Old 04-09-2011, 03:14 AM   #1
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Default AL/AR/MS/TN shortline report

I haven't put out a report like this in a while, because frankly, I don't really do trips like this anymore. However, a family vacation on Lookout Mountain near Chattanooga, combined with a work trip to Memphis the following week, made driving the most sensible option and netted a lot of shortline action along the way. I dealt with a lot of clouds and rain for a good deal of this trip, but also had some sun mixed in from time to time. I hope you all find something of interest here, and maybe even something helpful for your own travels.


Family vacation is over after dropping my wife and two children off in Huntsville, AL for the flight back to DC. The roundabout drive to Memphis, where I have to be on Monday, begins. First stop is Red Bay, AL to hopefully shoot the Redmont Railway. Arrive in heavy clouds and light rain to find CF7 101 in nice position at the big grain elevator in town for a roster. Unit faces south, rosters would be best in the morning on a sunny day.

Move on south bound for Columbus and Artesia, MS with hopes of finding some action on the Columbus & Greenville and KCS. As reports have it, I indeed find sun as I get into Mississippi on the backside of the front. At Columbus, I find CAGY GP7 1003/SD40-2 3310 (EMD lease colors, previously served on GSWR)/2011 (high nose GP38 in GWI orange) sitting at the shop. None are favorable for light. Further down by the sand tower is CAGY 1002, and GP38 2777 is under the "carport" style shop building. Move on toward Bent Oak, with hopes they are working the steel mill.

Arrive at Bent Oak to find Job 46 working the Severstal steel mill yard, with SD40-2 3312 (marked out UP paint SD40-2, previously served on GSWR) and GP11 8718. They conveniently bring a cut to the KCS main, making for a nice photo op with the sprawling mill in the background.

I check KCS' Artesia yard and find little going on, except for a yard job working the south end. I also discover the town "uniform" is denim pants with a long, super clean white T-shirt. I wasn't wearing one, but still got tepid waves from the locals as I rolled through with my Virginia tags. Interesting place, Artesia is. Oh, the yard job had GP38-2s 1909 and 2003.

I arrive in Greenwood, MS as night falls. The usual "dead" suspects are downtown, CF7 807 shoved into a ballast pile on a stub track never to run again, and GP7 1001. It appears dead, as well. Nothing good for night work here, plus plenty of locals and barking dogs (not on leashes, of course, this IS the South ya know!). I head over to the CAGY yard on the south side of town and find GP11s 8720 and 1806 (in IC black). With lightning lit skies, I try to do some night work with these, we'll see what I get back (this is the spot where slide shooting lacks...the waiting).

Head back to the motel and call it a night.


Wake up to the forecast heavy overcast, and start moving west. First intended stop is the Delta Western grain elevator at Heathman, MS where CAGY CF7 808 (in completely untouched paint) is the plant switcher. On a Sunday, don't plan this-- it is a fenced facility, and there is no access on Sundays. Morning shot when you can get access during the week.

Next stop is Greenville, MS to shoot whatever the CAGY has in town, which this day is GP11 8715. It is kept right at the Main St. crossing. It is parked on a north-south track, so early morning or late afternoon would be best. I have nothing to worry about with heavy clouds and light rain.

Next point of interest is the Delta Southern RR between Lake Village, AR and McGehee. Though a local has told me this line still runs, I am doubting him before I even get there. ROW is simply horrendous, and I can find no evidence of recent operations anywhere. Find a pair of CF7s in McGehee, parked just south of downtown. They are DSRR 106 and 107. South facing unit doesn't even have an air hose, and the north facing unit is minus its horn. No fuel, and wheels rusted. Somehow I think these units are ironically parked in their final resting place, next to the town cemetery.

I get my first glance at some Arkansas Midland (AKMD) power, with GP10s 700 and 703 parked in the shop tracks at UP's McGehee yard. They are well buried, and some heavy duty trespassing would be required to shoot them, so I elect to move along.

I head for the AKMD's Monticello, AR operation to see what I can find. GP10s 908 and 707 are here, tied down. Some shots were to be had, though again in heavy clouds, it didn't much matter on directional lighting for me. They are oriented east-west, with one unit facing each way.

Next stop is Fordyce, AR to see what the Fordyce and Princetown has in town. I arrive to find all green power, with ALM CF7s 1513 and 1514 on the main, and F&P SW1500 on the side track in the fenced in cage.

