• Meridian Southern

  • A general discussion about shortlines, industrials, and military railroads
A general discussion about shortlines, industrials, and military railroads

Moderator: Aa3rt

  by LocoEngineer
Railway to upgrade 55-mile stretch of track (The Associated Press circulated the following article on May 3.)

MERIDIAN, Miss. -- Meridian Southern Railway LLC will spend $250,000 to refurbish a 55-mile stretch of railroad it owns in Clarke and Wayne counties.

East Mississippi economic development officials have said 2,000 jobs held by Clarke and Wayne county residents depend on the repair and upgrade of the stretch of railroad track.

Officials with the East Mississippi Business Development Corp., as well as economic development districts and boards of supervisors in Clarke and Wayne counties, are working to obtain federal funding to match what the railroad is putting up.

Arthur Miller, the managing director of Alabama-based Rail Transportation Management Specialists, said Meridian Southern's commitment will help reach the goal.

"We believe this will demonstrate to the federal agencies, who will provide the bulk of the funding, just how much the local and state commitment truly is to this project," Miller said.

The state may put up a $250,000 state grant if funding is available from the Mississippi Department of Transportation.

The track links Waynesboro and Meridian, where it then connects with Kansas City Southern Railroad and other carriers.

Some of the track is believed to be nearly a century old and few repairs have been made over the past three decades.

Couple that with last spring's round of flash floods in East Mississippi, Miller said, and some people fear the line could become impassable.

The biggest plant that could suffer from the condition of the railroad is Waynesboro's Marshall-Durbin grain storage and blending plant, a chicken hatchery business dependent on rail.

The plant is responsible for about 1,200 jobs in Mississippi and Alabama.

Eric Lee, chief executive officer of Meridian Southern Railway, said he was pleased with the support of the project.

"Our customers have been a big part of the effort to make this program a success," Lee said. "We hope our commitment to the project will be viewed as a positive step towards the future."
  by LocoEngineer
Railroad plan may preserve area jobs
Program could lead to more development
By Kevin Walters, [email protected]
American Staff Writer

At a glance
The $14 million Meridian Southern Railways Line plan includes:

Seeking $2.2 million from the federal government by the end of the year which would be used for $1.6 million of work at the Wayne County Industrial Park and $600,000 for rail facilities owned or leased by Clark County.

Doing extensive work to the rail line which currently has a 10 mph speed limit and 71 bridges in need of repair.

A proposed $14 million plan to repair the 55-mile Meridian Southern Railways line will preserve thousands of jobs in east and south Mississippi and hopefully make the region more attractive for future potential development, officials say.

The rail-improvement plan's first step is to seek a $2.2 million grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce within the next 30 days, said Art Miller, an Alabaster, Ala., consultant hired by the Wayne County Economic Development District to work on the project.

"The focus of this $14.5 million program is to provide a strategic fix for this railroad," Miller said, "and when we do that we will secure the roughly 1,800 to 2,000 jobs plus we'll make Wayne, Clarke and parts of Lauderdale County open for a whole variety of industrial development opportunities."

The railway stretches from Meridian to Waynesboro and once went all the way to Mobile. Once known as the Gulf Mobile and Ohio line, the New York state-based Meridian Southern Railways LLC is its sixth owner since 1972.

That could mean more job security for people from Forrest and Lamar counties who work in Wayne County as well as workers at Hattiesburg's Marshall Durbin poultry processing plant.

"As part of this grant we are looking or quantifying where the employees of Wayne County industries live," Miller said. "If nothing more from a license plate survey we can see that there are a lot of Forrest and Lamar county cars working in Wayne County."

The Marshall Durbin plant in Wayne County, which employs 900 people, has a feed mill and chicken hatchery where chickens are raised and trucked down to the Hattiesburg processing plant, said Steve Bradley, company spokesman.

Problems at the Waynesboro plant can affect Hattiesburg's operation, which employs 180 people.

"It's very important as a supply source and there have been numerous problems in regard to the condition of the rail line," Bradley said.

The rail line has numerous problems that Miller attributes to "30 years of deferred maintenance."

The lack of care has resulted in a rail line where the maximum speed limit for trains is only 10 mph. Additionally, 71 bridges are in need of repairs and there are some flood-prone areas that might shut the line down if there was a flood.

"It's still operated and meets minimal federal regulations, but it just isn't very efficient," Miller said.

Its current owners have spent millions of their own money and earmarked $580,000 for more improvements, according to Miller, but the rail line's needs are too great for their resources.

Applying for the $2.2 million directly from the federal government gives the project visibility that can be helpful in securing the money, he added.

