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Railroad Collection

Identifier: M169

Scope and Contents

Organizational records of the Association of American Railroads; the Gulf, Mobile, and Ohio Railroad; the Mississippi Central Railroad; and the Illinois Central.


  • Creation: circa 1850-1967


Conditions Governing Access

Noncirculating; available for research.

Conditions Governing Use

This collection may be protected from unauthorized copying by the Copyright Law of the United States (Title 17, United States Code).

Biographical / Historical

In about 1830, the first steam engines with enough power to pull heavy loads were built, and from that point on, railroads began to proliferate in the civilized world. Within twenty years, railroads had become the most important mode of land transportation in the world, and were a major factor in the growth and development of the United States. The United States rail industry is, to a large degree, privately owned and operated, and remains a vital force in the nation's economy. Railroads account for up to forty percent of the nation's intercity freight traffic, and are the predominant means for transporting coal, grain and new motor vehicles.

Materials in the Railroad Collection pertain to four individual entities - The Association of American Railroads; The Mississippi Central Railroad Company; The Gulf, Mobile & Ohio Railroad Company; and The Illinois Central Railroad Company.

The Association of American Railroads

The Association of American Railroads (AAR), with headquarters in Washington, D.C., is an organization created to benefit its member railroads and the railroad industry as a whole. It is an outgrowth of various predecessor groups, most notably the American Railway Association, which was founded in 1891. The AAR represents the major freight railroads of North America and Amtrak, and directs its efforts and resources toward helping to make the rail industry safe, efficient and productive, as well as advocating the interests of the railroads regarding public policy. According to a statement issued by current AAR president and CEO Edward R. Hamberger on July 20, 2001, "U.S. railroads are regarded as the most efficient and safest freight railroads in the world."

The Mississippi Central Railroad

The Mississippi Central Railroad (not to be confused with the north-south antebellum railroad of the same name) began its existence in 1897, as a logging railroad built by the J.J. Newman Lumber Company of Hattiesburg, Mississippi. Named the Pearl & Leaf Rivers Railroad Company, the line ran from Hattiesburg to Sumrall. In March of 1904 the company was reorganized and its name was changed to the Mississippi Central Railroad (MC). In 1909 the MC absorbed the Natchez & Eastern Railway, a 66-mile line from Natchez that connected with the MC at Brookhaven, Mississippi. The line had been held by MC under a lease agreement since 1908, and following its absorption, the MC was nicknamed "The Natchez Route." The MC laid tracks to Camp Shelby (near Hattiesburg) during World Wars I & II, over which troops and supplies were transported. After discontinuing its unprofitable passenger service in 1941, the MC prospered through the mid 1950s. Unfortunately the company went into a decline in the early 1960s, and began looking for a buyer. The line was eventually sold to the Illinois Central Railroad, and the deal was finalized on March 29, 1967. In 1970 the last vestiges of the MC - the office and shop buildings in Hattiesburg - were demolished.

The Gulf, Mobile & Ohio Railroad

The Gulf, Mobile & Ohio Railroad (GM&O) resulted from a merger of the Gulf, Mobile & Northern and the Mobile & Ohio Railroads in 1940. The merger created a north-south railroad that linked St. Louis, Missouri with New Orleans, Mobile and Montgomery. The GM&O later purchased the Alton Railroad, which provided access to Chicago and Kansas City. The line operated a streamlined passenger train called "The Rebel" from St. Louis to New Orleans. In 1972 the GM&O merged with the Illinois Central Railroad to form the Illinois Central Gulf.

The Illinois Central Railroad

The Illinois Central Railroad (IC) was chartered in 1851 to build a railroad from Cairo, Illinois to Galena, Illinois, with a branch from Centralia to Chicago. The line was completed in 1856, and after almost a century and a half, the IC is the only major rail carrier in the United States still operating essentially under its original name. By 1872 this north-south route had extended its rails all the way to the Gulf of Mexico. After merging with the parallel north-south route, the Gulf, Mobile & Ohio Railroad in 1972, the IC's name was changed to Illinois Central Gulf. However, by 1990, ownership of the road had been returned to individual shareholders, and the name Illinois Central was restored.

In 1900 the Illinois Central achieved worldwide fame due to a relatively minor train wreck at Vaughn, Mississippi. An engine-wiper named Wallace Sanders wrote a song about the incident and the engineer, John Luther "Casey" Jones, who was killed in the wreck.