I head for Malvern, AR, which is home to the AKMD's busiest operation and headquarters. They typically run 7 days a week, though Sundays are often spent handling UP powered rock trains to the quarry just east of Jones Mill. I hear some radio chatter, get things figured out, and discover an AKMD local is working. Though somewhat disappointed to find they are headed back to the shop light engine, I will shot a pair of GP35s any way I can, so I get every possible shot.

Tie up at a very nice Super 8 and enjoy a luxurious night's stay compared to the previous night.


Wake up to YET AGAIN heavy clouds and start lazily. Hear some scanner chatting starting around 0700 and right as I drive into downtown Malvern, the AKMD local goes under me heading to the UP interchange with 15 cars.
Do some shots of the AKMD local working around Malvern, with GP35s 2500 and 2504 doing the honors this day. Anyone who visits here should just plan on staying on public property, don't check with the company for anything, and just mind your own business.

I head out for Memphis to get to work, and take a quick dive in at the Port of Little Rock to see if I can find their power working. It is tied up at the shop, inside a fenced area. I am in quite a hurry at this point to get to work on time, so I don't bother trying for permission. They now have handsome SW1500 GMTX 105, with Little Rock Port Authority lettering on the long hood. Faces northeast, morning shots best.


Work wraps up early enough to go explore RJ Corman's Tennessee Terminal operation. They have operations in Olive Branch, MS and Capleton, TN at the north end of BNSF's Tennessee Yard. At Olive Branch, GP16 1737 is tied up for the day, along with out of service GP9 9009. At Capleton, I find GP9 9005 and GP16 1606 finishing up a day's work just before tying down.


Set out early from Memphis, with hopes of catching the Grenada Railway running. Arrive Grenada to find all the line's power sitting there, so I suspect I've struck out. Check in at the office, and am given a friendly permission to shoot anything I want, with the obligatory caution to stay off the tracks. Also get official confirmation nothing will run today, so it will just be rosters and move on to the next destination.

Power at Grenada is HR412 SMNW 3536, GRYR B30-7 242, GRYR RS18u 1828, GMTX GP38s 2001 and 2003, and B30-7A GRYR 4066 still in BN green. 1828 is the only unit that appears out of service, though I suspect the regular team is the GMTX GP38s spliced by the 4066 based on where things are parked.

Next destination is the CAGY's west end, where I hope to find train 48 running from Greenwood to Greenville. I arrive in town just before 1000, expecting to find them preparing for a departure between 1100-1200 from what I've heard. They are nowhere to be found, and I find deep and fresh looking flange cuts in the dirt grade crossings around the yard, leading me to believe they are already on the move. The more interesting aspect is that GP7 1001 is GONE from downtown, nixing my assessment of its status.

I head west, and sure enough, catch sight of the tail end just east of Indianola, home of blues legend BB King. As I catch up to the train, I find today's is no ordinary train. On the tail end is a 105 car empty unit coal train, headed up by 24 grain hoppers for a grand total of 129 cars! Power, you ask? None other than GP7 1001 and GP11 8715, two greens. I am elated to get the west end with all green power. Shoot this one as much as I can, and also swing in at Heathman and get permission to shoot the 808.

After putting the wraps on that one, I headed east to work my way back east to Chattnooga to tie up at our family home on Lookout Mountain. A long drive, to say the least. I couldn't help but check in at Artesia, as KCS is my favorite class 1. Find the same GP38 pair working the south end, and just miss a work train tying up for the day. CAGY is at the mill, with the 3310 and 2011.

My last shot at anything for the day is Watco's Alabama Southern between Artesia and Tuscaloosa. I roll into Reform, AL and find them working with GP38 WAMX 3813 and SD40-2 4116. They shove on a cut of Southern rock hoppers, clear up the crossings in town, and tie down. I got there just in time to knock out some shots, and hear from a local how often they block up crossings in town.

They have an office at Reform, and it appears the standard operation is for a crew to handle the train from CSX at Brookwood to Reform, then a night crew does the turn to Artesia. Definitely a place to look for trains on this line, for certain.

I ran a straight shot to the house from there. I had orders to haul my tail home pronto from there, and headed direct for DC the next morning, with scanner and camera gear in the trunk to help keep that promise.

Hope y'all enjoyed the report!
Mike Derrick

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