History Hunts Blog

Following Louisiana's & Mississippi's Historic Railroads

My Ride Reports

Finding the Lumber Mill Railroads

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Silver Creek to Columbia

This has become a multi-day effort. I vacillate between wanting to finish this ride report quickly and wanting to engage the historical aspects of where I was and what I found. At this amendment I"m teetering. The outing was taken on 8/29 and it is now 8/31. The sense of urgency is gone and  that may be a good thing. Or, it may be wasted effort, like watching a Saints game. Prepare to vacillate. The histories have been omitted. I hear a collected sigh of relief. In their place I have placed maps. Everyone loves maps. Right? Note: These, for the most part, are smaller versions of the pictures and maps. If you want to see the large version of either, click the pic or map. Then, to come back, hit your back arrow (button) whatever.

The Ride to Silver Creek
That sure sounds like an old western movie title.
Unfortunately, John Wayne is not available.
Clint Eastwood would be if he wasn't out there dueling 
with traitors and their ignorant / self centered zealot liberal followers.
There was  another old railroad right of way I had to follow.
Now may be a good time to employ the carrot I need to help entice readers . .. maps.
Maps are outlines to places unseen.
They guide the way.
But, you  have to find the pictures.
That was my mission.

These screen shots are from a 1953 topographic map.
To understand what I was trying to find I have to 
start at some understandable point,  this time a railroad branch's origin.
By 1953 this railroad's ownership had evolved, or may have always been, 
the Illinois Central. (IC)

The branch began (from the north end) at Mendenhall, Miss.
and angled down the Strong River valley before diving due
south to Silver Creek, where I was able to intersect it as Silver
Creek. Silver Creek is just within my "day riding" orbit.
The round trip was 260 miles, maybe a bit out of orbit.
At Silver Creek it crossed the Mississippi Central RR, one 
I'd followed from Brookhaven, Miss to Wanilla and Ferguson. 

 Below, you can see the Mississippi Central heading southeast to Hattiesburg, Miss.

 The Columbia Branch followed Silver Creek and then the Pearl River Valley
south to Columbia.  It seemed a good guide for a new adventure.

 This is really a sloppy followup to the ride to Columbia where I found the rails 
which made up the terminus of this dead end branch.
Doing a little research connected those visible rails to another place 
that I found intriguing, Silver Creek, Mississippi.
Back when,  Silver Creek had rails near it that connected to Wanilla.
Wanilla has, or had, rails that connected to everywhere.
Wanilla is a magical place. 
I may have a slight sun stroke due to just coming in from mowing. 
Actually, I know nothing of Wanilla's magic.
Why do people walk down railroad tracks?
It's deeper than all the obvious yuck yuck answers.
Fastest way to Walmart, maybe? 
The map below is of the initial target area.
A map of the ride up to this area would be senseless since no one is going to ride it but me.
The colors:
Red is me, sorta.
Blue is the Pearl River, sorta.
Green may be the "Mississippi Central RR"  which is not important to this historical tour.
Gray is the disappearing railroad branch I had chosen to follow way up in Mississippi.
Scroll down.   I made the map big  to wake you up.
There will be other shocking maps down the line.

The first part of this ride was to get to Wanilla.
I wanted to meet the train there, a real train on real rails. Looking at brush and dirt all day doesn't blow my skirt up either. There has to be a little action to keep me interested. I'd get that over with and be grinning as I tackled the boring stuff.
So, the first part of this ride report will be a travelogue.
The good motorcycle riding begins at the corner or La.10 and La.450. :"Good Riding" helps with boredom, also.
 I was in Washington Parish, La.
The parish is as close to northwest Arkansas as Louisiana gets. In other words there are a lot of hills. But, Washington Parish ups Arkansas in that there are more back roads and they are paved. So, vacation in Washington Parish, enjoy it and the high country of Mississippi. There are also a lot of churches, very big churches with very long histories.

First Church: Sunny Hill Methodist, near La.38, one of my early finds long before Katrina (2005). There are many old closed country stores along the way, also.

At this intersection is the first old  store. It is enjoying a kind retirement. Many are not.
It was the subject of one of my first pictures taken in southeast Louisiana.

Heading east on La.38.

Store No. 2  is at Porter's Curve. A David Allen Coe line. "Come here Porter, there's something you gotta see, There's a bear dancing around that big ol' tree". I had to share.

I opted for quieter roads.

