Sheffield, AL - Corinth, MS
A self-guiding railfan tour
This tour stitches together 2 of the most important Norfolk Southern system points in the upper mid-South: The major yard and junction point at Sheffield, Alabama, and the junction point of Corinth, Mississippi. At Sheffield, main lines from Birmingham and Chattanooga converge at the site of a major classification yard, and at Corinth, lines from Centralia/St Louis and Memphis converge. Traffic from all of these major end points flows thru the Sheffield - Corinth main line, and is heavy and frequent.
Contents And Navigation:
WHAT YOU WILL FIND HERE: From a particular starting point, each segment of this coverage will allow you to follow the instructions given, drive to a railfan site, then to the next, etc. etc. Traffic levels and patterns will be given, and the photographic/ lighting considerations for each site will usually be mentioned. You'll be told about area attractions, such as tourist and historic sites, as well as hotels and restaurants which are trackside or otherwise worthy of note. In short, you'll be able to plan an entire family or railfan-only outing (or even a vacation) from this tour. using this guide as a point of departure.
WHAT YOU WILL NOT FIND HERE:This is a railfan guide, not a photo collection. There are already many excellent and enjoyable railroad photo sites available, and one more really wouldn't add much value to the general railfan. Besides, photos take up a lot of memory, and your humble Webmaster has to pay for memory.
You will not find fancy graphics, as this is a tour guide, not an exhibition of HTML or graphics expertise. You'll be able to load these pages quickly and print them without waiting a week for each page to print. Also, you'll conserve toner in the process.
Major contributors to this effort include:
Tony Hill, Webmaster and text provider for this entire tour, unless otherwise noted. All first person pronouns refer to Tony, unless otherwise noted.
Tracy Bullard, of Corinth, Mississippi, has an
excellent Web site dedicated to the Memphis District of Norfolk Southern's
Alabama Division. He has timetable info, train symbols and images.
He has provided technical help relative to this tour. His Web site is
If you'd like to contribute to this, or any other tour, please contact me at email@example.com, and let me know what you'd like to do. We'll work together: You supply the data/info, and I'll do the HTML stuff and upload it. You'll get a chance to review the fruits of your efforts before the general public sees the finished product, so you can let me have your corrections, additions and changes.
The Railroad. This is a strategic piece of railroad for NS, and it is maintained beautifully. According to Tracy Bullard's Web site, 12-16 trains a day use the rails, and these are primarily manifest, intermodal, and unit coal. However, additional trains of grain, automobiles and other commodities will often be seen. Interestingly, "car exchange" in Memphis has largely been replaced by "train exchange", and entire trains are turned over to NS from UP and BNSF (and vice versa), to run thru to Atlanta and other gateways. It is not at all uncommon to see pure UP or BNSF lash-ups anywhere on this line, so be ready to take advantage of the variety.
There are no mountains to cross, but the crossing of Pickwick Lake and the Tenn-Tom Waterway require the line to traverse rather remote countryside. Other than that, the line is quite accessible, except for the ever-present southeastern "treed in" effect you'll see from mid-Spring all the way to late November. Indeed, the gently rolling countryside and the superb physical condition of the entire railroad plant make this a very photogenic and pleasant line to fan.
Mapwork: Much of the tour will be frustrating if you have no detailed map for back country roads. I definitely recommend you get a DeLorme Atlas & Gazetteer, study it before your trip, and copy pertinent pages for your field work. You can find information here about Railfan Maps that are available.
Abbreviations. Some phrases are used repeatedly in this tour, so I've developed some standard Frograil abbreviations:
NAG. A not-at-grade crossing. Unless I mention otherwise, these are usually not worth the time and trouble to drive to them.
NARL. Not a railfan location. This is because of any number of reasons, such as lousy photo ops, dangerous, no shoulder on a NAG bridge, etc. As a general rule of thumb, it is wise to avoid NARL's.
Security. As you can imagine, this tour is mostly very rural. Unlike the typical tour which encompasses fairly large urban areas, there is relatively little concern throughout the tour's length with personal security. Except for a few areas of the Sheffield area and Corinth, you've kind of got to work hard to get bopped over the head. However, there is a major concern with personal security once "away from civilization." You do not want to scurry up to the ABC Trestle by yourself. If you fall and break an ankle, you could quite possibly die out there. In all railfan outings, you are encouraged to have at least one male buddy with you.
