An early morning fire on July 4 destroyed the Grenada Railroad bridge across Yalobusha River. according to North Central Mississippi Regional Railroad Authority (NCMRRA) President Larry Hart.
The cause of the fire is under investigation by the Grenada Fire Department and the Miss. State Fire Marshal’s office.
“Someone set the Yalobusha River Railroad Bridge on fire …” Hart states.
“That portion of the railroad will be out of service until the Labor Day period for repair,” Hart continues in a e-mail. “We can maintain current operations without the bridge but will be severely handicapped.”
Hart also said the four locomotives used by the line were north of the bridge the night of the fire, which will allow them to continue operating on the remainder of the north part of the line.
“They don’t have any estimate of cost of repair yet, but it is covered by insurance,” Hart states about the damage.
A narrow access road hampered firefighters, according to a news release from Grenada Fire Department (GFD) Chief Ronnie Willis Sr. through Assistant Chief Paul Rivers.
GFD received the report of the fire about 1:15 a.m. Tuesday.
“Rescue 1 closed on the scene while Engine 1 assisted with a water shuttle,” the GFD release states.
“Railroad personnel arrived on scene shortly after and began tearing down sections of the supports with heavy machinery to assist with the extinguishment of the fire,” the statement continues.
“Once under control, Rescue 1 remained on the scene at the request of Iowa Pacific Railroad personnel. At 5:31 a.m., Rescue 1 left the scene.”
The bridge loss comes as the Grenada Railway nears a two-year deadline to have opened the south portion of the line from Grenada to Canton to rail traffic.
The former CN Railroad rail line between Memphis and Jackson was sold in 2009 to a rail salvage company, spawning fears in the seven counties served that the rail would be abandoned and sold for scrap.
That led to meetings of local government and economic development officials from Tate, Panola, Yalo-busha, Grenada, Montgomery, Carroll and Holmes counties.
In 2014, after Grenada Railway’s owners announced their intention to abandon the portion of rail between Grenada and Canton, the Mississippi legislature created NCMRRA and authorized it to issue $30 million in bonds to help finance the purchase of the rail line.
An additional $13 million loan from the Mississippi Development Authority secured the $43 million purchase price.
NCMRRA consummated the rail line purchase on July 29, 2015 and leased its operation to Iowa Pacific Holdings, LLC.
Iowa Pacific, which kept the name Grenada Railway for the 187-mile route, immediately announced plans to bring the Polar Express Train Ride to Batesville.
Grenada Railway also began soliciting rail freight customers along its route while addressing rail maintenance and rehabilitation along the route.