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St. Francisville, Louisiana
Plantation Country

The West Feliciana Railroad

Ferdinand Street
St. Francisville, Louisiana
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The West Feliciana Railroad - History


West Feliciana Parish Tourist Commission
P.O. Box 1548
St. Francisville, Louisiana 70775
(225) 635-6330

Conceived in 1828 by several planters and bankers, the West Feliciana Railroad spanned all of twenty-seven miles when completed in 1838. Remnants of the original tracks are still visible today in remote areas of the parish between Bayou Sara and Woodville, Mississippi.

In the years between 1835 and 1860, the very rich, fertile farmland adjoining the Mississippi River between Memphis and New Orleans was home to more millionaires than any other area of the United States at that time. Their vast fortunes were the product of many great cotton producing years in the South, and West Feliciana Parish was the zenith of accomplishment in this culture. Innovations were needed to keep pace with the increased productions enjoyed across the South, hence the hurried railroad charter on March 25, 1831 by the Louisiana Legislature.

The overwhelming expectation of impending prosperity and the urgent need for faster, more dependable transportation of cotton to the packets waiting at Bayou Sara's wharves produced this first standard gauge and first interstate railroad system. Though not eagerly embraced by all whose path she crossed -- inadequate funding, some incompetent craftsmen, planters who refused to have their fields split, the town fathers of Bayou Sara demanding the potentially explosive "iron horse" not to run too close to town -- the West Feliciana Railroad did succeed. In 1842 the woodclad iron rails reached Woodville, Mississippi, at a cost of $25,000 per mile. What a bargain!

In 1889 the Louisville and Nashville Railroad claimed this line, and at one point the Yazoo and Mississippi Valley laid claim as well. In 1892 the Illinois Central Railroad absorbed the system until it was discontinued in the 1970's. From its inception in 1828 until 1892, Mr. Edward McGehee, and later his son J. Burruss McGehee, were very ardent backers of the West Feliciana Railroad, as was Gerald C. Brandon, Governor of Mississippi, who championed this noble effort. These gentlemen and others witnessed the arduous struggle during the years of the War Between the States, and the devastation that existed afterward. The West Feliciana Railroad Bank was established and money issued, as well, during their watch.

During its lifetime, the "Old Tri-Weekly" train - so called from stories that it left Bayou Sara one week and tried to get back the next - observed a very Southern tradition: "no trains shall be operated on the Sabbath", as stated in the original charter.

Modern highway systems have replaced the tedious yet fanciful mode of train travel and river travel as well, for the sake of progress. Yet, for only those visionaries of the 19th century, we might not have had the historic, even romantic images of the pioneers of the South to remember.

Town of St. Francisville
West Feliciana Parish
Drawer 400, St. Francisville, LA 70775
Telephone: (225) 635-3688

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