top of page

Lake Station, Joe Green, Bob Shirley & "Numba 'Leven" by Frank A. Brooks, Jr.

I’ve heard that "frog eye" GPlO's are pulling increased amounts of tonnage on the 418-mile MidSouth Rail Corp. line between Meridian and Stueveport these days. I'm glad. I wish them the very best success possible. I grew up on that line, and as a youngster I loved everything about it. Even so, I suspect there would be very little recognizable to me were I to go down for a visit today. Unless I'm wrong, the former Vicksburg Route Division of the Illinois Central was as typically IC as the racetrack handling traffic between Centralia and Carbondale, or the coal drags sandwiching through Horse Branch or Beaver Dam or Central City. Perhaps our Vicksburg Route Division stations were a bit more historic and architecturally pleasing than some, because most of them were built before the Civil War, with the exception of the city terminals. Our right-of-way was also special in that as late as the 1940's section crews every ten miles dared even a single blade of grass to push up between the ballast, although the weather might be sub-tropical in June. With regards to the rolling stock on the varnish, I would guess most of our coaches were from the 2930 scries (built by Pullman in 1925) or from the earlier 2900 and 2910 series (built by Pullman in 1918). They were classic olive drab, gold-lettered chariots on the outside with walk-over, dark green or maroon upholstered scratchy seats on the inside. In a sense, they were luxurious because those coaches which passed through our towns day in and day out were about the only facilities in our part of the world to boast air conditioning back then. The porter's push brooms kept them spotlessly clean. Although they knew better, the parents and grandparents of those of us who lived on the part of the line east of the Mississippi River still called it the "A. and V." It had a musical ring. The original roadway started pushing eastward from Vicksburg in 1837 and it reached Jackson in 1840. The enure line from Vicksburg to Meridian was opened on June 1, 1861, just two months after the Civil War started. On October 22, 1885, the conversion to standard gauge was completed in something like 16 hours. In 1889 the western segment from Shreveport joined the eastern one at Vicksburg and the operation through to Meridian became a part of the Queen and Crescent Route.

Later, the western end was known as the "V. S. and P." In 1926 the Alabama and Vicksburg and the Vicksburg, Shreveport and Pacific became a part of the Illinois System under the name The Yazoo and Mississippi Valley Railroad Company. Their Employee Timetable No. 1, dated July 18, 1926, listed wonderful service, including eight passenger trains daily through Lake, Mississippi, my home village. But it was inevitable that the number of trains through Lake would be cut in half by the time the 1940's rolled around. The I.C.'s Vicksburg Route Division operated passenger trains 201, 202, 203 and 204 until June 14, 1949 when 203 and 204 were "annulled." They were our beloved "day trains." We heard they would be restored as soon as John L. Lewis' coal strike was settled, but they weren't. Trains 201 and 202 were a bit ' fancier and possibly a little faster. They were our Pullman-carrying "night trains." Every now and then those trains had their numbers changed so that when the last segment of the westbound train made its final run between Vicksburg and Shreveport on March 30, 1968 former train 201 was 205. She had been dropped from Meridian to Vicksburg on the previous October 24, 1967. I remember train 202 also as 208 and 226. I suppose the passenger trains on our Vicksburg Route Division must have been numbered according to the numbers of the mainline trains with which they connected at Jackson. For instance, our 205 connected at Jackson with mainline No. 5, the Panama Limited. Nearly everybody in Lake called the night trains No. 1 and No. 2, but we called the day trains No. 11 and No. 12. 1 have no idea how the day trains No. 203 and No. 204 came to be known as No. II and No. 12. But this I do know: I made it my boyhood business to ride those day trains as often as possible and to know their crews the very best I could. I even took pictures of them with my hand-me-down "box Brownie" from time to time. The photos accompanying this reminiscence are pictures of my favorite conductor, Bob Shirley, and my favorite porter, Joe Green. The date was August 15, 1948. It was 12:37 p.m. at Lake, Mississippi. The engine on the point was 2-8-2 No. 1467 (Lima 1923); the coach steps upon which Joe and Bob are standing belonged to 2931 (Pullman 1925); and make no mistake about it, the train was "numba 'leven"! (Dr. Brooks, a railroad buff, grew up in Lake. He is a graduate of Lake High School, Mississippi State University, and seminaries in Kentucky and Texas. For the past 19 years he has been the pastor of the First Presbyterian Church in Batesville, Arkansas. Dr. Brooks' sister, Mrs. Viva B. Tadlock, still lives in Lake.)

Source: The Newton Record; August 31st, 1988

100 views0 comments


bottom of page