Discussion in 'Birmingham Subdivision' started by PaulJ, Oct 22, 2006.

  1. PaulJ

    PaulJ Member

    I am doing an article for the Illinois Central Historical Society on this branch and was wondering if anyone ever saw a picture of an IC train running on the Frisco between Winfield, Al and Aberdeen, MS during the steam days. I am told they had trackage rights on this branch. Also, how often did the Frisco and BN use this branch until the time of abandoment?
    Thanks Much
  2. kenmc

    kenmc KenMc Supporter

    I have a copy of the IC Employees' Magazine from the early 1950's that has an article on this branch. It was a totally isolated IC branch; as I recall, the IC did not have trackage rights over the Frisco but had a steam engine dedicated to the branch in captive service. All traffic was interchanged with the Frisco. As I recall, the Frisco had to move the engine over its line when it needed maintenance.

    I will look up the magazine and confirm this information. It did contain at least one photograph, as I recall.

    Ken McElreath
  3. kenmc

    kenmc KenMc Supporter

    Last night I found the IC Employee's magazine for November, 1950. It had a feature article on the Mississippi Division of the IC, which included the isolated (later Frisco Brilliant Branch) line, called the Winfield District by the IC.

    According to the magazine article, the District was ten miles long, through hilly country from Winfield to Brilliant, where a daily freight served two coal mines. The mines were of the electrified drift type, dug in the side of the hills to follow a thin but rich seam of coal, low in ash. The engine. a low-drivered Pacific (4-6-2) type, was kept at Winfield. Because of the low daily mileage, it rarely ran up the 75,000 miles between classified repairs.

    The District was originally supposed to be part of a through line from Aberdeen MS, chartered as the Canton, Aberdeen and Nashville Railroad. The IC had agreements for trackage rights over the entire line from its connection at Aberdeen. Only this section was completed and opened in June 1898, and the IC eventually acquired it (probably by default.)

    Sometime in the 1950's the IC transfered ownership to the Frisco, because the Frisco 1948 Employee Timetable does not have the Brilliant Branch listed, but the 1962 ETT does.

    The article has two photographs, one showing the IC Haleyville Roundhouse foreman inspecting the engine at Winfield, and the other showing an operator at some station handing up orders to the conductor of the freight train as it backs down the line, caboose first, then engine, with about ten hopper cars. The caboose has side doors and no cupola.

    All in all, very interesting.

    Ken McElreath
  4. dennis nabors

    dennis nabors Member


    I worked summers going through college as a brakeman on the Frisco, and much of the work I did was to fill in on the more difficult jobs (off of the extra board). One of those jobs was the local switcher from Birmingham to Amory and back the next day. That was when we had the 16 hr time of service law and many times were "caught" outside of Amory in a side track and had to leave the train and be picked up by an agent. Many times I worked and switched the Brilliant Branch. It was like stepping back in time. It was a world you never see. We used our regular road engine, rarely more than one, to go into the branch and into the coal mines. There was a very slow or restricted speed limit on the track because it was in more dilapidated condition than the main line. As I recall I do not think more than one engine was allowed in there too. It was like stepping back into a different century.

    Dennis Nabors
  5. wolf1950

    wolf1950 Member

    I worked a Winfield Switcher back in the late 70's. We would go out to Brilliant to a spur were they loaded about 10 to 12 cars of coal.
    We would go out maybe twice a week. Pull the cars to Winfield an line them up to be picked up by a North Bound Freight.
    When the track was abandoned where you went out on the branch was used as a loading track for pulpwood.
    I worked that wood yard in the 90's an the branch had been abandoned by then.
    I use to know a gentleman who said his Father in Law worked on the IC an ran down this Branch. That had to be in the 40's an 50's. Maybe the 30's.
    Hope this helps
    Billy Collins
    Locomotive Engineer
  6. nickmolo

    nickmolo Member


    Why were the loads lined up for a northbound train ( I presume the BY-AY local). I would have thought that coal would have been headed to Birmingham for the industries there.

    Thanks Nick Molo
  7. trainchaser007

    trainchaser007 Passed away September 22, 2017

    According to my research on the Brilliant branch, the line was the only constructed segment of what was to be an I.C. line from Columbus, MS - Vernon, AL - Winfield, AL - Brilliant, AL - and eventually Huntsville, AL. I have found old "proposed" railroad maps from the 1890's with the poposed line on the map. The coal industry in Brilliant was the reason for this part to be built first. Sadly the ammount of coal was far less than what the I.C. was originally told. I remember the crossing on the highway in Winfield in the early 80's. The line has been completely torn up. I have located the old right-of-way at every former road crossing possible. The right-of-way is still relatively clear for the ammount of time that has passed. I even drove on part of it on what is now a farm road out to an old RR bridge that stretches about half-way across the creek that the RR basically followed to Brilliant. It's sad to see the line abandoned. The line crossed hwy 129 at Brilliant about 40 feet north of the hwy 44 interchange. Part of the right-of-way in Winfield is now a street near Winfield Middle School. The closest road to the route (for the length of the route) is County Rd. 47.
  8. trainchaser007

    trainchaser007 Passed away September 22, 2017

    Here are 3 websites I found (again) with history of the Brilliant Branch.

    1. A map of the proposed Canton, Aberdeen, and Nashville dated 1860's.
    The "N" in "MARION" (County) is very close to where Brilliant is today.

