Railroad had a vital role in Blountstown’s growth

June 19, 2010

Written in 1949 by Wallace Finlay

Blountstown Railroad Company–Incorporated in June, 1908, the Marianna & Blountstown Railroad Company rolled its first train into this little town in September 1909.

People came in from Calhoun’s swamps and pine barrens, from the Jackson County line all the way to the Gulf of Mexico, which at that time was the southern boundary of Calhoun County. Many of them had never before seen an iron horse.

From that day the trains have continued to roll. Rufus Pennington, head of Blountstown Manufacturing Company, served as first president of the road, and was the man who contributed most in work and money in securing what is still Calhoun County’s only outlet by rail.

As in small towns from coast to coast in these United States, Calhoun Countians have reviled and bemoaned features of their train service. Inevitably the train has been called many names, combinations of affections and grouses. For years it was called the “Many Bumps.” Other people, knowing its importance in the economy of the country, called it by a more deserving name, “Meat and Bread,” both take-offs on M&B, of course.

Drops Passenger Service

Until December 3, 1929, the rail had passenger service. At that time, the advent of the automobile, buses, and good roads, made passenger service impractical. The road settled down then to carrying freight only.

The backbone of the train’s freight is lumber and associated products. It also furnishes Calhoun County’s farmers outlet for their produce, which is largely watermelons and cucumbers.

Until August 1938 the Marianna & Blountstown Railroad company ran its trains all the way to Scotts Ferry, 11 miles south of Blountstown. The original company had a log train line to Scotts Ferry, and the company operated its train on this line under trackage rights until March 1927. At that time interests, represented by the late J.C. Packard, purchased the company’s holdings, and the branch line, which was incorporated into their company as a result of mills cutting out, and revolution in the turpentine industry it ceased to be profitable to operate beyond Blountstown.

The color and uniqueness of Blountstown’s own railroad was emphasized when Lucius Beebe America’s foremost railroad fancier, and author of a book on unusual roads, visited the present head of the company, O.O. Miller, in Blountstown, in the early part of 1946, and interviewed him at length. The results of that interview, complete with pictures, appeared in Beeb’s book on short line railroads in the United States.

The Marianna & Blountstown Railroad is the only independently owned short line railroad in the state of Florida, and one of the few in the United States. It is strictly a Calhoun County institution and is as proud of its individuality as most of the citizens of the colorful county.

Miller has headed the rail since June 1, 1939. In 1947, on October 1, Miller’s company added a new diesel locomotive to its rolling stock. This is part of a long range plan to keep the little line abreast of the times, and to continue to furnish Calhoun County with an outlet to the nation’s market.

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