WEBMASTER'S NOTE: I do not recommend or condone, walking along the tracks, as this means trespassing and exposing yourself to danger. You will have to be creative, in some instances, to avoid trespassing while getting to the detailed locations included herein, but you will either have to be creative or not visit those sites. At no point in this tour guide, or any other tour which is part of Frograil, is it recommended that you trespass or expose yourself to danger. If you are a fool and have a leg cut off (or worse), don't come crying to me: You have been warned. Trains are big, powerful, and often surprisingly quiet. Don't end up being a statistic.
Railfan sites --Sheffield, Alabama, to Corinth, Mississippi
Hobgood -- West End Sheffield Yard. Before getting started, let me clarify something relating to place names in the Sheffield area. Muscle Shoals, East Sheffield, Tuscumbia, Sheffield, and GOK what else all come together on the south bank of the Tennessee River. I've tried to identify the locations correctly, but have no doubt that some are not accurate. What's important, however, is that you follow the driving instructions and you'll have no problems. If anyone wants to correct the municipal locations cited, just e-mail me.
From US-72Alternate on the southeast side of the metro area, go north on Elledge Road/CR-22. Just before the tracks, there is a trailer park on the left, and if there are only one or two of you fanning, there is an excellent view to both east and west. This is from private property, and I strongly suggest you get permission to be there from the park's management. S1, indeed at the trailer park, but there is no access from the north, N4.
On the other hand, if you don't want to try the trailer park for whatever reason, take a right just before the tracks, and head east on Green Acres Drive. There are railroad facilities between Green Acres and the tracks, and these are obviously off limits to railfans. However, there is a very large cotton field south of the road, and there is about 8' of mown shoulder between the field and road. There is plenty of room for railfanning here, and like the trailer park, you'll catch everything coming out of the yard. S1/N4
Just east of the crossing itself, at a point named "Wilson", the line from the yard splits, with the Corinth/Memphis line that we'll be touring going northwest, and the line to Birmingham going due west here (but it will very shortly swing 90° to the south). Wilson, at MP 402.8.
Norala Junction -- North. Continue north on Elledge Road, cross the tracks, and take a left at East 6th Street, which is a major east-west route. After a very short while, turn left onto Industrial Drive. Drive into the area, cross the spur tracks, and find an off-private property place to park. You can walk down the old spur to the main line we are following, and get some shots, but these are going to have to be tight, and you are probably going to be trespassing. This area is not recommended as a railfan location.
Norala Junction -- South. Retrace your route back up Industrial to East 6th Street, and take a left to head west. At US-43/US-72/etc., take a left and head south, and go up and over the tracks. Take your first left (Decatur Street) into the sports complex for the area. You'll pass industry to your left and ball fields to your right, and the road will mostly peter out straight ahead before turning 90° to the south. Park before this turn and walk north to the tracks. You'll see the track from Birmingham in front of you, as well as the track we are following just north of the former. This point is Norala Junction, and is S1/N4. Note that someone in the industry to the west of the junction has a very big garden in the field between the road and the tracks....you'd be smart to avoid that garden! All that aside, this is an afternoon lawn chair and cooler location. Bring the whole gang and enjoy what NS has to offer.
Muscle Shoals -- West 6th Street. For the most part, this is a poor photo location -- but don't overlook the remainder! Backtrack to 6th Street and take a left to continue west. When you pass the tracks, take an almost immediate left onto Pepsi Drive and find a place to park. Here are the photo ratings at the crossing: NE4, SE4, SW1, NW4. Pretty lousy, but that southwest view really is good for afternoon southbounds, and late afternoon northbounds (timetable east- and westbounds, respectively). The tracks are almost perfectly southeast - northwest here, so the light will be your friend or foe, depending on the time of year and time of day.
Southeast of the crossing, the track leading to Norala Junction is single track, while northwest of the crossing, the track is double track westbound.
Muscle Shoals -- Avalon. Just before you cross the tracks via West 6th Street, take a right and go north on Broadway Avenue. This will parallel the tracks, but they are treed in and there is no access. Take a left onto West Tuxedo Avenue, and then a right onto Beverly Avenue. Beverly will take you up to West Avalon Avenue (notice how everything in this entire area seems to be an "avenue"? Whatever happened to streets, roads, boulevards, etc? But I digress.). When you reach Avalon, take a left for only one block, and then take a right onto South Central Avenue, and find a place to park.
Walk carefully across busy South Central, and then down the vestigial road past the old station foundation towards the tracks. There are 2 main tracks plus a spur track, and the photo ratings take some explaining. From where you are, Avalon Avenue is just south of you, and you are at an E1 location, but the rating on the west side is W4. South of Avalon, the rating is SE4, but the SW quadrant is interesting. In the evening and on weekends, the rating is a solid SW1, but when the business that occupies the location is open, it's a solid SW4. Hey, it never hurts to ask for the OK to take pix.