If approved by early next year, the federal money would be used to finance $1.6 million of work at the Wayne County Industrial Park and $600,000 for rail facilities owned or leased in nearby Clark County.

Future money for the overall plan will come from other grants as well as line-item appropriations. If the two- to three-year plan succeeds, the rail-dependent companies along the line will have improved service and it could make the area more attractive to new industries.

Gil Carmichael, former federal railroad administrator under former President George Bush and a Mississippi gubernatorial candidate, called the rail line the "economic spine of east Mississippi" and hailed the project as "wonderful news."

"It'll have a lot to do with relieving the stress on the highways and keeping Waynesboro going," Carmichael said.

Waynesboro Mayor Marshall Wood said the railroad is vital to the future of Wayne County, which has about 21,000 people.

"It opens up a lot of avenues for the manufacturing environment," Wood said.

  by LocoEngineer
From the Meridian Star www.meridianstar.com

Erosion, other problems threaten railroad’s safety

A CONDUCTOR’S WORD — Meridian Southern Railway conductor Richard Spencer talks about the railroad while heading northbound Wednesday. Wayne and Clarke county officials hope to snag state or federal grants to repair the Meridian Southern rail line that links Meridian and Waynesboro. Photo by Kyle Carter / The Meridian Star

By Fredie Carmichael / staff writer

August 5, 2004

SHUBUTA — The railroad that winds through the backwoods of Clarke County here along the Chickasawhay River has carried timber, wood chips and other goods to and from businesses for generations.

For years, it helped support the livelihood of many jobs in the county.

And despite more advanced transportation available today, such as airplanes and 18-wheelers, some people in Clarke County still rely on the locomotives that creep along this railroad.

Jobs, nearly 2,000 combined in Clarke and Wayne counties, depend on the efficiency of a 55-mile stretch of railroad owned by Meridian Southern Railway LLC.

That’s why Clarke and Wayne county officials have been trying to build momentum for a project that would refurbish parts of the railroad that they say have been neglected in the past.

“It definitely needs attention,” Herb Strange, a Meridian Southern Railway engineer, said Wednesday as he switched gears in his 1950s model GMC locomotive that pulled cars packed with pulpwood and wood chips.

“It wasn’t kept up like it should have been in the past,” he said.

Important cargo

Strange and Richard Spencer, the conductor, manned the locomotive on its run from Waynesboro to Meridian. The train alternates carrying cargo north and south to wood yards and industrial sites in places like Shubuta, Quitman and Meridian.

In Shubuta on Wednesday, the train crossed two bridges at the heart of concerns of the Meridian Southern and county officials — one spanned Carson Creek, the other spanned the Chickasawhay.

In both instances, erosion and other problems threaten the safety of the bridge if repairs aren’t made.

Clarke and Wayne county economic development officials continue to await word on the fate of key state and federal grants that would help fund improvements to both bridges.

They also are waiting to see if Congress will appropriate a proposed $4.4 million through the National Resources Conservation Service, a division of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, to help the rail line.

But Clarke County will do so without the help of Art Miller, managing director of Alabama-based Rail Transportation Management Specialists — a regional expert on railroads.

Federal money

Clarke County supervisors and the Clarke County Economic Development Administration commission rejected a proposal Wednesday to hire Miller to help the county win the NRCS appropriations from Congress.

Miller has been working for Clarke and Wayne counties during the past few months to help the county’s obtain the necessary funding.

“We’re not backing off, by any means,” said Paul Mosley, president of the Clarke County Board of Supervisors.

“We’ve just decided not to hire Mr. Miller for the appropriations part. While we still hold out hope that Congress will fund it this year, we believe we might have a better chance next year.”

Miller said although Clarke County officials haven’t hired him to lobby for the NRCS appropriations, he will continue to work in the county’s behalf on obtaining state and federal grants.

The Wayne County Economic Development District also hired Miller for the grant application project.

Grant application

Wayne and Clarke counties filed an application last month with the U.S. Economic Development Administration seeking a $2.2 million federal grant to fund needed railroad repairs.

Officials in Wayne County say the repair of the 55-mile stretch of railroad and a needed loop in the Wayne County Industrial Park could help retain jobs and possibly create new ones.

The railroad links Waynesboro and Meridian, where it then connects with Kansas City Southern Railroad and other carriers.

The biggest plant that could suffer from the condition of the railroad is Waynesboro’s Marshall-Durbin grain storage and blending plant, a rail-dependent chicken hatchery business located in the Wayne County Industrial Park that provides about 1,200 jobs.

“We will continue to be in contact with federal and state folks about the importance of this project,” Mosley said.