Saturday, May 9, 2009

The "Rebel" and the "Doodlebug"

Remember late at night hearing the "Rebel" coming through town? The horn could be heard from Mauldin's Crossing to the south and all the way to Wheeler Crossing. The train turned around at Jackson, TN and went back south in the early morning hours. The above photo is the Rebel's exact sister train the "Limited". There are many photos of it owing to the fact it ran days and the Rebel was a "night train". More photographers snapped photos of the Limited during the daylight hours.

You will also recognize the "doodlebug" in the other photo. It went south in the early AM and back in the late afternoon bringing a few passengers, mail, and freight. A ride to Baldwyn from Tupelo was around 50 cents. Rev. Lampkin and others will recall meeting the doodlebug and receiving the Memphis Press-Scimitar newspapers for afternoon delivery about 4PM.

The term "doodlebug" was a railroad industry-wide nickname, we Baldwynians didn't come up with that one!

The Gulf, Mobile & Ohio Railroad, famously known as The Rebel Route, gained its celebrated slogan from the small fleet of passenger trains known as Rebels, with the most famous of these trains called simply the Rebel. The GM&O is not well remembered for its passenger services, which is likely due to the fact that it bailed out of the Deep South passenger market in the 1950s due to stiff competition from the Illinois Central and Louisville & Nashville. However, its small fleet of Rebels made enough of an impression that they are still remembered by many in the railroading ranks and those who were lucky enough to ride on them.

The Gulf Mobile and Ohio of the Midwest and South was a short-lived railroad whose legend continues to live on today. The GM&O wasn’t created until the early days of diesel power and it was gone by the early 1970s. However, during its roughly 40 years of operation it was a fierce competitor and although always surrounded by giants it held its own in many of the markets it served, which is not surprising as the railroad is also known as The Rebel Route.

What became the classic Rebel passenger train actually has its beginnings dating back to GM&O's predecessor, Gulf, Mobile & Northern, which has the distinction of inaugurating the first Southern streamliner, the Rebel, in 1935. While this train may not be as well known as the Super Chiefs or Empire Builders it brought about two drastic upgrades to passenger rail operations. First, the original Rebel was a three-car streamlined “trainset”. The Rebel also had the ability to interchange or add cars.

GM&O's most famous trains were the Rebel, Abraham Lincoln, and Ann Rutledge (which continues today under Amtrak). These trains carried a beautiful livery of two-tone maroon/red with yellow trim.


  1. Hey Carl, I remember the Rebel. It was the first and only train I ever rode. Mama got us up early one morning, and I do mean EARLY, to catch the Rebel for a trip to Mobile,Ala to visit Grandmother and Poppa Evans. She had promised us we could eat a meal in the dining car but when she saw how much it was going to cost she opened her little carry on bag and took out some PB&J sandwiches. I was so disappointed. The conductor, who had overheard her telling us we could eat there, came and got us, PB&J sandwiches and all and escorted us to a table in the dining room where we unwrapped our sandwiches and enjoyed the luxury of eating at a table.

  2. Great pictures and info, Carl. My favorite uncle was a GMandO brakeman on those trains out of New Orleans for many years. He said he came through Baldwyn and Booneville at least once a week and blew the horn for me. I lived in New Site and could hear railroad noise at night.

  3. Carl didn't we also refer to the doodlebug as the "dinky" or some such funny name???

  4. 10:07,
    I had forgotten that, and, yes it was known as the dinky. Thanks for the reminder.

  5. We rode the doodlebug many times from Booneville to Jackson, Tenn. to catch a bus to Nashville and visit relatives. I was about 7 or 8 then. It was a nice ride but the bus trip over the river and the mountains was more fascinating at the time.

    Joe Wardlow

    Just found this website. Like it.