GRENADA – The North Central Mississippi Regional Railroad Authority (NCMRRA) announced Thursday that it has reached a final agreement with Grenada Railway, LLC (GRYR) to acquire the company and all the rail assets of the Grenada Branch Line, extending between milepost 403.0 in Southaven and milepost 703.8 near Canton, to include the section that runs through Panola County.
The announcement follows Tuesday’s filing with the Surface Transportation Board by Iowa Pacific Holdings, LLC and Permian Basin Railways a verified Notice of Exemption that states it will lease operate the line from NCMRRA.
The Notice of Exemption states further that it will operate the line through its newly-formed subsidiary, Illinois Company Rail Road, which has the same initials as the Illinois Central Rail Road which acquired the line in 1886 and operated it until Canadian National Railway (CN) gained control in 1998.
The Grenada Branch Line serves customers along the North Central Mississippi corridor providing direct access to all five class I railroads in the country and to the Gulf of Mexico through its connections with CN in both Memphis and Canton. The primary commodities shipped on the line are wood products, construction materials, metal scrap, and chemicals.
Closing of the transaction is expected to occur immediately after the NCMRRA has completed a satisfactory physical inspection of the line and has obtained all necessary regulatory authority to operate the line, according to a statement issued by the NCMRRA.
In 2009, CN sold the Grenada Branch Line to Grenada Railway, LLC whose owners were primarily engaged in the rail salvage business, triggering fears that the line would be abandoned and its rail sold. State economic development officials and representatives from the seven affected counties and from affected municipalities formed the North Central Mississippi Rail Coalition, an organization that led to creation of the NCMRRA by the state legislature.
Salvage fears gained further credibility in 2011 when Grenada Railway announced intention to abandon 86 miles of track from Grenada to Canton.
In 2014, the legislature authorized NCMRRA to issue $30 million in bonds to finance purchase of the Grenada Branch Line from its owners.
Iowa Pacific Holdings was formed in 2001 “to acquire railroads and create rail-related businesses,” according to its web site.
“This is the same company that has been buying up all the old IC passenger equipment and restoring,” Senatobia rail enthusiast Bob Meacham said. “Iowa Pacific owns Pullman Rail Journeys.”