Not ten years had passed since the collapse and abandonment of the New Orleans & Nashville RR than another attempt arose to succeed joining by railroad the City with the old northwest, the Great Lakes, and the promising midsection of the US. Act 148 of the Louisiana legislature, passed April 22, 1853, incorporated the New Orleans Jackson & Great Northern RR Co. (Incorporation dates earlier in Mississippi, February 25, 1852, and in Tennessee, March 11, 1852.) More than one railroad was involved. The Illinois portion from Chicago to Cairo, Ill. was organized in 1851 — the Illinois Central RR Co.
The NOJ&GN's charter allowed the road to build north to a few miles above Jackson, to Canton, Miss. There the “Great Northern” would connect with the original Mississippi Central RR, incorporated to build north through Memphis, Tenn. to E. Cairo, Kentucky. The next connecting railroad was the Illinois Central, carrying the project to Chicago. The IC had its charter accepted in 1851, but was still under construction. The result of these plans was an almost curve-less trunk line railroad from Chicago to the nation's second busiest port, New Orleans. Much of the project at first raised capital locally by stock subscriptions, but soon the joint undertaking encountered high costs. Government loans were available, fortunately.
The long grade and bridgework across Pass Manchac was completed and the bridge opened in May 1854 (DP 5/18/1854). (President Jackson's annulment of the Central Bank and the subsequent regional bank failures and species shortage denied the first railroad's attempt.) Cars were slow to arrive from builders, but somewhat of a service began to the Mississippi line with a mixed train daily (DP 10/22/1854). Two “coaches from Cincinnati” had just arrived (DP 10/10/1854). These probably were DT arch roof cars similar to those most roads were buying at the time. According to White's research, the monitor roof and RR roof style cars would not dominate for another decade (JW, Section One, “The Day Coach in the Wooden Car Era”, representative cars pp. 50 ff., especially pp. 75 ff.). An article in the Daily Picayune of Nov. 12, 1854 remarked that these were “the common car ... built in Cincinnati.” It is a good possibility that these cars were built by the same builder as those 1853 cars for the New Orleans Opelousas & Great Western RR (which see). (See NOO&GW RR, page f, second paragraph, for additional research on passenger car builders and possible routing of shipments for the equipment.) Regular passenger service to Jackson came eight days later (DP 11/21/1854). A substantial passenger depot was located in New Orleans at Calliope & Clara (DP 12/5/1855).
The Illinois Central RR had reached Cairo by the end of 1854 (DP 1/21/1855), but some construction between Cairo and Canton remained. The Civil War had barely begun when through service was possible to Chicago. The war was a series of horrendous disasters for the trackage and equipment in Mississippi and Louisiana. After hostilities ceased, the damage had reduced a well-built heavy railroad of 49 locomotives, 37 passenger coaches, and handsome stations and locomotive repair facilities to literally heaps of rubble. All stations had been burned except Osyka, Magnolia, and Summit. At New Orleans, only one locomotive and 18 miscellaneous cars were returned to the RR in working order! Up and down the line, skeletons of burned cars and rusted remnants of locomotives littered miles of roadbed with twisted rails and burned crossties.
The seemingly impossible task of rejuvenating the “Great Northern” to operating condition fell to Gen. P. G. T. Beauregard (see New Orleans & Carrollton RR). The trackage was rebuilt and a tri-weekly mixed train began running Jan. 20, 1866. Daily service began March 12 the same year. Gen. Beauregard advanced from General Superintendent and Chief Engineer to the President's chair in 1866 (DP 3/7/1866). In Dec. 1866, Raoul Sons & Wadley's Southern Car Works of Independence, Miss. delivered 30 box cars to the road. Chicago trains were hauling Pullman Palace cars to New Orleans after 1871.
Then came the post-war depression, beginning in 1873. Gen. Beauregard had gone to the New Orleans & Carrollton RR Co., while the syndicate of Harriman and Fish got control of the “Great Northern.” By 1878, control and ownership of the several railroads, all the way from Cairo to New Orleans, were securely in the hands of Misters Harriman and Fish. The fully matured Illinois Central RR Co. had arrived.
The railroad “barons and tycoons” such as Harriman and Fish were not negligent with their properties. Great improvements came. McComb, Miss. facilities were developed and enlarged. A car shop there began building “excursion cars” for passenger service (DP 8/2/1885), and the locomotive facility there became well known for building locomotives for its parent road (DP 2/25/1886 mentions the new switchers finished that month). New brick depots were built, and in particular, the large one in Hammond (DP 4/17/1886).
New Orleans had motor car suburban service after 1913 on the N. O.-Kenner-Destrehan runs, joint IC and Y&MV service. It was temporarily discontinued in 1917 (DP 6/10/1917, on this day), but reinstated (see Y&MV).
Copyright © 2015, 2016 Louis C. Hennick. All rights reserved.
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