"When it is considered that the first steam train was run by George Stephenson over the Stockton and Darlington Railway in England in September, 1825:... that Germany's first railroad opened in 1835:... and Russia did not have a practicable road until 1850, and that the little West Feliciana Railroad was possibly the second, certainly the third in the United States, the achievement marks wonderful foresight and progressiveness."(St Francisville, La True Democrat, February 24, 1917)West Feliciana Parish proudly boasts that it gavebirth to the third oldest railroad in America.The West Feliciana Railroad was chartered by the Louisiana legislature on March 25, 1831. It was the first interstate railroad in America and the first standard gauge railroad in America (4ft. 8½ in. was adopted by all major railroads in North America in June 1886.)The need for a railroad was clear to the progressive Feliciana supporters. The Woodville, Mississippi, Republican stated in 1828, "The price of cotton is often fluctuating and the difference of a day would often-times deprive us of the benefit of a market." Others called is a "wild scheme" and predicted it would bankrupt the state. The railroad would run some 26 miles from Bayou Sara to Woodville, Mississippi. The Mississippi legislature authorized
their part of the railroad in December 1833.The route was obvious. The country was expanding, cotton was king, and Bayou Sara was one of the busiest ports on the river. Under the supervision of Mississippi Judge Edward McGehee, a bank was formed and 1,500 shares were offered to the public to finance the $150,000 cost of construction. Formal construction began on December 22, 1834.There were many setbacks to the project including the Panic of 1837, more-difficult terrain than was expected, right-of-way conflicts with plantation owners, strikes by laborers, and failures by contractors. But the railroad finally made its first complete trip from Bayou Sara to Woodville on October 13, 1842. It was a mild success because the estimated cost of construction ballooned from $7,000 per mile to $20,000 per mile. In its 1868-69 edition, Poor's Manual of Railroads listed the cost of construction, rolling stock, and other property at $450,000. In spite of everything it worked, and cotton roll began to roll down to Bayou Sara. The West Feliciana Railroad was almost completely destroyed during the Civil War. All property, locomotives, and rolling stock were confiscated by the Union Army. Not until 1875 was it rebuilt, once again replacing mules with steam. J. Burrus McGehee, a son of Judge Edward McGehee, kept the line operating until 1888. It was then sold to the Louisville, New
Orleans and Texas line. The consolidation of this line with the Yazoo & Mississippi Valley Railroad in 1892 brought the West Feliciana Railroad into the Illinois Central System, where it remained until operations ceased in 1978.