New cross ties are more than piles of lumber

Published 7:44 am Wednesday, February 16, 2022

Have you noticed the piles of wood stacked along the sides of the railroad track in Downtown Batesville? They may not look like much, but it’s a big deal.

Those piles are the long-awaited new cross ties for the railroad. Panola Partnership and a couple of city officials have worked for more than two years trying to convince the owners of the railroad to upgrade our portion of the line that runs from the Memphis train yard to Canton.

The new cross ties will soon replace the aged and rotting ones that currently hold the rails, and have for decades. Because of the condition of the cross ties the weight and speed limits of rail traffic was severely hampered, which in turn reduced the worth of the line for every day business.

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Some trains simply could not use the line because the cross ties weren’t in good enough condition to handle the loads being hauled. The new cross ties might not get much attention from the average citizen, but they are a real infrastructure improvement that will allow Batesville’s line to be eligible for bigger and better rail events.

The top of the list for Batesville and Panola county people is the return of the Polar Express train at Christmas, which brought hundreds of visitors a week to the city. Once local families rode the train a couple of times it was no longer the fascination it was at the beginning, but this holiday event was very important to Batesville and the city’s image.

The Partnership office, along with the city board, was hoodwinked I believe a couple of years ago when they allowed the inferior Train to Christmas Town hucksters take over the Polar Express contract. We all know how that ended, pretty much a black eye for the city and county when the train derailed (because of bad cross ties) and the company was accused of withholding refunds from customers who had paid in advance.

The Memphis television stations had a field day with the sordid mess and social media posts were far from flattering. Batesville had no control of the ticket situation and was helpless in any attempts to resolve problems associated with that train event and its operators.

That is hopefully in the past and locals can expect a return of the original Polar Express this year. What’s more, I’ve heard the new train operators are exploring a number of other events for Batesville, including dinner excursions and possibly hosting themed events including music and plays.

Things happen slowly we know, especially in the Covid era. Seemingly little things, like new cross ties for our railroad, may get overlooked. After all, it’s hard to see infrastructure projects in the big scheme and the scope of improvements are often not fully understood by the populace.

Suffice it to say, though, that new cross ties are a sign that Batesville is on the move. We hear daily complaints about the retail and restaurant limitations of our fair city and it’s easy to fall into the trap of negativity toward our hometown.

True, we have recently had a spate of announcements for yet more gas/fried chicken stations and liquor stores (three new ones) than anything else, but we need to remember that prospective retailers study traffic counts and buying patterns before opening new stores. 

Somebody, somewhere apparently believes Batesville’s retail opportunities have upside. I choose to believe that as well.

Home builders are beginning to show more interest in the county and we certainly hope to have news of planned subdivisions in coming months. No doubt the completion of The Concourse and the implementation of the Northwest CC Aviation program at the airport will bring even more investment.

Sure, we all want to land a Target, or Chick-fil-A, or Starbucks, and we want it sooner rather than later. Those types of businesses are on the way, we must be patient.

In the meantime, take a moment to enjoy a growing Batesville and reject the temptation to grouse and complain about what we don’t have.

You can start with checking out the piles of crossties along the railroad tracks, for they are an indication that Batesville is going full steam ahead.