There's an interesting thing that happens just northwest of here, and if you plan on railfanning in the Alaska Avenue area, you need to be aware of it. MapQuest and other old map resources show a fairly large yard north of this point, but that was all rendered obsolete by the development of the Sheffield Yard, and largely no longer exists. Most of the trackage in the area is long gone, but the northeastern track acts as a main line for westbound trains. In effect, that track takes the westbounds thru Sheffield, while the track on the far west of the "yard" carries eastbounds. Do NOT assume that there is only one active track northwest of here, because if you do, you'll get burned (like your humble Webmaster did!).
Sheffield -- Atlanta Avenue. All kinds of stuff used to happen here, but we'll just contend ourselves with what happens today. From the West Avalon Avenue crossing, continue west on Avalon to a right on Sterling Boulevard. You can tack ever northeast in hopes to see some trackside action, but the neighborhood is schlecht, and the train action was gone decades ago. So, just continue on to South Atlanta Avenue. Take a right, and go right on up to the interesting, and still somewhat complicated crossing in downtown Sheffield. MapQuest and other old sources show L&N coming into the area, but all vestiges of L&N/CSX are long gone, and this is all NS Sheffield - Corinth trackage today.
Turn right after the first set of tracks, and you'll be in an open area, well back from the tracks, and safe. Logic tells you that the first set of tracks is the one you care about, but logic is wrong here. As mentioned earlier, the eastern-most track serves as the westbound main, and the one closest to you serves as the eastbound main. That sounds simple, but you'll have a dickens of a time walking back and forth over the Alaska Avenue crossing to be in the right place at the right time. There is a simpler solution: Go on to Shop Pike.
Sheffield -- Shop Pike. The tracks have come up in a decidedly southeast - northwest arc, and are now going to exit Sheffield on a decidedly northeast - southwest arc. Indeed, it's strongly suggested that you spend a little time examining the maps of the area, as we will start to rapidly exit the cozy in-town Sheffield area. There are several ways to wend thru this area, but here is perhaps the most obvious: Go north on Atlanta to a left on East 1st Street. Then take another left onto South Montgomery Street, and just beyond the tracks, take the southwest veer onto Shop Pike.
Shop Pike is a busy street, but there is a large grassy area between the street and the tracks. Indeed, this is a lawn chair and cooler location, and remains so for a long ways to the southwest. The area around 11th Street is superb, but you really can't go wrong anywhere along here.
Shop Pike will end at Stuart Street, and you can take that and North Hook Street ever south, until you reach Old Lee Highway to the southwest. Take Old Lee, and you'll once again meet up with the tracks in about a half mile, but the tracks are definitely treed in all along here.
Tuscumbia -- Pine Street. Just keep going southwesterly along Old Lee Highway, which may become James Street, but no matter what the name, you'll end up on US-72/Memphis Pike Road. After all that 30 mph city traffic, you'll love the 60 mph country traffic, but be alert, as Pine Street will go to the north, shortly, and you don't want to miss this excellent railfan location. At Pine Street, take a right, go over the tracks and park. Here, a fairly confusing batch of roads try their best to confuse the simple railroad scene, but fail. After all, all that happens here is that the ex-Southern tracks go between US-72 and Old Memphis Road, with the following photo ratings at the crossing: NE2, SE1, SW1, NW4.
Pride -- Carlin. Continue west on US-72, and you'll see a railroad point "Scott" on the north side of the tracks. This is the location of a defect detector, "Scott", at MP 410.4. Shortly after that, you'll see what appears to be an active, interesting crossing of the tracks, but it goes into a very active quarry operation, and is certainly no railfan location. Travel a little further west, and you'll encounter AL-53, which runs up to Pride Landing. The eastern end of a passing siding is here ("Carlin", at MP 413.8), and the photo ops are a uniform NE2, SE2, SW2, NW2.
Barton. Shortly to the west of Pride, US-72 and Old Lee Highway split once again, and you'll want to follow Old Lee Highway. There is nothing fancy along here, but there is a very nice, pleasant, wide-open east- and westbound shot all along here at almost any time of day. This is a place where folks who fancy themselves real photographers might want to scope out the area ahead of time, and knock down some killer photos later. This is a nice railfan and photo area.
Cherokee. Cherokee is reached by continuing to follow Old Lee Highway west from Barton. It's really tough to fan Cherokee. Ho-hum. Set up anywhere in the downtown area, and unless you are totally brain-dead, you can get drop dead photos from almost any place. Between North Pike and Main north of Old Lee Highway, you can shoot until your trigger finger gets tired. If that happens, there are a couple of picnic table areas provided by the city which will help you recover. This is a lawn chair and cooler area. Enjoy!
