Pensacola Line History

Discussion in 'Pensacola Subdivision' started by mike, Sep 14, 2001.

  1. mike

    mike Guest



    Brief History:

    In the late 1800s and early 1900s the ST. LOUIS-SAN FRANCISCO RY. CO. known as the Frisco was engaged in a series of expansions. These expansions are well covered in several publications. At one time or another the Frisco owned lines to Chicago, California, New Orleans, Houston, Galveston and Brownsville, TX and either controlled or was a part of the CEI, CRIP, Gulf Coast Lines and ATSF. By the early 1920s the Frisco had lost most of these lines and was trying to expand through acquisition and construction. One of these expansion plans involved an outlet to a Port (having lost the line to New Orleans prior to 1920). However, most of these ventures did not pan out and Frisco was forced to sell or abandon many of its grand plans for expansion. There appears to have been one last attempt at expansion in the mid to late 1920s with the Frisco looking to expand in several different directions in the Southeast and Southwest. One plan, the Frisco's long-standing dream of an outlet to the Gulf of Mexico, was finally realized with the completion of the line to Pensacola, Florida in July 1928.

    To finalize this dream the Frisco purchased the Muscle Shoals, Birmingham and Pensacola Railroad, on July 7, 1925, although responsibility for operating the line was not assumed until a later date. This line extended from Pensacola, Florida North to Kimbrough, Alabama a distance of about 143 miles and included port facilities consisting of docks, warehouses and water front property in Pensacola. The line, originally known as the Gulf, Florida and Alabama railroad, was constructed in the early to mid teens of the twentieth century.

    To connect with this isolated line Frisco constructed a new railroad from Aberdeen Junction to Kimbrough, Alabama known locally as the "New Line, R-Line or Mud Line" depending on who one talked to. This line was completed in July 1928 and was the last major new track expansion project on the Frisco until the early 1960s when the "Lead Line" was constructed between Lead Junction and Viburnum, Missouri.

    Originally this "New Line" was projected to run from Glenn Allen, Alabama on the Birmingham Subdivision, a distance of 146 miles south to Kimbrough, Alabama passing through rich coalfields and the city of Tuscaloosa, Alabama. As built, the "New Line" left the Amory to Aberdeen Branch at a point named Aberdeen Junction on the east side of the Tombigbee River following the east side of the Tombigbee River to Demopolis, Alabama and then veering off toward the Southeast to Kimbrough, Alabama. The short portion between Aberdeen Junction and Aberdeen then became the Aberdeen Branch. A crew change point was established at Magnolia, Alabama, which was 153.1 miles South of Amory and 150.7 miles North of Pensacola, the total length of line being 303.8 miles.

    Magnolia was a lonely place with very few facilities. In the late forties or early fifties Frisco built a lodging facility and restaurant to accommodate the crews. Since there was no fresh water available in Magnolia (even with deep wells) all water was hauled from Pensacola by tank car until 1977. In 1977, after a donation from the Frisco coupled with Federal funding, a community pipeline was built to the nearest source of water and it was no longer necessary to haul water to Magnolia. In the 1980s the lodging facility and restaurant was closed and crews taxied to a nearby motel.

    The Pensacola line crosses two major waterways. The Black Warrior River (Br. R728.9, 3277 feet long) North of Demopolis, Alabama on an automated lift span and the Alabama River (Br. R783.7, 3398 feet long) South of Kimbrough Alabama River on a turn span which requires 24-hr. bridge tenders. The automated lift span is/was always in the up position until a train approaches the bridge, then if no boats are present, the bridge automatically lowers so that the train passes over and then raises to the up position again. The turn span is/was always lined for the railroad and boats had to call the bridge tender to open the bridge for river traffic.

    The new track was constructed with minimal curvature and grades although flooding along the Tombigbee River was a factor to be contended with almost on an annual basis and a section of the line between Linden, Alabama and Magnolia, Alabama was built on very unstable soil requiring perennial slow orders. Interestingly enough most of the flooding problems would be resolved with construction of the Tenn - Tom Waterway in the early 1980s. The Tenn -Tom Waterway involved the relocation of five miles of main track to the North of Aberdeen Junction and a 3.4 mile spur to Aberdeen with a new bridge across the Tombigbee River connecting with the old Aberdeen Branch on the west side of the river.

    The portion of track belonging to the Muscle Shoals, Birmingham and Pensacola Railroad was built to a lower standard with the section between Hybart and Mexia having several seven and eight degree curves, some being back to back, and .8% grades. Also, a short 1.24% north bound grade and 1.06% south bound grade in the 881 mile North of Barrineau Park, Florida.