535 Cubic Feet

Language of Materials



The records in the Railroad Collection document various aspects of the national railroad industry from approximately 1850 to 1967. The collection is divided into four series, each of which contains several subseries:

Series I: The Association of American Railroads (301 cubic feet)

Series II: The Mississippi Central Railroad (165 cubic feet)

Series III: The Gulf, Mobile & Ohio Railroad (56 cubic feet)

Series IV: The Illinois Central Railroad, Vicksburg Division (13.5 cubic feet)

Series I contains the records of the Presidents' Conference Committee of the Association of American Railroads. The series is divided into twenty-six subseries which contain correspondence, pamphlets, photographs and other records that reflect practically every aspect of railroading in the United States. Of particular interest are the files on the federal valuation of railroads. The Valuation Act of 1913 was designed to determine the value of carrier transportation property. Following this and the Transportation Act of 1920, the Interstate Commerce Commission set about the task of making rate adjustments according to the valuations. To facilitate valuation work, the Presidents' Conference Committee divided the U.S. railroads into Eastern, Western and Southern Groups. The work of these groups and the Presidents' Conference Committee is evident in the Association of American Railroads collection. Inclusive dates in this series are circa 1914 - 1937. Subseries in Series I are:

A. General Valuation Files (1914-1932): Engineering Reports, Accounting Section Reports, Tentative Valuation Reports, Protests, and Correspondence. Files are arranged alphabetically, by name of railroad.

B. Correspondence (1914-1937): Correspondence with officials of the railroad industry on subjects relating to valuation procedures. Topics of discussion include depreciation, the Valuation Act of 1913, specific valuation orders, cost of reproduction, and the work of various committees. Files are listed by number and subject.

C. Numbered Publications Files (1914-1934): Publications and reports of the Presidents' Conference Committee and related committees, railroad associations, and individual railroads. Publications are listed by number. A series of un-numbered publications are listed at the end of this subseries.

D. Circular Communications (1922-1935): Circular communications to chairmen of valuation committees, issued regularly by the Office of the Secretary. Items are arranged by date of issue.

E. Exhibits (1917-1932): Numbered exhibits (generally printed documents) containing information relating to valuation hearings.

F. Additions and Betterments (1915-1931): Charges and credits to investment in road and equipment accounts. Materials are arranged by region.

G. Abstracts of Contracts (1915-1931): Carrier, contractor, contract dates, description and location of work, conditions, estimates, expenditures to date for individual projects. Materials are arranged by state.

H. Cost Data Committee and Subcommittees (1915-1925): Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad cost data (1915); land acquisition cost in Pittsburgh-Chicago area (1919); Western Group engineering cost report (19190; range of prices in Pittsburgh-Chicago District (1925); historical costs of development of Gulf coast Lines (ca. 1925).

I. Equipment Data (1914-1930): Reports relating to costs of rail, pipe, bridges, ties, and assorted machinery. Also, reports regarding service life of equipment. Files are arranged alphabetically, by subject.

J. Fence Data (1910-1930): Procedures for typing fences in the Northeastern United States (1917); progress report of Western Group subcommittee on fences (1920); freight rates on fence wire (1927); and reports on barbed & woven wire, fence posts, and labor costs related to fence construction.

K. Foundation and Excavation Data (1917-1931): Cost of wet and dry excavation of various projects. Also, includes information on cofferdam construction projects.

L. Grading Files (1922-1930): Grading Committee correspondence; responses to cost data questionnaires; general grading cost information. Files are arranged by number, and include several un-numbered files at the end of the subseries.

M. Land Files (1916-1935): Acquisition, appraisal, interest during construction, and land forms used by the Presidents' Conference Committee. Files are arranged alphabetically.

N. Minutes of Meetings (1914-1931): The General Secretary's copies of minutes of meetings of the Presidents' Conference Committee and related committees. Minutes are arranged chronologically, by committee.

O. New Construction Files (1918-1931): Cost and contract data for new construction projects. Files are arranged alphabetically, by railroad.

P. Preliminary Reports (1914-1930): Financial information - including road mileage; track mileage and value of each; carrier land and non-carrier land values; and balance sheet information. Files are arranged by region.

Q. Ratio Studies (1919-1931): Cost comparisons - local projects to regional costs for similar projects. Files are arranged alphabetically, by railroad.

R. Testimony Files (1915-1928): Transcripts of testimony in valuation hearings. Files are arranged alphabetically, by railroad.

