The Mississippi Central (MSC) that operated in the first half of the 20th century was one of three "Mississippi Centrals;" another of Civil War vintage and one current line are not the MSC of the 30's and 40's, which ran 164 miles between Natchez and Hattiesburg, Mississippi. Started in the 1890's primarily as a hauler of lumber products from the vast central Mississippi forest areas, it developed into a bridge line connecting to the Mississippi River at Natchez and by ferry to the Louisiana and Arkansas Railway to form a route called "The Natchez Route".

Richard Parks


msc_state The Central began life as the Pearl & Leaf Rivers Railroad, but the name was changed to reflect a more regional reach when the goal of moving west toward Natchez, Mississippi, was established just after the turn of the century. At the peak of the timber industry in the region, the shortline connected two major production mills and provided both incoming raw materials through several branch lines as well as good interchange outlets for finished lumber products.

Prior to the transition era to diesels, the road was known for its large stable of Mikados and converted Pacifics acquired to handle a growing through-freight business that peaked in the 1920s. The Central was the chief operator of this much-promoted "Natchez Route" -- a bridge route from Shreveport, Louisiana, to Mobile, Alabama, that utilized the MSC in cooperation with other regional haulers.

When the MSC eventually dieselized, they purchased ten SW9 switchers from General Motors and later a rare GP28 road switcher. In both the steam and diesel eras, the MSC shops and company offices were in Hattiesburg.

By the 1960s, bridge traffic had lessened and the region's mill industry was shifting. Heavy with debt and hard pressed to expand or improve, a deal was struck with the Illinois Central to purchase the Natchez Route in 1967 -- just in advance of the formation of the Illinois Central Gulf. A portion of the Central's mainline is still in service today, from Furgurson to Natchez, Mississippi, owned and operated by the Canadian National. Part of the eastern end is now a popular hiking and biking trail, the Longleaf Trace.


MSC route map / Mississippi Rails


MSC timetable listings / web


1955 timetable / web

See also our shortline collection for the current Mississippi Central Railroad in northern Mississippi


tag_pinWanilla, Mississippi

At Wanilla, Mississippi, the east-west Mississippi Central pike crossed the north-south mainline of the Gulf, Mobile & Ohio -- former Gulf, Mobile & Northern and earlier New Orleans Great Northern mainline. With the absorption of both the Mississippi Central and the GM&O into the Illinois Central Gulf system in the earlu 1970s, this diamond ceased to be an interchange point and came under the same system. Today both lines are in use by the Canadian National.

Click to see the Wanilla diamond area plotted on a Google Maps page

tag_spot Wilmington & Western #98

HawkinsRails thanks railfan Thomas Gears for these photos of Wilmington & Western #98

Wilmington & Western #98

  • builder:ALCO Schenectedy
  • arrangement:4-4-0 American
  • built:Jan 1909, Alco #45921
  • fuel:coal/water
  • notes:
  • blt Mississippi Central #98
    to Comite Southern, 1946
    to Louisiana Eastern #98
    to Strasburg #98
    to Wilmington & Western #98
  • builder


    Links / Sources

    This page was updated on 2017-08-04