1940: A Noteworthy U.S. Railroad Merger Takes Place in Illinois

September 13, 1940

In a major consolidation of railroads in the south-central United States, the relatively new Gulf, Mobile & Ohio Railroad (GM&O) assumed control of the bankrupt Mobile & Ohio Railroad (M&O) through a deed that was signed and filed in Murphysboro, Illinois. This action marked the end of the M&O, a railroad that dated back to 1848. Another key outcome of this merger was that it gave the GM&O a vast network of nearly 2,000 miles (3,218.7 kilometers) of track that linked St. Louis, Missouri, with the port cities of Mobile, Alabama, and New Orleans, Louisiana.

“It is expected that the Gulf, Mobile & Ohio, which by means of the merger with the Mobile and Ohio, becomes one of the nation’s major trunk lines, will take over within a few days actual operation of the system,” reported the Murphysboro-based Daily Independent newspaper the day after the consolidation officially took place.

Under the leadership of Isaac B. Tigrett, who served as the president of the GM&O until 1952, the newly consolidated railroad became a formidable force in the U.S. railroad industry within just a few years. (Tigrett’s great-nephew and namesake, incidentally, is a prominent businessman best known as a co-founder of the Hard Rock Café restaurant chain.) An especially significant development for the GM&O occurred in 1947 when it acquired the Alton Railroad and as a result gained that company’s vital connections to both Chicago, Illinois, and Kansas City, Missouri.

Other major cities served by the GM&O during its existence were Montgomery and Birmingham in Alabama as well as Memphis, Tennessee. The GM&O also achieved fame as one of the first large U.S. railroads to replace all of its steam locomotives with diesels.

The GM&O, which remained in operation until merging with the Illinois Central Railroad in 1972 to form the Illinois Central Gulf Railroad, has also made its imprint on popular culture. Musical artist “Sonny Boy” Williamson I, for example, wrote and first recorded the song GM&O Blues in 1945. In addition, a GM&O locomotive and several of the railroad’s passenger cars appear in the opening and ending scenes of the Oscar-winning 1967 movie In the Heat of the Night.

For more information on the Gulf, Mobile & Ohio Railroad (GM&O), please check out http://www.gmohs.org/GMORR/A_Condensed_History_of_the_GMO.htm

A video featuring both the 1945 song GM&O Blues and various images pertaining to that railroad is available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F9SHR02gitU


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