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Rails to Riverboats

Amtrak and River Explorer

Memphis, TN to New Orleans via the Amtrak City of New Orleans train

 returning to Memphis via the river barge River Explorer.

Trip Report #2 - Memphis to New Orleans.

Upon leaving Memphis Station, I realized we were in the only sleeper, the last car on the City of New Orleans.  I immediately walked to the back window and took a photo of the baggage of the detraining passengers headed back to the Memphis Station.


Departing Memphis Station, heading for
New Orleans.


The upper level window where I photographed
the Memphis Station at left.

From the Sightseeing Lounge Car, Mississippi
Cotton fields in late winter, after harvest.

Greenwood, MS.

The route of The CIty of New Orleans. south of Memphis, enters Mississippi, the poorest state in the Union.  This route in particular goes through the poorest section of the poorest state.  We traversed farmland, forests, and wetlands between Memphis and New Orleans. 

Greenwood, Mississippi, (From the Route Guide):  This area has a reputation as a cotton producer dating back to pre-Civil War times.  Located next to the Yazoo River, the city grew steadily from a busy river landing to one of the largest cotton markets in the world.  Today one-fifth of the world's crop is warehoused and sold here.

Florewood River Plantation State park,
which we passed, but was not pointed out, is a living history park.  It is a re-creation of a 1850s Antebellum cotton plantation.


Our sleeping car attendant, Carl.

Dog Gone, the train has arrived in
Greenwood, MS!


Greenwood, MS, mainstreet with it's classical
Main Street American architecture.


Downtown view from our sleeper window.


Sightseer Lounge Car, Cafe on lower level.
Next car is the diner.

The creeks were full with muddy water. Right-of-ways here were raised above the swamplike surroundings.  It was too early for trees to have new leaves.

Arriving in Jackson, MS.  The track is elevated here and the state capitol can be seen to the east of the train.  This is the only "Scenic Photo" spot between Memphis and the Louisiana Bayou!

The picture above, of the Sightseer Lounge Car was taken as we were navigating through the train to the diner.  During the trip I met Chuck Strickler, a very congenial and informative Amtrak Manager from the east coast.  We, on the west coast had been trying to find out about the dining car changes that had been proposed, so after returning home, I contacted Chuck for a description.  Here is his informed response:

Simplified Dining Service is what you experienced on the City of New Orleans. Basically Simplified Dining is an internal change in the way Dining Car operations are organized and managed on all Long Distance Trains (Excluding Auto Train and the Empire Builder). All long distance trains will be transitioned to this service by June 1, 2006. Generally, the dining car crew will be reduced from a crew of 5 to a crew of 3.  The crew will consist of 1 Chef, 1 Lead Service Attendant and 1 Service Attendant. Additional crew positions will be added upon the anticipated number of meals to be served per meal period. Passengers will be seated in 15-minute intervals allowing a more even workflow and create a more relaxing dining atmosphere. Meal periods will be extended allowing the passenger more flexibility and convenience when eating. The annualized savings expected from Simplified Dining Service is in excess of $10 million.

[Thanks, Chuck, for making things clear for readers.]

I knew at the time of this trip that Sue and I would be going on the American Orient Express for the first time (see my report at and we talked about the AOE which Chuck had been on and was impressed with. 

Jackson, Mississippi
, from the Route Guide:  You'll notice the tracks rising as you pull into Jackson Station.  Beginning as LeFleur's Bluff, a trading settlement on the banks of the Pearl River, in 1821, it was chosen as the state capital and named in honor of Andrew Jackson.  The city grew in prominence, only to be invaded b y General Sherman three times during the Civil War and burned to the ground.  Some folks say that "Chimneyville," as it came to be called, was where Sherman practiced for the burning of Atlanta.  The city, however, refused to die and is now the state's largest city and the hub of trading and transportation.

Attractions in Jackson include the Governor's Mansion (which served as a hosptial during the Civil War), Dizzy Dean Museum, the Old Capitol Museum, the Mississippi Petrified Forest (the only such forest in the Eastern U.S.) Mynelle Gardens and the Oaks, Jackson's oldest Antebellum cottage (which was occupied by General Sherman during the siege).  About ten miles west, on the campus of Mississippi College, is Provine Chapel.  Here, Confederate soldiers hid in the basement to avoid capture by Sherman's army.

As the train leaves Jackson, you'll see the Jackson skyline, distinguished by the gold dome of the state capitol.  Built in 1903, this beautiful building is topped by a golden eagle.  Its design closely follows that of the nation's capitol in Washington, DC.  South of Jackson, you'll start to see the pine trees of the famous Piney Woods.  This area provides some of the raw materials for a huge output of products that make Mississippi a leading forest industry state, producing pine, oil rosin and turpentine.


The Amtrak sign at Jackson makes a nice frame for the downtown skyline on this partly cloudy, warm late-winter day.


Jackson Amtrak Station platform.

The Hotel King Edward, south of the station, (above and right) refused to to integrate in the 1960s and closed instead.  It still stands vacant.  You get a close look as you leave the station.



South of Jackson, you'll see many lumber mills and lumber trucks taking logs to the mills.  Both views attest to the importance of lumber products to this state.

McComb, Mississippi, (from the Route Guide):  This town was named for Colonel Henry Simpson McComb, president of the New Oleans, Jackson and Great Northern Railroad.  He spearheaded reconstruction of the track following the Civil War.  At the station, you can see some of the historic old cars of the Illinois Central Railroad.  The last steam locomotive, refrigerator car and steam engine that ran on the line are also here.  McComb enjoys the distinction of being the "Camellia City of America," as no city can boast of a larger cross the edge of Osyka and state line into Louisiana.



When we arrived in New Orleans, the Conductor came to our sleeper (last car) and, with radio, communicated with the engineer as we safely backed into the station.  We enjoyed the large New Orleans Station (above) while waiting for our checked luggage.

Sign in NOL Station.

French Quarter, New Orleans.

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