Rebel Trains 352 and 353 (Demolished) – Mobile AL

City:
Mobile, AL

Site Type:
Mass Transportation, Infrastructure and Utilities

New Deal Agencies:
Public Works Administration (PWA), Public Works Funding

Started:
1934

Completed:
1935

Designer:
Otto Kuhler

Contractor:
American Car & Foundry

Quality of Information:
Very Good

Marked:
No

Site Survival:
No Longer Extant

Description

In 1934, the Interstate Commerce Commission approved a $1 million loan to the Gulf, Mobile & Northern Railroad Company (GM&N), from the New Deal’s Public Works Administration (PWA).  Out of this money came two streamliners: Rebel trains 352 and 353.  The Rebels ran a route from Jackson, Tennessee to New Orleans, from 1935 to 1954.  They appear to have been scrapped in 1962.

(Note: In 1940, GM&N was merged into the new Gulf, Mobile & Ohio (GM&O) Railroad.)

The red and silver Rebels were designed by Otto Kuhler and constructed by American Car & Foundry.  The locomotives (“powercars”) had 660 horsepower Diesel engines from the McIntosh & Seymour Company, designed to power the trains to around 100mph.  The two (and sometimes three) passenger cars greeted the paying customer with several amenities, such as: air conditioning; sound insulation; a soothing interior design; observation lounge; meals; wash rooms; and specially-designed lighting.  Additionally, the Rebels had sleeping compartments available for their overnight runs, as well as hostesses whose motto was “Treat each passenger as if he or she was a guest in your own home” (Daily Clarion-Ledger, 8-28-1935).

Like other streamliners of the 1930s, the Rebels were immensely popular.  During the trains’ exhibition tours in June and July 1935, newspapers excitedly detailed the Rebels’ near- mesmerizing effect on the public:

  • “A warm welcome was accorded ‘The Rebel’… on its first visit to Jackson [Tennessee] yesterday, as several thousand admirers filed through the air-conditioned coaches” (Daily Clarion-Ledger, 7-1-1935).
  • “The G.M. & N. Rebel… thrilled 50,000 today as it streaked through West Tennessee and Mississippi… At each of the 25 stops on the ‘Rebel’s’ exhibition, crowds surged around the scarlet and aluminum train and citizens sent flowers aboard to the road’s president, I.B. Tigrett…” (The Commercial Appeal, 6-25-1935).
  • “The ‘Rebel’ was accorded a rousing reception all the way across Mississippi today.  Crowds at the stations cheered and applauded… bands blared their welcomes… and workers in the fields along the way paused in their labors to wave her ‘bon voyage’ as she streaked through the state on her mission of progress” (Daily Clarion-Ledger, 6-25-1935).
  • “At every town and village along the route great crowds were gathered at the stations to see the trains go by and between stations groups of men, women and children had gathered at places of vantage.  Perhaps no other ‘show’ has attracted as much attention as the Rebel on this trip” (The Birmingham News, 7-17-1935).

Indeed, the Rebels generated such a high degree of excitement that one woman reportedly proposed marriage to one of the porters after finding out that he worked the train’s entire route: “Let’s get married and spend our honeymoon on the train, it would be Heaven” (The Birmingham News, 7-17-1935).

The Rebel trains are remembered for being innovative—for example, being the first streamliner in the south, and also having a non-articulated design that allowed passenger cars to be added or subtracted as needed—and also for being an economic success with, at one point, “some 40 percent of the passengers having been enticed from their autos” (Schafer and Welsh, 1997).

As with many other railroads, the PWA’s loan to GM&N proved very beneficial.

Source notes

48th Annual Report of the Interstate Commerce Commission, December 1, 1934, Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1934, p. 138.

Bob Johnston, Joe Welsh, and Mike Schafer, The Art of the Streamliner, New York: Metro Books, 2001.

Mike Schafer and Joe Welsh, Classic American Streamliners, Osceola, WI: Motorbooks International Publishers & Wholesalers, 1997.

gm&o little rebel iselin scrap track,” flickr (user rando4038) (accessed May 28, 2023). Photos show Rebel trains in scrap yard.

Rebel (train),” Wikipedia (accessed May 28, 2023). 

“Thousands View Streamline Train, Test Run Today,” Berwick Enterprise (Berwick, Pennsylvania), June 5, 1935 (multiple articles and pages).

“‘Rebel’ Thrills Dixie On Mobile Inaugural,” The Commercial Appeal (Memphis, Tennessee), June 25, 1935, p. 11.

“Throngs Greet ‘Rebel’ On First Run In South,” The Clarion-Ledger (Jackson, Mississippi), June 25, 1935, p. 1.

“Two Rebels Complete Motorization of G.M. & N. Line,” Daily Clarion-Ledger (Jackson, Mississippi), June 30, 1935, p. 35.

“Rebel Draws Thousands To G.M. & N. Yards As Streamliner Is Displayed,” Daily Clarion-Ledger (Jackson, Mississippi), July 1, 1935, p. 1.

“Gasps And Gapes Greet Streamline Train,” The Birmingham News (Birmingham, Alabama), July 17, 1935, p. 8.

“Hospitality Is Feature Of Modern Rebel Train,” Daily Clarion-Ledger (Jackson, Mississippi), August 28, 1935, p. 4.

“Gulf, Mobile & Northern Buys Motor Trains of Welded Construction,” Railway Age, Vol. 98, No. 24 (June 15, 1935), pp. 910-924.

“P.W.A. Railroad Loans Net Profit to Government,” Railway Age, Vol. 101, No. 21 (November 21, 1936), p. 769.

Site originally submitted by Brent McKee on May 29, 2023.

Location Info


71 Conti Street
Mobile, AL 36602

Location notes: Former site of Gulf, Mobile & Northern Railroad’s general offices.

Coordinates: 30.690680, -88.042261

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