And quieter places.
The "Silver" theme seemed early.
I was on Silver Drive.

The cemetery was part of the Silver Creek Church complex. This "Silver Creek" was not my target.

The church seemed to have been enlarged.
I think the original front was to the right, maybe, left.

I continued north.

I take these street sign shots to keep the pictures synchronized with the map.
I want you to look up "General Walthall".
He was a Confederate horse soldier, one of  Forrest's men.
If you were one of Forrest's men, you were a dude.
Forrest trusted his "rear" to him without a doubt.
The term "CYA" was coined by General Forrest.
Never did he shrink into the politically correct. He should have been the subject of a  movie. Not that yankee worm. I won't say his name, but he is credited with "a raid". He is also credited with burning Clinton, La. He's lucky he's dead.

I did veer off my northerly course here.
I knew the cemetery would have a church attached.

Not exactly.

 It was a Masonic Lodge with a early history. I have a shot of the sign but it is on the laptop. Free and Accepted Masons ... Click Here
This sign was for the cemetery.
I was not anywhere near "Silver Creek, Mississippi".

The church, across the road, had prospered.

Continuing on, a familiar place appeared.

Again, it was a deja vu moment.

I should have checked out the park. It wasn't much the last time I was here.

Walker's bridge crosses the Bogue Chitto River, an ominous obstacle.

I followed the river north. "Hidden Springs Resort" can be found on the web. Looks like a nice place.

An old name, "Old Holmesville", appeared.
It would help get me east to the railroad along MS 587, the Red Bluff Road.

I arrived at MS 27 and went north from Sartinville.
I was above Monticello,

I had been on Salem Church Rd. 
No witches were encountered.

The climb began.

Time was ticking. 
I could not be lured in by another church.

The road gained altitude. I was in the high country approaching the famed Red Bluff Road.

At MS44, I detoured. I'd see MS 44 again, three hours later.

These are the rails connecting Bogalusa to Wanila. I had an appointment for1:00 PM.

I did the obligatory stop at White Bluff.

I keep taking pictures of the trees and the old house in hope "they" will appear like the first time I was there.
They hadn't and I suspect the "Protectors" were gone.

 No, they are not gone.
The little house looks frail and old but not afraid.
I wouldn't mess with her, she has friends.
You see that big tree between me and the house?
It wasn't there when I first rode in. Beware.

Up the road.

A missed trestle shot.
It would be the last one I'd miss.

I entered Wanilla from Old MS Hwy 27.

At the crossing above I looked east toward the big Ferguson Mill on the east side of the Pearl River.
I have no idea what those cans are.

Looking west from that crossing.
I swore not to become disoriented on this visit. I just knew the train was coming.

A little local color after the crossing,

I turned west and followed the rails
You can see the Bogalusa line entering the rails to Ferguson (to my left).

The Ferguson rails go east. The west rails go to Brookhaven. I could have used "that way" and "this way". My wife does.
Going east, past Ferguson, they go through my yearned for, Silver Creek.
But, for now, I was waiting on a train An excerpt: The Stones, "No Expectations". Take me to the station And put me on a train I've got no expectations To pass through here again.
I had expectations.

Looking south toward Bogalusa.

Yes, Wanilla has a church.

I went out on new MS27.
I do not like becoming an object of question in small communities. And:
I attract strange people. Ask the people I know. I had already attracted one.

This is just west of Wanilla on new MS 27..

If you come in on the new road from Monticello, this is what you see.

Looking back into Wanilla.
Yes, I was bored. You are, too. The train was really late.

I rode back into Wanilla.

I had forgotten to shoot north on the Bogalusa to Jackson line.
All that is left, north of Wanilla,  is a short stretch used for storage.
That is the beginning of Ferguson east connector veering off to the right.

There the veering  goes off to the east (left).
Ahead is the cross track of the Ferguson to Brookhaven and the Bogalusa to Jackson.
The histories of those rails could eat pages. This one is long enough. You'll see.

I was starting to scream. You probably are, too.
I rode west.
The waiting was killing me.
And, it was getting late.
I had a railroad ghost route to follow on the other side of the Pearl River. I was a hundred miles from base camp.
But, I was now  east of Sontag, MS looking up the rails to Sontag and Brookhaven 
from where my train was coming. I just knew.

I looked toward Wanilla.

I shot the all important mile marker at Nola Rd.

I went to Sontag.