    2. This article from,, which state, "The Canton, Aberdeen & Nashville was incorporated on February 17, 1882, as a subsidiary of the Illinois Central to acquire the branch already built in 1874 from Durant to Kosciusko and extend it to Aberdeen and eventually to Nashville, TN. It was completed as far as Aberdeen in 1888. A short disconnected section was also built from Winfield to Brilliant, AL to serve several coal mines."

    3. An article from the Aug. 9, 1898 edition of the New York Times concerning a charter for the line in Alabama.

    Also, in the book, Lamar County, Alabama : a history to 1900 / by Rose Marie Smith, there is a passage that tells that the roadbed for the CA&N railroad was prepared just outside of Vernon, AL (about half way between Aberdeen & Winfield). The citizens of Vernon were exited after seeing the growth of Sulligent from the KCM&B to the north and the growth of Millport from the Georgia-Pacific to the south. However, rail was never laid.
  9. wolf1950

    wolf1950 Member

    Did you ask me about a engine named "Old Maud" on the IC. I have not been on here in a long time and I did have a fellow Engineer send me a picture of "Old Maud" that was in a local paper there in Winfield. Sorry if I did not get back to you. Working on the railroad is a full time job!! Now I will have to go back and see if I have that picture.
    Billy Collins
  10. trainchaser007

    trainchaser007 Passed away September 22, 2017

    I'm the band director at Brilliant HS. There is a picture of the IC's Old Maud in the hospital in Winfield. They have several old photos in the hallway. They have a picture of the old Frisco water tank with a Frisco mallet. Seems like I remember Old Maud being a 4-4-0 but I'm not even close to being certain.
  11. frisco1522

    frisco1522 Staff Member Staff Member

    I'd be interested in seeing the Frisco water tank/mallet if you can either scan it or take a good picture of it.
  12. trainchaser007

    trainchaser007 Passed away September 22, 2017

  13. yardmaster

    yardmaster Administrator Staff Member Administrator Supporter

    Anyone able to make out the number on the "Malley?" The leaking steam seems to corroborate that which I've read about the Frisco articulateds.

    Best Regards,
  14. trainchaser007

    trainchaser007 Passed away September 22, 2017

    I have a strange thing for trying to track down old railroad beds. I don't really know why? Anyway here are some pics I got from google maps of locations where I've located the old Brilliant Brach ROW.
    1. Looking North from Marion County Road 14. 2. Looking North from Marion County Road 47. 3. Looking South from Marion County Road 47.

    Brilliant Branch 1.jpg Brilliant Branch 2.jpg Brilliant Branch 3.jpg
  15. trainchaser007

    trainchaser007 Passed away September 22, 2017

    Here's an article I just stumbled upon from the May 27, 1903 edition of the Boston Evening Transcript that gives insite into the IC's plans for the segment of the Canton, Aberdeen & Nashville that would later become the Frisco's Brilliant Branch. At the time of the article, the line was under the control of IC as the last segment under the name of the Canton, Aberdeen, & Nashville. The line was constructed from Canton, MS to Aberdeen, MS. When coal was discovered at Brilliant, AL, the CA&N rushed to tap into the coal business by connecting Brilliant mines with the KCM&B (later Frisco) at Winfield, AL with plans to come back and connect Aberdeen to Winfield and then eventually to Nashville. The line was supposed to connect Canton, MS to Nashville, TN by way of Aberdeen (MS), Vernon (AL), Winfield, Brilliant, Double Springs, Tuscumbia, & Sheffield (AL). I live in Sulligent, AL (on the B'ham sub) which is in Lamar County. Lamar County historians have written that the CA&N built roadbed between Aberdeen & Winfield near Vernon (the county seat) but that was as far as the project ever got. I thought this Boston Evening Transcript article from 5/27/1903 that I stumbled on would interest others who share my interest in the history of the old Brilliant Branch of the Frisco.,3799519
  16. red_holcomb

    red_holcomb Member

    I grew up in Brilliant and I can remember seeing those Frisco hoppers being pushed up the line with a Frisco diesel unit doing the pushing. It was in the late 70's and I was about 5 years old. I was at a babysitter one time who happen to live on Highway 44 near Brilliant where it dead ended into Highway 129. The tracks were right across the street from her house and one day the train come rolling in backwards and I got so excited that I peed in my pants trying to get to the front porch to watch. When my mom got there to pick me up she didn't share my excitement and I got my tail whipped! Another time I remember is we were coming home from Winfield and at the 129 crossing the an engine had derailed. I wish I knew someone that had some pictures of some Frisco action on the Brilliant Branch.
  17. red_holcomb

    red_holcomb Member

    Just imagine what could have been!
  18. red_holcomb

    red_holcomb Member

    I'm the same way! I stay on Google Earth quite a bit looking for old railroad beds. In the mid eighties we lived in a house next to the crossing on Highway 44. Trains had stopped running but the tracks were still there at the time.
  19. trainchaser007

    trainchaser007 Passed away September 22, 2017

    A google search led me to this article today:

    1983 is mentioned as the year of abandonment which lines up perfectly with my (very young) memories of the hwy 118 (then US 78) crossing. The crossing was very rough by car due to it's poorly maintained condition. I didn't know there was still some rail in the area until I saw pictures from the article. I'll be visiting that sight soon. Overall, a very nice article on the Brilliant Branch.

    Interestingly, this forum is sited among the sources for the article although I cannot seem to find the name of the author.

    - Brandon
  20. Equus

    Equus Member

    I'm the author of the linked article. I found this very thread one of the best resources on the whole Internet for writing that piece, though I wasn't a member here until recently. It really helped put together some pieces when I visited Winfield and Brilliant a couple years back to take the photos.
    trainchaser007 likes this.

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