S. Tracings for Pamphlets (1918-1926): Tracings for production of Presidents' Conference Committee pamphlets. Files are arranged numerically.

T. Tracklaying and Surfacing Files (1911-1927): Cost data relating to tracklaying and surfacing. Files are arranged alphabetically by railroad.

U. Valuation Digests (undated): Compiled by L.D. McPherson, Valuation Attorney for the Wabash Railroad, these digests contain information on valuation procedures and rulings. Files are arranged alphabetically, by topic.

V. Valuation Order #3 (1916-1936): Correspondence, primarily between the General Secretary and officers of various railroad, relating to valuation accounting procedures.

W. Tentative Valuations and Range of Prices (1920-1930): Data from Dunn and Bradstreet, Babson, etc, and from railroads on range of prices and tentative valuations.

X. Eastern Group Subject Files (1917-1931): Correspondence of H.E. Hale, Vice Chairman of the Eastern Group, with various railroad officials; minutes of meetings; requests from railroads; and office copies of reports. H.E. Hale was formerly the Eastern Group Engineer. Files are arranged by number.

Y. Western Group Subject Files (1922-1935): Western Group office files, including reports and correspondence of F.C. Squire, Western Group Engineer, and H.M. Tremaine, Western Group Assistant Engineer. Files are arranged alphabetically, by subject. Western Group Contract Data (1899-1917): Construction contract data for all railroad projects in Idaho, Kansas, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Dakota, Washington, and Wyoming.

Z. Southern Group (1913-1918) & Miscellaneous: Southern Group voucher and bill register (1913-1918); Illinois Central Railroad plan for U.S. railroad systems consolidation (1929-1930); Railroad Pension Review (1932); "Working on Tracks", a publication of the American Association of Railroads (1964).

Series II is comprised of records of the Mississippi Central Railroad and its predecessors, the Pearl & Leaf Rivers Railroad and the Natchez & Eastern Railroad. Since the MC was headquartered in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, its records are of particular interest on a regional scale. Included are records from the Traffic Department, Office of the Auditor, Office of the Vice President and General Manager, Office of the Superintendent, the United States Construction Company and the United States Railroad Administration. The collection also contains bound ledgers and journals, annual reports, and a series of microfilmed records. The records pertaining to the U.S. Railroad Administration are of particular interest, since the Mississippi Central and all U.S. railroads were under its control during and immediately after World War I. Inclusive dates in this series are circa 1884 - 1967. Series II contains seventeen subseries:

A. Traffic Department (ca. 1907-1962): Solicitation (of business) reports from general agents; traffic interchange reports; Mississippi Central Round Table (employee newsletter); correspondence relating to handling of U.S. Mail; freight commodity statistics; special trains (including troop movements during World War II, and circus movements).

B. Office of the Auditor (ca. 1906-1966): Freight and passenger statistics; traveling and auditor's reports; payroll records; operating statistics; and tax, revenue and expense data. Files are arranged numerically, by file number.

C. Office of the Vice President & General Manager (ca. 1903-1948): Correspondence of V.P. and General Manager, particularly Roland K. Smith, who held the position from 1907-1917. Topics include employee relations, railroad construction and maintenance, claims against the railroad, lease agreements, and personal matters. Files are arranged numerically, by file number.

D. Office of the Superintendent (ca. 1906-1958): Maintenance and personnel records. Files are arranged numerically, by file numbers.

E. Office of the Chief Engineer (ca. 1906-1967): Grading, trackside structures, ballasting, ditching, valuation data, and accident reports. Files are arranged numerically, by file number.

F. United States Construction Company (1907-1915): Monthly construction estimates (1902-1915) for the Natchez & Eastern, Pearl & Leaf Rivers, and Mississippi Central Railroads. Also includes related correspondence.

G. Office of the Roadmaster (1913-1920): Accident and derailment reports; company material data. Files are arranged alphabetically.

H. United States Railroad Administration (1917-1920): Papers relating to operation of the railroad during and after World War I. Files are arranged numerically, by file number.

I. General Freight and Passenger Department (1906-1945): Files are arranged numerically, by file number.

J. Annual Reports (1903-1961): Annual reports of the Pearl & Leaf River Railroad and the Mississippi Central Railroad.

K. Field Survey Books: Survey notebooks kept by various departments of the Pearl & Leaf River, Mississippi Central, and Natchez & Eastern Railroads.

