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posted by Chris Martin alias ags_5152 on Monday 4th of November 2019 12:39:16 PM

NS 23E with two KCS units prepares to rattle former home rails at Tuscaloosa, AL as they head south for Meridian, MS and beyond over the NS/Alabama Southern diamond. In the distance an ABS job with WAMX 3856 goes about working on building up a train that will depart the Crimson City later in the day. The rails that KCS 4049 will promptly rattle once belonged to the ol Belle for the better part of a decade but the line has seen numerous owners over its 121 year existence. In 1896 the Mobile & Ohio Railroad began construction on a proposed line to run from Columbus, MS to an unknown but determined terminus in Florida. The M&O’s dreams of reaching Florida via the line weren’t to be however. The line did make it as far south as Montgomery, AL and opened on 6/30/1898. In 1940 after having fallen on hard times as many post depression era railroads would, the M&O merged with the Gulf, Mobile & Northern becoming the GM&O. In 1972 the GM&O and Illinois Central would cast lustfull eyes at one another and afterwards would become the ICG. The ICG just didn’t have a heart of good intentions and the GM&O should have been a Jesse James... ”There ain’t no good in an evil hearted woman...nawwww.” By 1986, Illinois Central had mostly accomplished what it set out to do with the GM&O which would be to acquire the competition and starve it out of existence. What lines weren’t abandoned were left mostly neglected. So that year ICG began casting off redundant trackage to save money. Apparently their hasty appetite to silence a competitor had a nasty reverse effect and their very arrogance had the very nasty habit of taking them they way of the Do Do bird as they had visited upon the GM&O. Play stupid games and win stupid prizes never seemed to be a mantra ICG kept close at heart. Bemoaning aside, in 1986 the line would become part of the Gulf & Mississippi which took over most of ICG’s surviving former GM&O trackage in Mississippi and Alabama. At some point later the trackage from Tuscaloosa south for Montgomery would be pulled up for good with part of it sold to NS. But wait, there’s more! If the line hadn’t already been through enough hands, change was in the wind in 1988 yet again. The MidSouth Railcorp, itself a 1986 ICG spinoff coming mostly from the sell off of its Shreveport, LA to Meridian, MS line, bought the fledgling G&M and operated it as it’s SouthRail subsidiary. But wait, if you order within the next 30 minutes.... In 1993 KCS began courting the MSRC and on 1/1/1994 would acquire the line. Within a decade the old Paducah built GP10’s that had ruled the roost on the line for so long over the past 35+ years would be silenced for good giving way to newer KCS Geeps. Yet even this wasn’t to last long. But if you order with your credit card.... In November 2004, the well used and tired line would be leased to Watco to form their Alabama Southern. Initial operations began on the 20th that month and for a while ran with a ragtag of worn lease fleet engines and those on loan from former parent KCS. In time things would even out operation and power wise and a sea of black and yellow would flood the line in ever increasing numbers. The line, though having experienced many owners over the years, has experienced little change to itself aside from the Montgomery portion being cast off. Most of the line between Artesia and Tuscaloosa in the past decade has finally gotten the long overdue overhauling it needed for so many years dating back to the ICG era. It now sports a rehabbed roadbed and the stick rail the GP10’s wobbled along has given way to mostly welded rail. Having had many owners over the years it would only be a matter of time before an about face would grace the rails if even only to cross them for just a moment.

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  • Published 10.18.21
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