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The sound of the train whistle and the clacking of the rails have long been a part of the atmosphere in Marion County since the railroad was built here in the early 1880's. The train was an integral aspect of life here for over a century and in many ways it helped to build this area into what it is today. The Marion County Railroad Authority is working to preserve our rich rail heritage for future generations to appreciate.
In the 1930's, the rail line ran through Silver Creek in Lawrence County, north to Mendenhall, and even further north to Jackson. In the early 1980's, the Illinois Central abandoned the rail line and the Marion County Railroad Authority purchased 27 miles of the railway with the help of Pioneer Aerospace, Georgia Pacific, and others. The line was leased to Georgia Pacific for several years and in 1989, a recreational rail line was established temporarily. The Railroad Authority eventually sold the railway right-of-way, paid back all corporate donations, and re-established the Recreational Railroad in Columbia.
The Recreational Railroad is now available to ride for field trips, birthday parties, and special events. The train is an exciting and popular attraction for schools, churches, seniors groups, campers at the Expo Center, and the general public. Currently, the train consists of an engine, a coach, and a caboose. and the train ride is a six mile round trip from the Expo Center to Bluff Park in downtown Columbia and back again, which takes about an hour.
If you would like to ride the Recreational Railroad, you can catch the train behind the Expo Center on the second and fourth Saturdays of the month at 10am. The train doesn’t run in the summer months and the schedule is subject to change. There are special rates for groups larger than twenty. If you would like to donate to the Marion County Railroad Authority or to set up an appointment for a special train ride for your group or organization, between Monday and Saturday, contact the train engineer William McNeese at 601.408.7544.
THE OFFICIAL TOURISM RESOURCE FOR THE STATE OF MISSISSIPPI