboose in this “series”. 🙂

This cab reverses those differences that I had written about: the end of the roof is open rather than closed in, and the cupola has a sliding side window arrangement, along with wider fixed windows fore and aft. It likely has the single rotating seat at each side. Also note the presence of ribs on the roof.

In studying the two images, I’ve noticed a few other differences: the “nail” radio antenna on the cupola roof as opposed to the “fire cracker” on the MoP roof, differently shaped hand railings/grabs on the end platforms and cupola, and what appears to be a metal reinforcement plate on the first three wall side panels just below the roof on the far end of the TP cab. I remember that plate was common on the TP cabooses. I never found out specifically what it was for.

One thing in common though, as with the MoP cab, the running board on the roof is still in place.

T&P Caboose #13146

This image was scanned from an old Polaroid photograph that I recorded on December 29th of 1971. The location is the T&P yard at Avondale, Louisiana.