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Bonhomie & Hattiesburg Southern Railway

"Save Time and Money by Missing Bedlam and Confusion"

The Bonhomie & Hattiesburg Southern rocks a profitable train of high cars across a wooden trestle near New Augusta, Mississippi, en route to is Gulf, Mobile & Ohio connection at Beaumont. The Bonhomie of this short-line's corporate title does not exist on the map of its operations, and its thirty miles of right of way are under the same management as the neighboring Fernwood, Columbia & Gulf, which owns forty-four miles of track. Their joint insertion in The Office Guide advises shippers: "Save Time and Money by Missing Bedlam and Confusion."

Lucius Beebe & Charles Clegg, The Age of Steam, 1957

In 1923 W.S.F. Tatum, owner of the Tatum Lumber Company of Hattiesburg, Mississippi, established the Bonhomie & Hattiesburg Southern Railway Company in order to purchase the Hattiesburg branch from the Gulf, Mobile, & Ohio Railroad. This twenty-seven mile branchline connected the town of Hattiesburg to the GM&O main line at Beaumont, Mississippi. Using the branch, Tatum would be able to gain access to a new logging operation near Denco, Mississippi and transport lumber from Bonhomie, where Tatum owned a sawmill, to the GM&O junction at Beaumont and connections eastward.

The Interstate Commerce Commission approved the sale on January 5, 1925, and the Bonhomie & Hattiesburg Southern Railway went into operation less than a month later. The entire capital stock of $335,000 was sold to the Tatum family, and all equipment for the railroad was leased from the Tatum Lumber Company--including five locomotives, three of which were new Baldwin acquisitions. The B&HS showed a profit for several years, but eventually slipped into financial deficit as its profit from lumber traffic declined. Tatum's logging operation near Denco ended when the GM&O abandoned its Blodgett Branch, a dummy line from Denco to Piave, Mississippi. In 1953 Tatum sold the then unprofitable B&HS to the Fernwood, Columbia, & Gulf Railway.

Especially in the lean years, many a steam-era shortline relied upon home-spun practices and simple shortcuts for keeping costs down and still getting the job done. In the spring of 1961, dad uncovered a wonderful little slice of Deep South shortline lore while chasing #250 through New Augusta, Mississippi (pictured here).

Turns out it was common practice for the Bonhomie & Hattiesburg Southern crew to roll into the little village of New Augusta, bring their train to a stop, and send the brakeman into the local mom & pop grocery store situated near the tracks. If there was switching work to be done, or new train orders to convey, it was the procedure of the B&HS main office in Hattiesburg to call down on the phone to Miss So-and-so, proprietor of said grocery store, and have her write the information down for the passing crew.

Surely this communication system was an integral component of the little railroad's famous pledge to help shippers "avoid any bedlam and confusion." This, plus one imagines that from time to time the crew took advantage of the pause to supplement their lunches.


Bonhomie & Hattiesburg Southern's cap stacked 2-8-2 was, in proper perspective, a machine with which to move material for profit. Viewing it this way was not always that simple. Anyone with any emotion at all recognized this train in its rural Mississippi rounds as making for a deucedly pretty picture.

John Krause, Rails Through Dixie


This page was updated on 2016-03-26