Living

How 19th-century railroad connected Biloxi, Ocean Springs

By Murella H. Powell

COURTESY RANDY RANDAZZORailroad historian J. G. Lachaussee says that the 'sheer weight of the water' in a swift tidal wave that rises above the decking can actually hold a railroad bridge down.
COURTESY RANDY RANDAZZORailroad historian J. G. Lachaussee says that the 'sheer weight of the water' in a swift tidal wave that rises above the decking can actually hold a railroad bridge down.

On Oct. 9, 1870, two representatives of the L&N Railroad drove two spikes, one gold and one silver, and connected the final eastbound and westbound rails between New Orleans and Mobile.

The first New Orleans to Mobile train crossed the Biloxi-Ocean Springs railroad bridge on the following day.

The railroad bridge, pictured circa 1908, connected Biloxi and Ocean Springs for the first time other than by boat.

Oral histories tell that some young people walked the bridge to attend dances and to visit sweethearts. Also, early reports claim that the fishing was great around the trestles. The railroad bridge's greatest nemesis is a hurricane. According to railroad historian J. G. Lachaussee, "in case of hurricane damage to a wooden pile trestle, the decking is either washed off or disheveled to some extent, and all that is necessary is to replace and/or repair the decking as well as the tracking which rested on it."

The destructive hurricane of 1893 threw a whole span of rails into a seafood factory on the Biloxi side and "crushed it like eggshells."

Over the years, the bridge was repaired or rebuilt as needed. The draw span was moved, replaced and destroyed by fire. The entire bridge was completely rebuilt in the late 1970s. It reopened in 1980.

Murella H. Powell, a local historian, writes the weekly Flashback column. Do you have a local photograph to submit to Flashback? It can be of any subject or event in the Coast's distant or recent past. Please send a description with your name, address and daytime phone number to Flashback, the Sun Herald, P.O. Box 4567, Biloxi MS 39535; or call 896-2424; or email living @sunherald.com.

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