    There were/are many chemical plants and paper mills along this line with chip and/or pulp wood loading occurring at almost every station. When operated by the Frisco interchanges were with the Southern at Boligee, Demopolis and Kimbrough, Alabama and with the L&N at Linden, Hybart and Atmore, Alabama, and Cantonment and Pensacola, Florida. The Columbus and Greenville, Southern and GM&O interchanged at Columbus, Mississippi.

    Boligee, Alabama was a major interchange with the Southern RR for traffic to and from New Orleans and Linden, Alabama was a heavy interchange point with the L&N for traffic to and from the paper mill at Myrtlewood, Alabama.

    Connection with the Mobile Subdivision (former AT&N RR) was located at Aliceville, Alabama until August 1973 at which time the connection was moved to Boligee and then over the Southern to York, Alabama. The line also serves Aberdeen, Mississippi, via the Aberdeen Branch (industries included cotton processing, lumber and interchange with the IC RR).

    Facilities, branches and industrial spurs:

    Aberdeen Branch (MP R622.6) covered above, Hamilton Spur (MP R631.0) serving American Potash Company (later Kerr-McGee Chemical Corp.) and International Minerals Corporation , Airport Spur (MP R638.8) serving Columbus AFB, Whitbury Spur (MP R653) serving Hooker Chemical Plant, Aliceville serving the remnants of the AT&N Mobile Sub and Reform Branch, Alabama Power Plant Spur at Centralia (MP R724.7) serving Alabama Power, Wye Spur at Demopolis serving cement plant and interchange with Southern RR., Green Tree Spur (MP R735.6) serving Gulf States paper mill and cyanide plant, small yard with minimal service facilities at Magnolia, Mac Millan Bloedel Spur at Mac Millan serving Mac Millian Bloedel Limited, Spur at Fountain (MP R813.5) serving Alabama River Pulp Co. Inc., Cantonment (MP R898.70) yard and spur serving St. Regis Paper Co.,

    Five industrial leads in Pensacola; the Goulding Branch industrial park lead, lead to the port and L&N connection, branch to the Pensacola Naval Air Station (crossed the Bayou Chico on a Bascule Bridge), lead to the old passenger station and a branch to the Armstrong Cork Plant. The Pensacola Naval Air Station and passenger station branches were mostly inactive by the early to mid 70s with the NAS branch being removed in the mid 70s. Medium size yard with engine service facilities, turntable and small rip track. In steam engine days a small roundhouse which performed minor engine repairs was located at the turntable, the foundations were still visible in the 1970s. The passenger station was gone by mid 1970 but the foundation and tracks were still in place until the late 1970s.

    Frisco owned and maintained port facilities in Pensacola. The pier built shortly after 1900 was sold by the Frisco to the Pensacola Port Authority in 1957 and completely destroyed by fire December 17, 1966. Adjacent facilities owned by the Frisco were not damaged. After that most of the import/export business was handled through the city of Pensacola Port which was served by the L&N RR. Frisco interchanged this business to the L&N in downtown Pensacola. Scrap, Rice, Flour and other agricultural commodities were exported. Commodities handled in Pensacola included scrap, chemicals, wood products and acoustical tile products. There were no unit trains into or out of Pensacola as the export business was handled with the regular scheduled freight service and excess business handled with extras. However, the story goes that during WWII solid Tank Car Trains operated on the Pensacola Line. This may or may not be the case as I have not been able to locate or verify this information. If one looks at the Pensacola Port Folder in one of the images there is a large bulk oil loading/unloading facility and a string of tank cars. This facility existed at least into the early eighties although I observed very little rail activity.

    Train service:

    The "Pensacola Line" consisted of two subdivisions; the Columbus Sub and the Pensacola Sub. Freight Crews changed at Magnolia. Passenger Engine Crews changed at Magnolia with the train crew going all the way - Amory to Pensacola.

    Passenger train service was discontinued February 1, 1955. This train ran between Amory and Pensacola as No. 207 and 208. Trains 207-208 made connections with the Sunnyland (107/223-108) at Amory and at various times train 207-208 was also known as the Sunnyland. In the early days 207-208 carried a Memphis to Pensacola Pullman car and chair car. The Pullman car was later replaced with a unique car that was a combination Pullman, buffet, coach car which was operated independent of the Pullman Company. This car also ran through between Memphis and Pensacola. Sleeping Car Service was discontinued November 3, 1952, and by the time 207-208 was discontinued it was a coach only train with RPO and baggage cars.

    On February 3, 1929, northbound passenger train 908 (208) consisted of one combination mail and baggage car, one coach, one chair car, one Pullman sleeping car and one dining car. August 10, 1939, train 208 consisted of one baggage car, one combination mail baggage car, one combination coach and one coach sleeper. Also, there were occasional extra passenger trains as on August 10, 1939, passenger extra 1034 South with one baggage car, three coaches, one diner and four sleeping cars. (Taken from ICC investigation reports)

    One regular freight train between Amory and Pensacola with extras as needed. One regular freight train between Amory and Mobile via Aliceville and after August 1973 via Boligee with extras and unit trains to and from Mobile as needed.

