Railroads of Meridian
Publication Year: 2012
This generously illustrated narrative follows the evolution of dozens of separate railroads in the Meridian, Mississippi, area from the destruction of the town's rail facilities in the 1850s through the current era of large-scale consolidation. Presently, there are only seven mega-size rail systems in the United States, three of which serve Meridian, making it an important junction on one of the nation's four major transcontinental routes. The recent creation of a nationally prominent high-speed freight line between Meridian and Shreveport, the "Meridian Speedway," has allowed the Union Pacific, Kansas City Southern, and Norfolk Southern railroads to offer the shortest rail route across the continent for Asia-US-Europe transportation.
Published by: Indiana University Press
Series: Railroads Past and Present
The idea for a book on Meridian began to creep onto my horizon in 2008 as I approached my seventy-fifth birthday. At such a milestone, it is common for many to ponder their goals for that indeterminable amount of active life left to them. In my case, the idea was helped along by an invitation to do a short, illustrated...
Railroads saw their first use during the Industrial Revolution, which was centered in England at the dawn of the nineteenth century. American entrepreneurs began importing this new technology around 1830, and it became a foundation of the nation’s westward development. Indeed, the railroad was humankind’s first machine-based, long-distance land transportation...
1 ANTEBELLUM BEGINNINGS
Development of permanent communities in most of the Gulf states began with the Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek, signed in 1830 at the end of the War of 1812. This agreement ceded to the U.S. government lands previously controlled by indigenous tribes of Choctaws, Chickasaws, and others. Credit for establishing...
2 A NEW START
During the period immediately after the war, rail planning and construction again became important to Meridian’s economy as well as throughout all the former Confederate states. Both of the troubled lines in western Alabama were finally completed. The Selma & Meridian Railroad’s ongoing financial problems led to another reorganization in 1871 as the Alabama...
3 A NEW CENTURY
Although traffic levels on the Mobile & Ohio had increased substantially after the reorganization of 1879 and later completion of the line to Saint Louis, the road hovered near insolvency during the 1890s. It was hemmed in by Illinois Central lines on the west and those of Louisville & Nashville to the east. Many contemporary...
4 ENTREPRENEUR EXTRAORDINAIRE
While the early history of the GM&N was developing to the west of Meridian, another of its citizens would follow the path of William H. Hardy, developer of the New Orleans & Northeastern. Sam A. Neville entered the city’s rail scene as an archenemy of the traffic monopoly by the Queen & Crescent combine. Neville...
5 ROLLER-COASTER RIDE
The Mobile & Ohio timetable of October 1, 1922, included the same level of passenger service in Meridian as in 1916, namely, Nos. 1–4 plus locals 5 and 6. However, it shows that Pullman transfers had been revived by the Alabama Great Southern to Birmingham and the New Orleans & Northeastern to New Orleans, although...
6 A TUMULTUOUS DECADE
Early operations of the Rebel streamliner (see Plate 1) proved to be the economic miracle hoped for by GM&N’s management. In 1935 its total cost was 44.4 cents per mile (including a direct operating cost of 31.8 cents), while it produced a surprising income of 59 cents. The excess of 14.6 cents per mile provided needed funds for general operations. But, more fundamentally,...
7 COMING OF AGE
Beginning at this point in the Meridian story, the narrative will digress to include the senior author’s personal recollections from his early years around the city’s constantly changing rail scene. However, to start the record at its beginning, I was born in a white frame house surrounded by fields of cotton and corn outside the tiny crossroads village of Boligee...
8 POSTWAR METAMORPHOSIS
During my senior year in high school (1950–51), I was immersed in recording the diminishing presence of steam locomotives in Meridian. Unfortunately, the GM&O dropped its fires so quickly that I was never able to photograph one of its steam-powered trains in action. But there were still opportunities on the...
9 MORE CHANGES
Two alternative modes of transportation appeared during the postwar period. Expansions of America’s highway and airway systems would soon sweep away the centurylong monopoly of rail travel, resulting in a steady decline in passenger train service. Additional financial underpinning for such trains was removed...
10 ANOTHER RENAISSANCE
Congressional passage of the Staggers Rail Act of October 1980 was the most extensive overhaul of the nation’s railroads in over half a century. At once it redefined the rules by which railroad commerce was carried out by erasing many of the restrictions that remained from the early twentieth-century era of...
This volume concludes by highlighting some of the textural features of American railway history that overlaid the city’s peaks and valleys of prominence. The city’s early success was due to its position as a junction for a half-dozen lines. These routes continued to be vital to the region’s development for over eight decades (from the Civil War through World...
Page Count: 232
Illustrations: 32 color illus., 120 b&w illus., 8 maps
Publication Year: 2012
Series Title: Railroads Past and Present
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