Oldham. West of Cherokee, AL, the railroad and highway seem to play an interesting game going westward thru the area known as Margerum. Unfortunately, what plays out on the ground doesn't equal the allure of the map, and the Margerum area turns out to be a zero railfan location. Therefore, shortly after passing the entrance to the Natchez Trace Parkway, bear to the left on US-72, and just go over the branches of the Pickwick Lake/Tennessee River on in to Mississippi. Shortly after entering Mississippi, you'll see a sign for MS-172 off to the right. Note that MapQuest does not show this road (actually, it shows it as US-72, which has been built to the south years ago), so be alert.
As you go west on MS-172, you'll see an obscure sign for the Oldham Baptist Church. Whatever you do, do not ignore this sign. Take a right, drive on in, and you'll be in a quiet, safe area for watching the NS parade. Plan to eat your picnic lunch here, and relax -- this is rural train watching at its best. Just to the west of the crossing is the "Oldham" interlocking at MP 430.1, and the start of double track eastward. Photo ops are NE1, SE1, SW3, NW3.
Iuka -- Farmers Market. Between the church at Oldham and the town of Iuka, MS-172 hugs a creek, with the railroad on the opposite bank. The entire length of this area is treed in, and I'd suggest just driving on in to the town. There is life support in Iuka, which hasn't been the case since leaving the Sheffield area, so you might want to gas up, eat, etc., while here. There are any number of satisfactory places to fan in town, but the area between Fulton and Pearl streets is especially good. This location is a Farmer's Market on Saturday mornings (and perhaps Wednesday -- I didn't catch the dates), but is wide open all other times. It is north of the tracks, but there are plenty of locations in the immediate area just south of the tracks.
Iuka -- Hazard Switch. There are several ways to depart Iuka, including one that crosses the tracks at the end of West Ash Street which I did not personally observe. Because the railroad goes thru a fairly remote area for some miles, we left town via MS-172, and continued to CR-227, and took a right to go up to the tracks. CR-227 is the 3rd right turn from Iuka, and you have to slow down and see the tiny number sign. There is no name posted for the majority of the secondary roads throughout this area, so take your time and be sure.
CR-227 will take you up to a funny little jog to the right and then a crossing of the tracks. At that odd jog to the left is a tertiary road that dead ends after a bit. The south side of the tracks, all along here, provides excellent viewing for photos and fanning: NE3, SE1, SW1, NW4. Incidentally, there is no switch evident, but one is in the vicinity somewhere, because the Tishomingo Railroad goes from this area up to the Tri-State Commerce Park south of the Tennessee River. This is very interesting because neither MapQuest nor DeLorme show this wye and railroad at all. To be fair, the DeLorme I used is the Alabama one, and Iuka is in Mississippi, so perhaps some detail is lacking that would be evident on the Mississippi atlas. Go to http://www.tishomingorail.com to learn more about the railroad. The Tishomingo Railroad is shown as an active line by Steam Powered Video's Southern States edition.
Walker Siding. Continue west on MS-172 until just before it ends at US-72. Go north on either CR-171 or CR-982 to the tracks. We went via CR-982 and discovered the tracks on a very high fill, with a defect detector immediately to the east of the crossing. Interestingly, neither SPV nor Tracy Bullard's station list show this detector, so it may be a new one. It is definitely east of the Waterway. Photo ratings are a uniform NE2, SE2, SW2, NW2. The siding that gave this place its name is apparently long, long gone.
Burnsville -- US-72 View. Remember that very high fill at Walker Siding? When you go back down to MS-172 and turn right, the road will end at US-72. Take a right to go west, and you'll soon come to a major valley and waterway crossing. The waterway is the Tennessee - Tombigbee Waterway, and as you look to the north, you'll see a massive railroad bridge spanning the entire valley. The high fill at Walker Siding continues to the beginning of this bridge, and is repeated on the west bank, obviously, but you cannot get to that point easily.
For photographers, park east of the highway bridge and walk to the point from which you want to take a grand panoramic shot of the waterway and its levees, with the massive railroad bridge in the background. Be alert, however, because US-72 is a very busy road (not a limited access highway, however), and the speed limit is 65 mph. I would recommend going out on the bridge only when you know a train is imminent, and then quickly getting off it.