I wondered about "Small Mill Rd" and which was "small", the road or the mill?

I looked west.

I looked east at the box.

I was fried. The mile marker had jumped to "134.97" from "66.48" just a few miles east of here. It was like I'd jumped galaxies through some worm hole.

A man stopped and asked if he could help.
I asked him when the train was coming.
He said about 4:00 AM and I was early.
He asked if I'd like a chair.
I told him "no, thanks" and that I was headed to Hooker.
He evidently thought I'd said, "I was headed to a hooker".
He scolded me saying that he and I were too old to be fooling around with hookers
and that they could hurt an older guy.
I've learned to just agree and laugh.
I thanked him for the chair offer, the schedule help, 
and the healthcare consultation concerning promiscuous activity at an advanced age.
He and his grandson took off toward the south.
I headed for Hooker.
I think he slowed down to see if I took his advice, no doubt laughing as he was a funny good-natured  fella and had known exactly what I said.
I crossed the Pearl River.

I went straight to Ferguson to pick up the rail's scent. This is what is left of the railroad which went to Silver Creek from Wanilla and Brookhaven. It crosses the right of way of the rails I wanted to follow south to Columbia. I was on the old Mississippi Central. I think that branch ended in Hattiesburg. I'm not getting into a bunch of rail history. That is available from many places. And, besides I conflate and look stupid when I tread into that arena. I rather follow maps out in the open countryside than try to memorize layers of railroad names which I'll botch.

The Canadian National RR has an consulate, I mean "office",  at Ferguson. I've seen an engine parked there. Ranks right up with the Grand Canyon.

The first bit of business was to find where the actual rails were sawed off. GE does not show it well. It is just east of the crossing above. I went too far and had to backtrack.

I over shot and came in just about right. Climbing down to the rails was not easy. I hope you appreciate these fine pictures.

On the other side of the red square.

The road  crossing is down there.

Then I realized much of what I'd find would look like this. I could tell you where each of these observations was, but, it doesn't matter. There wasn't much until I got to Silver Creek. I did get a angry look from an old black guy. He was probably a Shapton and Obama disciple. I  waved and smiled to make him angrier. Made his day, made mine.

The road to Silver Creek.

Approaching Silver Creek on US 84.

Arriving at Silver Creek I had a "wow moment".
I think this is where the depot must have been. These rails are running north and south. North would be to the right. Up there about a mile is where the rails from Ferguson, the Miss.Central, running east and west at that point,  crossed these tracks. I didn't ride quite far enough up there to find the cross track because I'd forgotten to look. There is nothing there but a loading area for trucks. Maybe, anyway it would have been too busy a place for a little old man to snoop around. What you see below tells so much. If it  wasn't for the mud hole, the rails would be gone. That makes me wonder if some of the places I visited didn't have rails. They could be buried. Do I need to carry a metal detector and shovel? That should draw the federales.

I looked around Silver Creek. Seemed like a nice quiet place.

The north south rails were to the right. OK, lets call a spade a spade. They were the old Illinois Central. This was the depot area mentioned above.

More Silver Creek.

I rode out toward the cross track and turned around looking toward Silver Creek. The rails would be beneath me. That would be an assumption since I saw them in town. The cross track would be behind me.

The GPS shows it.

To the south of town was RR Ave. The GPS said it was the RR.
I think the grade was paved over. I know it was.

Below,  the road (which I think was new) is not shown. I was on the ROW.

OK, I'll succumb to the map people who have to know. The ROW shots before Silver Creek  are "X1" and "X2". The cross track location is seen south of "43". The church was at the crossing at "X3". I had to leave the rails to get to Arm.

In search of  the next crossing, I found another church.

Old Silver Creek Church is at "X3", check.

 Crossing Silver Creek.

At Garett, the bed was obvious.

Across the road it was not so obvious but it was obvious.

I was headed to Arm.

Look to the right of those bushes. The bed is clearly elevated.

In Arm Ignore the heavy black line. The lighter one is the approximate location of the railroad.

First Street was the first street from the railroad. The rail bed is where they haven't mowed in the back of the property.

Again, it is at the tree line.

Coach supervises the barn.

Past Arm. The rails cross the White Sand River. The gravel pits may have been customers of the railroad.

Above  is north Oak Vale at the end of 6th Ave., seen below.
Not too thrilling, was it?
But, where Jones Road crossed there was something buried in the blacktop.

