“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
St. Francisville in West Feliciana Parish, Louisiana — The American South (West South Central)

The Historic West Feliciana Railroad

The Historic West Feliciana Railroad Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Cajun Scrambler, November 11, 2017
1. The Historic West Feliciana Railroad Marker
"When it is considered that the first steam train was run by George Stephenson over the Stockton and Darlington Railway in England in September, 1825:... that Germany's first railroad opened in 1835:... and Russia did not have a practicable road until 1850, and that the little West Feliciana Railroad was possibly the second, certainly the third in the United States, the achievement marks wonderful foresight and progressiveness."
(St Francisville, La True Democrat, February 24, 1917)

West Feliciana Parish proudly boasts that it gave
birth to the third oldest railroad in America.

The West Feliciana Railroad was chartered by the Louisiana legislature on March 25, 1831. It was the first interstate railroad in America and the first standard gauge railroad in America (4ft. 8½ in. was adopted by all major railroads in North America in June 1886.)

The need for a railroad was clear to the progressive Feliciana supporters. The Woodville, Mississippi, Republican stated in 1828, "The price of cotton is often fluctuating and the difference of a day would often-times deprive us of the benefit of a market."

The Historic West Feliciana Railroad Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Cajun Scrambler, November 11, 2017
2. The Historic West Feliciana Railroad Marker
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Others called is a "wild scheme" and predicted it would bankrupt the state. The railroad would run some 26 miles from Bayou Sara to Woodville, Mississippi. The Mississippi legislature authorized their part of the railroad in December 1833.

The route was obvious. The country was expanding, cotton was king, and Bayou Sara was one of the busiest ports on the river. Under the supervision of Mississippi Judge Edward McGehee, a bank was formed and 1,500 shares were offered to the public to finance the $150,000 cost of construction. Formal construction began on December 22, 1834.

There were many setbacks to the project including the Panic of 1837, more-difficult terrain than was expected, right-of-way conflicts with plantation owners, strikes by laborers, and failures by contractors. But the railroad finally made its first complete trip from Bayou Sara to Woodville on October 13, 1842. It was a mild success because the estimated cost of construction ballooned from $7,000 per mile to $20,000 per mile. In its 1868-69 edition, Poor's Manual of Railroads listed the cost of construction, rolling stock, and other property at $450,000. In spite of everything it worked, and cotton roll began to roll down to Bayou Sara.

The West Feliciana Railroad was almost completely destroyed during the Civil War. All property, locomotives, and rolling stock were confiscated by the Union Army.

The Historic West Feliciana Railroad Caboose image. Click for full size.
November 10, 2017
3. The Historic West Feliciana Railroad Caboose
Not until 1875 was it rebuilt, once again replacing mules with steam. J. Burrus McGehee, a son of Judge Edward McGehee, kept the line operating until 1888. It was then sold to the Louisville, New Orleans and Texas line. The consolidation of this line with the Yazoo & Mississippi Valley Railroad in 1892 brought the West Feliciana Railroad into the Illinois Central System, where it remained until operations ceased in 1978.
Topics. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: Industry & CommerceRailroads & StreetcarsWar, US Civil. A significant historical date for this entry is April 25, 1831.
Location. 30° 46.409′ N, 91° 23.475′ W. Marker is in St. Francisville, Louisiana, in West Feliciana Parish. Marker is on Ferdinand Street (Road 1263) west of Tunica Street, on the left when traveling west. Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Saint Francisville LA 70775, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. West Feliciana Railroad (a few steps from this marker); Our Caboose (within shouting distance of this marker); Bayou Sara Depot (within shouting distance of this marker); Bayou Sara (about 800 feet away, measured in a direct line); Old Burying Ground (approx. Ό mile away); The "St. Francisville Democrat" (approx. Ό mile away); Propinquity (approx. 0.3 miles away); Courthouse (approx. 0.3 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in St. Francisville.
Credits. This page was last revised on June 26, 2022. It was originally submitted on November 19, 2017, by Cajun Scrambler of Assumption, Louisiana. This page has been viewed 761 times since then and 258 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3. submitted on November 22, 2017.

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Dec. 9, 2022