After 12 years of construction, on October 6, 1882, a freshly built, narrow guage railroad connected Natchez, Mississippi and Jackson, Mississippi. The width of this railroad was only 42 inches (3.5 feet), hence, the “narrow guage” title, and its length was approximate 98.6 miles. Built by the Natchez, Jackson, & Columbus Railroad (NJ&C), this railway was eventually given the nickname of “Little J” by its Mississippi patrons. In 1889, Little J’s narrow guage railway was widened to standard guage; but nicknames stick and it despite the upgrade, the line was still referenced by locals as Little J. Of course, the nickname can be contributed to the width of the rail line, but it can also be attributed to the fact that locals didn’t want anyone to confuse the line with the already established rail line that ran from Jackson to New Orleans.
The railroad was purchased in 1892 by Illinois Central Railroad. Illinois Central operated the railroad for several years until the company dismantled it in the 1980s.
Where is this railroad? Well, if you are traveling West on John R. Lynch Street, many of the streets to the south such as Macon, Corinth, and Tupelo terminate at the rail bed. Many abandoned railroads such as the segment of the Little J line in Raymond and the Longleaf Trace in Hattiesburg have been converted to multi-use recreational trails. Such an effort would be an extremely cool thing for West Jackson! Hey, there’s nothing wrong with dreaming right?
By the way, Jim Ownby has a photo set of the Little J railroad on Flickr. Although most photos in the set are in Raymond, he does have a picture of a segment of the old railroad that exists behind Hutto’s Home & Garden Center.
Thanks for participating in today’s trivia!!
Biographical and Historical Memoirs of Mississippi: Volume II, Part 1 by Firebird Press
When the Railroad Leaves Town: American Communities in the Age of Rail Line Abandonment by Joseph P. Schwieterman.
Written by Curnis Upkins, III