Vardaman History Project - The Railroad, 1902-1939

Roadbed photo by Jim Young, Aerial photo from Bing

Thirty Five Years of the Railroad in Vardaman

Old Railbed The railroad which was the reason for the town of Vardaman's existence lasted 35 years. The tracks reached Vardaman in 1904 and the removal of the tracks began in 1939.

There are few visible signs of the railroad in the Vardaman area now. The tracks were sold in 1939. The depot, like those in Derma and Calhoun City, is gone although the depot building still exists in Houston. The railbed itself has essentially disappeared in Calhoun County. From the eastern Calhoun County border through Vardaman, MS Highway 8 lies on top of the old railbed; from Vardaman to Calhoun City the railbed has either eroded away or has been flattened by the owners of the land that it crossed. The bridges have disappeared. Just east of Pyland over in Chickasaw County, however, some of the old railbed can still be seen as shown in the picture on the right.

Old Railbed West of Vardaman Even though the railbed is gone, traces of it remain. It influenced the topography of the land and the layout of fields and tree plantations. This aerial photograph of the area between Vardaman and to the west of the Hollis community, clearly shows where the railbed was located. The Hollis community pre-existed the railroad and became known as "Hollis Switch". When the "new" MS Highway 8 was constructed, the highway was located one tenth of a mile north of the railbed and parallel to it to Derma.

The railroad was built by the Southern Railroad Company in 1902-1906 and was operated by the Mobile and Ohio (M&O) Railroad Company. In 1933 the M&O went into receivership and the railroad was bought by a group of investors and renamed the Okolona, Houston, and Calhoun City (OH&CC) Railroad. The OH&CC lasted six years before it, too, was no longer financially viable. The two periods of the railroad's history make interesting reading and an introduction to each of these eras is provided below.

The Southern/M&O Era
1902 - 1933

The original charter to construct a railroad in the general area which became Vardaman was granted to the Grenada, Houston & Eastern Railway Co. in February 1860, "to construct a railroad with double or single track from Grenada, in the county of Yallobusha [sic], on the Mississippi Central Railroad, by Pittsboro, in Calhoun County, to Houston, in Chickasaw County, and eastward to the Mobile and Ohio Railroad ". There were two name changes for the railroad, first to the Vicksburg & Nashville Railroad Company in 1872, and then to the Nashville & Mississippi Delta (N&MD) Railroad Company in 1890. ...More...

The OH&CC Years

On April 20, 1933, the Times-Post reported that Will N. Ethridge had purchased the Okolona-Calhoun City Branch. Ethridge was an attorney for the M&O who lived in West Point. Ethridge, along with T. A. Rhodes, also of West Point, and Eugene B. Ethridge, a resident of Meridian, had organized a company and purchased the branch from the Southern. Local papers reported that Ethridge had gone to Washington to arrange the purchase with the ICC, and that a 16-man bridge crew had been put to work on the branch line with instructions to overhaul and repair all bridges as quickly as possible....More...

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