Cumberland Southern Lines is the parent company of three railroads, the Cumberland Southern Railway, the Tennessee And Eastern Railroad, and the Ohio Midland Company. It also operates a car leasing company, Cumberland Southern Refrigerator Express, and an air freight company, Cumberland Southern Air Express.
It has roots dating back to May 1, 1858 when the Cumberland and Gulf Railroad was chartered at Cumberland, Virginia. Construction soon began, with the eventual goal of completing a narrow gauge railroad to New Orleans. About 45 miles of track were laid and operation began in 1860, but most of the right of way and equipment was destroyed during the Civil War. This, and an unfortunate decision to invest heavily in Confederate war bonds, drove the company into bankruptcy by 1862, when it disbanded.
After the war, a group of investors, largely made up of Yankee carpetbaggers, noting the completion of the transcontinental railroad a year earlier, concluded that perhaps railroads might have a place in the future along side canals and riverboats, and thus acquired the assets of the Cumberland and Gulf Railroad, incorporating as the Cumberland Southern Railway on April 1, 1870. The remains of the original line was rebuilt as a standard gauge line over the next 16 years, eventually reaching Knoxville, Tennessee in 1886. A further expansion, extended the mainline on to Vicksburg, Mississippi in 1901, which is the southern terminus today. Cumberland Southern Railway uses CS as its reporting marks.
In 1930, controlling interest in the Tennessee And Eastern Railroad was acquired when that line went into receivership during the Great Depression. It extends from its interchange point with the Cumberland Southern at Knoxville, southeast to Columbia, South Carolina. This line has its origins in a number of smaller lines in Tennessee and North Carolina, and was pieced together from these during the period of Reconstruction that followed the Civil War, incorporating in 1871. It was run as an independent operation for the next 30 years, although the paint scheme, and operating practices of the Cumberland Southern Railway were soon adopted.
The Ohio Midland Company was originally built and operated by a central Ohio electric utility and existed as an electric traction line running between Lancaster and Grove city, Ohio. It ceased operations in March of 1937, and was acquired by Cumberland Southern Railway at a sheriff’s tax sale later that year. The trolley wires soon came down and the line was extended at both ends to link Columbus and Youngstown. Thru buying up other bankrupt electric interurbans and unwanted branches of steam roads it soon reached Erie, Pennsylvania, and eventually Buffalo, New York. Ohio Midland also ran as an independent operation until 1960, although it too, adopted the paint scheme, and operating practices, of the Cumberland Southern Railway. Trackage rights over The New york Central and the Louisville and Nashville allow operation of thru trains across all three company properties.
Cumberland Southern Refrigerator Express (reporting marks CSRE) was founded as a car leasing company in 1915. It supplies refrigerator cars to common carriers and private shippers and also operates a less than car load express package delivery service.
Cumberland Southern Air Express got its start in 1939 as a logical evolution of Cumberland Southern Refrigerator Express’s package delivery service. It owns and operates the world’s largest fleet of Ford Tri-Motor aircraft.
Cumberland Southern Lines was chartered as a holding company for the above 5 companies in 1960 in order to achieve consistency of management, to consolidate certain administrative functions, and to better defend against potential takeover attempts by other regional carriers in the area.
Cumberland Southern Lines is now a completely modern diesel powered operation, although a handful of steam locomotives are still on the property as protection power. Corporate headquarters remains in Cumberland, Virginia.