The new blacktop had covered two sets of rails at Oak Vale.
Possibly the station had a siding or there was a passing track. You can barely see the first one.

Then I saw the second.

I had to check. Indeed. There they are.  It is too short for a passing track.
They had to be for the depot or businesses.

Old House on MS 43.

Church signs are convenient locators.
I was at Hathorn. Is that "hat-horn"?

This old church was across from the huge modern one.

The other church at Hathorn.

The thin black line is the RR. Notice MS 44 at the bottom of the "map". If you take it west you will end up at MS 587 crossing the rails from Bogalusa to Wanilla and the Pearl River. It is a brand new road.

The bed was now next to the highway. Highway 43 transitioned into Highway 13.

"X5" on second map up.
Looking north.

Looking South.
That is MS 44 ahead. I'd take it to the left where it hit MS 13, taken to the right, south.

A road crossing the old ROW. Gives you chills, doesn't it?

I was at MS 13. The rails ran with it into Columbia.

I left 43/13 and got on River Bend Road. It would take me to Goss.

Leaving 43/13. The burgers almost got me. Always ask what the "meat of the day" is.

On River Bend Road.

I had found this trestle using GE to research the route. I had to get there. The trestle is at the southern crossing. The buidings on that road are on the lumber mill property.

Defunct lumber mill.

A moment of silence, please. This made it all worth it.

Yes, on top. Looking south. Did you think I'd pass up going up?
You'd have to hold me down with a cement truck.

Looking north from the south end.

Looking north. Snakes? I hate snakes.

I was back at Expose after 10 years.

And, a treat was there.

South of Expose I spied another trestle from MS 13. "Twitty" seems to be part of the stream's name. Conway? Maybe next winter I'll come by.

It was over water this time. I knew it was full of snakes.

At Cedar Grove.

I  was getting close to Columbia.
I know I believe in ghost trains.
Seems others do, too.
There was a cop in the bushes.
I saw him give out  three tickets
for not yielding at the sign.
I did, but still he chased me down and pulled me over.
I was presented with a movie ticket  for good driving.
I checked the web for the theater.
It's been closed for 10 years.

Street marker. I turned right. (the gas sign right)

That took me to a crossing.

I looked right. The road was wide and new.

I looked left. There was "industry" down there.

Rail scars seemed to be on the ground. Later, I'd understand.

Below is a recent map of the rails at these industries.
I think it is recent because I suspect  it left out something very important.

I was in north Columbia's industrial (defunct) area.
The rails went down "Orleans St.".
Could these public built houses be the booty the Katrina  displaced won?

I will bet tax dollars built these homes. The high wheel ghetto car tells the tale. We probably mow the grass, too. Above are the industries and our houses.  Sorry about the mini-rant. No I'm not.

Moving down the line. People still stop at the RR crossing. I am not kidding. I sat there and watched them. How long has the "train" been gone. I think at the latest "1990" sounds right. Maybe they were stopping to look at me? Probably. I do strike a flare.

Frozen in time.

The ROW was over t here. I was over here. I'd make adjustments.

Here, I am here when I was over there.

It was worth the adjustment. I was approaching the depot area.

There was a park close by.
Where had the park property come from? You have to ask. More on that down the page.

 The bridge I couldn't cross is seen due west of "43". Notice that there are 2 sets of rails up to where the park is. The depot is south of where you see "Water Tank". I will not speculate on "Water Tank". It may be the city's though I don't see it in the modern pictures.

OK, back to the park question. The yellow line originates from and is the Gulf Mobile&Ohio RR on the west side of the Pearl River (blue) I have approximated its route as it crossed the Pearl River and went to the industrial park, my guess. There the GMORR and the earlier Fernwood, Columbia and Gulf RR might have interchanged with the Illinois Central (black). Red is my route. I interchange with anything. So, my hypothesis is that the park was donated railroad property as is our neighborhood. Public housing seems to be all up and down the depot area.

No need to explain the route further. There's a ride report for that.
It can be found HERE

Exhausted, I made my way past the county courthouse.

One more church before I left. Actually, I was taking the road sign. I was at the corner of Old Foxworth Road and River View.

South of Foxworth, I said goodbye to the rails that came from Wanilla and were headed to Bogalusa.

A fog set in as I tucked in and put the hammer down.

Time for one more store.

The Bogue Chitto, again.

And, I had to wake up for La.450.
My last bit of energy was used flinging the bike down this wonderful road.

The End

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