L. Miscellaneous Materials (ca. 1905-1965): Bank books, ink blotters, pamphlets, photographs, safety awards, time tables, union agreements, etc.

M. Bound Journals and Ledgers (ca. 1884-1963): Corporate Ledgers, Federal Ledgers, Cash Books, Payroll Ledgers, Federal Journals, numbered journals, Personal Injury Ledgers, etc., of the Mississippi Central, Pearl & Leaf River, and Chicago and Alton Railroads. Also includes ledgers and journals of the United States Construction Company.

N. Oversize Materials from the Office of the Auditor

O. Oversize Materials from the Office of the chief Engineer

P. Microfilm (ca. 1880-1963): Microfilm of various ledgers, cash books, account records, invoices, and other materials.

Q. Memorabilia

Series III consists of records of the Gulf, Mobile & Ohio Railroad and the two railroads from which it evolved - the Mobile & Ohio and the Gulf, Mobile & Northern Railroads. Records in this series are from the Accounting Department, the Office of the Comptroller, the Publicity Department, and the Office of the Vice president and General Manager. The series also contains numerous annual reports, and a sizeable collection of rolling stock blueprints. One of the more interesting components of this series is a collection of employee newsletters - GM&N News (1923-1938) and Rebel Route News (1940-1943). Inclusive dates are circa 1869 - 1965, however the majority of the materials are from the twentieth century. Series III contains nine subseries:

A. Accounting Department Records - Auditor, Chief Accounting Officer, and Receivers (ca. 1870-1941): Alphabetically arranged office files.

B. Office of the Comptroller (1917-1940): Alphabetically arranged office files.

C. Publicity Department - Sheridan's Files (1923-1943): Correspondence, employee newsletters, photographs, publicity releases, lists of named passenger trains and streamlined trains in the United States, etc.

D. Office of the Vice president and General Manager (1929-1937): News clippings, reviews of operating and traffic conditions, and correspondence and publicity releases regarding GM&N President, I.B. Tigrett.

E. Accounting Department (ca. 1869-1965): Files are arranged alphabetically, by subject.

F. Mobile & Ohio Railroad - Rolling Stock Blueprints (ca. 1897-1925)

G. Gulf, Mobile & Northern Railroad - Oversize Materials (ca. 1921-1943): Tax documents; equipment salvage records; fuel and solvent reports; and plat maps.

H. Kentucky & Tennessee Railroad Bonds (1972)

I. Annual Reports (ca. 1886-1962): Annual reports of a variety of railroads, including (but not limited to) the Mobile & Ohio; Gulf, Mobile & Northern; Gulf, Mobile & Ohio, Natchez & Eastern; and New Orleans Great Northern. The reports were submitted to stockholders and various state commissions, plus the Interstate Commerce Commission.

Series IV is comprised of records of the Illinois central Railroad, Vicksburg Division. Included is a series of alphabetically arranged subject files and a selection of oversize materials that document activities of the Vicksburg operation. Materials date from approximately 1911 to 1965. Of interest is a collection of blueprints and drawings that portray rolling stock and various railroad facilities. Series IV has only two subseries:

A. Alphabetical Files (ca. 1911-1962): Files are arranged alphabetically, by subject.

B. Oversize Materials (ca. 1915-1965): Reports, maps, payrolls, statistics, etc. Includes five boxes of Division Rail Reports.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Records in this collection were secured primarily from the Association of American Railroads; the Gulf, Mobile & Ohio Railroad Company; and the Mississippi Central Railroad Company.

Existence and Location of Copies

For Digitized Materials from this collection, see: External Documents link at bottom of page.

Related Materials

M284 Gulf & Ship Island Railroad Minute Book

M103 Mississippi. Office of the Secretary of State. A Memorial to Congress, for the Request of Lands to Aid the Construction of the Gulf & Ship Island Railroad.

M22 The Papers of Louis Edward Faulkner

M272 The Papers of Dr. Gilbert H. Hoffman

M182 The Papers of William Harris & Hattie Lott Hardy

RG 1 The Mississippi Oral History Program of The University of Southern Mississippi. Subject: The Railroad Industry in Mississippi


Price, David S. and Louis R. Saillard. "Natchez Route: A Mississippi Central Railroad Album". Hattiesburg, Mississippi: National Railway Historical Society, Inc., Great Southern Chapter. 1975

Railroad Collection
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Historical Manuscripts and Photographs Repository

118 College Drive - 5148
Hattiesburg MS 39406-0001