    In the 1970s locals ran as follows. Hamilton Local served industries Amory to Columbus including IMC and American Potash at Hamilton, Aberdeen Branch and return, Columbus local served Columbus and Hooker Chemical at Whitbury to Aliceville and return, Demopolis local served Ala. Power Plant and fertilizer plant at Centralia, Cement Plant and other local industries at Demopolis, paper mill and cyanide plant on the Green Tree Spur and the L&N interchange at Linden, Alabama. Double daily locals worked between Magnolia and Pensacola, two road switcher shifts at Macmillan served the paper mill and particle board plant at Macmillan, interchange with L&N at Hybart and Alabama River Pulp at Fountain, two Cantonment road switchers working out of Pensacola served St. Regis paper mill at Cantonment, Florida, Goulding spur and return, three yard switching shifts at Pensacola and other locals/road switchers as business warranted.

    Today the Pensacola line is operated by the BNSF to Kimbrough at which point Mobile Trains enter and leave the NS RR. Kimbrough to Pensacola is operated by the A&GC RR. So, in a way the old MSB&P Railroad has returned to its original roots.

    SOURCE - Frisco Files & All Aboards
    Mike Lutzenberger
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 21, 2006
    Steve Hunt likes this.
  2. yardmaster

    yardmaster Administrator Staff Member Administrator Supporter

    Rolling through some of the old "Frisco Employees Magazines" from the Springfield-Greene Co. Library, I found some interesting tidbits on the opening of Frisco service to Pensacola.

    The August, 1928 edition devotes nearly the first half of the issue to the official ceremonial opening of the Aberdeen MS to Pensacola FL line, noting in the headline article THE FRISCO MEETS THE GULF that "The Crowning achievement of the Frisco Lines...was celebrated the week of June 25-30."

    The $13,000,000 project was touted as the largest rail-laying project undertaken in America since the World War.

    On the morning of June 26, 230 business men, shippers, newspaper men and rail officials left Memphis on two sections of the "Pensacola Special" behind two 1500-class Mountains. A half-hour stop followed at Amory for a power change to "...the lighter but doughty 'Russians."

    The journey south resumed at 2:00pm with a 3:00pm arrival in Aberdeen MS for an auto parade and a welcome ceremony. The trains then departed at 5pm for Columbus MS, arriving at 745pm for the night.

    The trains them departurd at 4am June 27 from Columbus and arrived at the "...Frisco's own piers [at Pensacola] at 9:15pm."

    At 9am the morning of June 28th two all-Pullman trains "...steamed their way majestically through Pensacola's outskirts to the old Muscle Shoals, Birmingham and Pensacola freight station in the heard of the city" and commenced a full day's worth of ceremonies, before returning north the next day, stopping in Demopolis, AL for ceremonies.

    A separate article listing engine assignments and crew membersdon't jive with the article's aforementioned reference to the Russians; rather, the engine assignment list shows an amalgam of 4-6-0 types as follows:

    Pensacola Special - 2 sections from Memphis - Pensacola

    Pensacola Special
    First Section - Engine 710
    Second Section - Engine 705

    Excursion Trains - 3 sections from Amory, MS to Pensacola, FL
    1st Section - Engine 698
    2nd Section - Engine 1106
    3rd Section - Engine 1108
  3. John Markl

    John Markl Member

    We used to have lotsa fun smearing block lard on the northbound grade to the flyover that crossed the L&N in Atmore.

    At 9 cents a block it was cheap fun. A northbound out of Pensacola usually hit Atmore between 9 and 10 pm during the mid-70's.

    About once a month, we'd see an old black and yellow Geep. Otherwise, it was a steady diet of GP38s.

    I moved to Sherman, TX in 1977, where I never saw a b/y Frisco unit, but I did get acquainted with SD45's and GE road power.
  4. flatlandflyer

    flatlandflyer Member

    very informative overview of the pensacola line!!
  5. rroebuck

    rroebuck Member

    I am new to and hope I am posting in the right place. I am very interested in the Frisco line as it passes through a small town in Greene County, Alabama. I assume this would be the line out of Tuscaloosa going to Demopolis. A photo of the Forkland, Alabama depot would be great! If anyone knows of resources, I would appreciate the information.
    Thanks, roebuck
  6. frisco_lines

    frisco_lines Member

    This is a picture of Frisco #710 at Demopolis pulling the Pensacola Special on the return trip north. The date is June 29, 1928. Picture is from my collection.

    Attached Files:

Share This Page