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Vicksburg by rail

Like the steamboats that plowed the Mississippi River, the railroad has played a key role in the history and growth of Vicksburg, bringing new people and goods to the area and allowing residents in the mid-19th and early 20th centuries to travel beyond the Warren County line.

Vicksburg’s railroad history goes back to Dec. 19, 1831, when the Clinton &Vicksburg Railroad, the first chartered railroad in Mississippi, was formed to build a 30-mile rail line between the Red Carpet City and Clinton.

The line was later expanded to Jackson, and by 1850 to Brandon. The company was bought out in 1858 by the Southern Railroad Co., which expanded service to Meridian by 1861.

At the same time, the Vicksburg, Shreveport & Texas Railroad was building a line from Delta, on the west bank of the Mississippi, to Monroe and west. That line was destroyed during the Civil War, but restored in 1869 by the New Orleans, Louisiana & Texas Railroad.

During the 1880s, several rail lines operated services from Vicksburg to points south, east and west, with the Vicksburg, Shreveport & Pacific Railroad, part of the Queen and Crescent rail line that served New Orleans, developed a system of trains serving Vicksburg, New Orleans, Memphis, and other cities.

At the time, there was no rail bridge crossing the Mississippi River, and passengers traveling east from Shreveport to Vicksburg or west from Vicksburg, had to get off their train, board a ferry, and cross the river to board another train to continue their journey.

Freight was unloaded from cars, placed on ferries and taken across the river, and reloaded on cars on the opposite side. The situation was improved later in the decade, when ferries were built to move rail cars from one side to the other. The ferries continued moving rail cars until the railroad bridge was built in 1930.

At one point during the late 1880s, the Louisville-New Orleans & Texas Railroad had rail service in the Vicksburg area, with trains stopping in the communities of Cedars, Glass and Yokena, but the company ran into financial problems and was bought out by the Illinois Central Railroad in 1892 for $25 million, or about $677.3 million in today’s money.

The company was renamed the Yazoo & Mississippi Valley Railroad, and built the station that now sits on Levee Street, rail traffic increased, with 22 trains a day moving through Vicksburg.

Passenger service is now gone from the area, and the Illinois Central Railroad has been replaced by Kansas City Southern. KCS runs freight trains through the city, but the railroad’s history is still visible by the rails along the river, and the model train exhibits at the Old Depot Museum.

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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