GSI Identity Created for the Meridian Speedway!
Well an update is WAY overdue! Despite all of what was 2020, I did manage to get some modeling done...though I did not practice due diligence updating this blog. This post will focus on one project from this summer: Gulf and Ship Island freight cars.
One of the predecessor railroads that I have incorporated into my proto-freelanced Natchez Trace and Orient (NTO) concept is the Gulf and Ship Island Railroad (GSI). The prototype Gulf and Ship Island was in existence from its incorporation in 1882 until 1925 when it became part of the Illinois Central Railroad. From 1925 until 1946 the Gulf and Ship Island name existed as a subsidiary of the Illinois Central.
The fit for the GSI into my NTO is that the GSI provides access to the Gulf of Mexico at Gulfport, Mississippi. The channel from the Port of Gulfport to the protective barrier island named Ship Island is dredged to a depth of 36 feet. Taking advantage of the artistic license afforded by proto-freelancing, the Port of Gulfport is very busy in the Meridian Speedway empire!
In 1986 the real-world former GSI main line between Hattiesburg, MS and Gulfport, Mississippi was sold by the Illinois Central Gulf to regional railroad MidSouth Rail Corp., which was subsequently acquired by the KCS. All of MidSouth Rail was penciled into the railroads that I cobbled together to form my proto-freelanced NTO. In this reality the NTO (GSI) has trackage rights over the Illinois Central (I model 1996) from Jackson, Mississippi to Hattiesburg, Mississippi and on to Mobile, Alabama. In exchange the Illinois Central has trackage rights over the NTO from Jackson, Mississippi east to Meridian, Mississippi and west to Vicksburg, Mississippi.
As a kid growing up in the New Orleans area, I remember that trips along the Mississippi Gulf Coast always included stops at Gulfport to check out the ICG/MSRG/KCS (depending on the year) yard to see what power was hanging around. We also would visit the Seaworld Aquarium on more than one occasion.
Fascinating to me was all of the trucks of bananas that we would see streaming from the port. If I recall correctly there would be both trailers belonging to Dole and Chiquita parading perishable cargo unloaded from ships that had docked there. Both Dole and Chiquita have addresses in Gulfport, Mississippi today.
Now to the fun part--the manifestation of this story in HO scale equipment! I entertained ideas ranging from operating the GSI as a separate operation to not giving it any acknowledgement other than the route miles on the system map. I decided that I did want Meridian Speedway visitors to have a visualization of the GSI name, so I have decided that there will be freight cars lettered for the Gulf and Ship Island that will carry GSI reporting marks.
Because the real GSI ceased being a stand-alone entity in 1925, there never were any diesel locomotives or modern equipment bearing a prototype GSI logo. Internet searches reveal very few glimpses of anything of the original GSI or what its logo might have been.
My friend and fellow modeler Robert Tomb came across an image that showed an original Gulf and Ship Island freight car bearing a ship “Steering Wheel” logo that had the slogan “Deep Water Route” embedded in it. He previously had artwork drawn up that approximated this logo and included it on GSI models of his own. Upon request, Robert graciously made this artwork available to me and allowed me to use it in artwork for my own GSI equipment.
The below buttons will take you to some external Gulf and Ship Island content. Feel Free to visit!
From here I turned to Matthew Welke of Circus City Decals to bring the concept to life. Inspired by my memories of the white sandy beaches I visited on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, I decided that the cars would be white with black lettering. Because the steering wheel loco is fairly intricate I thought it best to keep the logo small so that it would all fit on a single flat surface, not having to wrap over the ribs on a PS-4750 type hopper car.
As always Matthew Welke is very good at turning concept into reality. I created a rough depiction of my vision using MS Paint. Matthew plugged in all of my specifications and applied a font that looks very much like the font that was used on orange-and-white Illinois Central Gulf locomotives. I was quite pleased with the final product which, in my mind, provides a respectful nod to the Gulf and Ship Island in name, the Illinois Central/Illinois Central Gulf in font, and to the Mississippi Gulf Coast in color theme!
Upon receipt of the decals I selected four covered hopper cars to paint. Two of them are Tangent Scale Models PS-4750 cars. The other two are smooth side ACF 4650 covered hoppers, one by Atlas and the other by Intermountain. One never knows how paint schemes will fare with the transition from drawing board to actual model until one is painted. I have to say I like these cars! A unit grain train of Gulf and Ship Island hopper cars will make a grand visual rolling along the HO Meridian Speedway!
Undecided as of now is the question of motive power. I could have no locomotives decorated for the GSI. Or I could follow the theme of my Natchez Trace and Orient Railroad and my Texas and Great Northern Railroad which share a blended locomotive roster of engines wearing the same “Tedder-Green” paint scheme that I have adopted. This route would involve selection of some locomotives to wear the same scheme but have GSI lettering and logo. Or…I could do something different to make them stand out. The basic Tedder-Green paint scheme looks very sharp in any number of color combinations. I have considered perhaps painting some GSI locomotives either red or blue with the same white-stripe arrangement found on the NTO and TGN locomotives. So many choices! What to do…what to do???
Speaking of future unknown Gulf and Ship Island variables, I was quite surprised to see the below image appear recently in social media:
It appears that modelers are not the only ones who find the story of the Gulf and Ship Island alluring. Mr. Robert Riley, now famous for bringing back the Rock Island name and image on his former Mississippi Delta short line, has registered the Gulf and Ship Island name with the State of Mississippi for a future business venture. While it is unknown at this time if these plans include any actual former G&SI property, one thing is for sure: it will be a welcome addition to the railroading world!
Not wanting to run into any future issues, I have reached out to Mr. Riley and have his full support for continuing to model my interpretation of the Gulf and Ship Island Railroad!