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Illinois Central Time Machine: 1956 or 2016?

Above: A Premier Rails Pullman Porter poses for a photograph after the all-day excursion from Horn Lake to Grenada, Mississippi. Premier Rails is owned by Iowa Pacific Holdings and provides first class service on all passenger trains operated by the company.

On June 5th, 2016, The Grenada Railroad hosted an excursion between Horn Lake and Grenada, Mississippi. The leisurely, all-day excursion traveled over the original Illinois Central passenger main to New Orleans. The famous train, named after The City of New Orleans its self, once traveled these very rails at speeds up to 80MPH.

Iowa Pacific Holdings owns The Grenada Railroad, the current operators of this historic line. Ed Ellis, President of IPH, spent his childhood watching trains on this very railroad as a young boy in Paducah, Kentucky. His dream of working for the Illinois Central Railroad eventually came true and he spent most of his career building a name for himself. Over time, he gained a lot of experience and even became the VP of Amtrak. In the early 2000s, he and his business partners formed Iowa Pacific and own many shortline railroads all over the globe. It was only fitting that when the Grenada Railroad line was put up for sale, Mr. Ellis purchased it.


Above:  The train crew from the day’s successful excursion pose for a photo at Grenada, MS.

Even though Mr. Ellis has had experience operating railroads in all corners of the United States, his favorite still remains the old IC. Because of his love and affection for the “central,” he chose to have all of his company’s equipment to be painted in Illinois Central livery.

It doesn’t get much more historic than this: an Illinois Central passenger train operating over the original route of The City of New Orleans and the same line Ed Ellis grew up watching trains on, an entirely matching consist, two EMD E8A diesels, and an Illinois Central magnetic decal on the front of the #515.


Above: Engineer Craig Willett climbs up into the engine compartment of E8A #515. This historic locomotive was built in 1953 and has C&NW heritage, but wears Illinois Central livery under ownership of Ed Ellis’ Iowa Pacific Holdings.

On board, the passengers were enjoying their journey south. In these beautifully restored passenger coaches, it really did feel like 1956 again. With the countryside rolling by and the sound of the Nathan P5 air horn, one could almost feel like they had traveled back in time. Enjoy the feature-length video presentation on The City of Grenada below:

About Delay In Block Productions

Delay in Block productions is a video production company company specialized in high-definition railroad photos and videos.


  • Larry G says:

    Growing up in Horn Lake and attend school here for 7 years, was where this train ride begins. As students, we were accustomed to seeing several ICRR passenger trains each day out our classroom windows. My Dad worked for the ICRR and I grew up riding these trains all of my youth. I also followed in my Dad’s footsteps and went to work for the ICRR for just over 44 years. I purchased my tickets during the first hour it was publicly announced for my wife and I. The last time I rode this livery on this line was in 1969, just before “Uncle Sam’ drafted me into the U.S. Army. When I returned from ‘Nam in mid 1971, AMTRAK had taken over passenger service across the nation. This was a great and nostalgic ride for me as it brought back a lot of good memories of the IC passenger trains. Personally, I want to thank Ed Ellis and Iowa Pacific Holdings for giving us the return of ICRR livery on one of its original passenger mains.

  • KatS says:

    My grandfather retired from ICRR. I remember visiting him in his “boxcar” on job sites in several areas while they built bridges.

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