Burnsville -- Levee View. IMHO, there is a much better way to view the railroad bridge and its trains. Just west of the highway bridge is a road to the right leading into a large parking area for local boaters. There is a permanent restroom facility here, as well as access to the road along the top of the west levee. Walking is allowed, but no vehicular traffic is permitted. The bridge is probably less than one-half mile north of the parking lot. The noise in the area during the week is from a lumber products firm that is further down the dirt road to the northwest. You'll definitely hear their saw working away.
The road along the levee looks like it goes forever, so if you want a break from this tour, you can walk for miles and miles along here, and will probably not meet another soul. You'll see barge floats, guys out fishing, and some pleasure boats from time to time. It's a nice, relaxing place -- punctuated by the trains going over that gigantic bridge. That bridge is so big and thick, it looks like you could put the state of Texas on it, and it would do just fine, thank you!
Access to the east levee is also available by taking the last road before the highway bridge. I didn't take that road, but MapQuest shows it to be just west of CR-982. Depending on the lighting conditions, you have the option of either bank for photos.
Burnsville. From US-72 past the waterway, you'll see a couple of roads to the right that will take you into the Village of Burnsville. Fulton Street is the best, but the street sign is hard to see. Be prepared to follow your railfan nose north to the tracks, and you'll end up in the right place. At the tracks, Fulton will deposit you in a large gravel lot complete with a few very large trees for your shady comfort. The rating is S1/N4. Depending on the local traffic in and out of the gravel lot, this looks like an excellent place to see some growlers.
Glen -- CR-265. To continue west, take Front Street out of town, and you'll parallel the mostly treed in tracks for a little more than a mile, where the road will end at US-72. There are a couple of non-descript crossings to the north, but the next decent one is reached by going north on CR-265. This is the first right after crossing the Tishomingo/Alcorn County line. Photo ratings are NE3, SE2, SW1, NW4.
Glen -- CR-264. Drive further north on CR-265, and bear left at the first intersection (a Y-intersection). Take a left at the next intersection onto either CR-292 or CR260 (the map is not clear), and after about one-half mile, take a VERY hard left onto CR-264. This will take you to another crossing, and this one is NE1, SE1, SW4, NW2.
Glen. After exploring the crossing at CR-264, continue south on it to US-72, and take a right to go further west. After a few miles, take CR-262 or CR-284 north into the hamlet of Glen. At the crossing, there is double track, with the interlocking ("Glens" ?, MP 448.8) immediately to the west. Note that the railroad crossing electrical box has the place indicated as "Glens" and not "Glen". All maps I've seen, however, show the place as "Glen". All that aside, this is a darned good place for pix, at NE1, SE1, SW1, NW4.
Corinth -- South Parkway Street. Leave Glen via CR-262, which will shortly join US-72. Between Glen and Strickland the tracks are close but treed in. The crossing at Strickland is not a railfan location. Between Strickland and the Corinth Union Station, the tour gets tricky, because we begin to encounter other active rail lines, so be careful following directions from here on. US-72 will dogleg over the tracks of the Redmont Railway (RRC), and then go northwesterly away from both railroads. You will come to a major intersection with Harper Road, and you can take that north to the RRC and then NS. However, the NS crossing is NAG/NARL, so you're better off going north from US-72 on South Parkway Street.
The first set of tracks you encounter via South Parkway is the NS, which has crossed the RRC about half a mile to the east (inaccessible to the public). On the southeast of the NS crossing is a nice city park, so the younguns can get out and run some energy off. The ratings from both sides of the crossing are SE1, SW1, and I did not rate the north side (senior moment). However, there is a much better photo location just ahead, so unless you need to get trackside in a hurry, I'd suggest moving further west.
Corinth -- Union Station. Go over the tracks on South Parkway (which becomes Wilson Street at some point), and take your first left onto Proper Street. Take another left at North Johns Street, which will take you over the NS (very, very busy location -- NARL), and then take your first right onto Wick Street, which will parallel the tracks all the way into the parking lot of the Union Station. The north - south track to the west of the building is the KCS (ex-ICG, exx-M&O) main from Meridian to its yard in Corinth. Effectively that's pretty much the end of the KCS, as it interchanges Memphis and St Louis traffic with NS northeast of this area. There is decent traffic on the KCS, so the mix of NS and KCS will make for good railfanning. The crossing is MP 458.9
There is a low chain link fence between Wick Road and the tracks, but it ends shortly. Photographic ratings east of the fence are S1/N1. The KCS viewing area is not rated, as it is not part of the tour, and I was flat out of time.
There is no apparent west - north connection in this area, so the Centralia/St Louis traffic off the line from Sheffield will have departed east of here (from Rudy Junction to a point known as Ruslor Junction about 2 miles north of the station). Indeed, the Corinth area alone merits a proper tour, but we end our tour at the station.