Way back in 1905, the Crossett Lumber Co. of Crossett Arkansas started it's own little railroad called (of course) the Crossett Railway. Back then, the railroad mainly worked for it's parent company, transporting logs and lumber around the Crossett Arkansas area. At that time, the railroad was only about ten miles in length.
On May 1, 1912, the line was sold to the newly created Crossett, Monticello & Northern RR. The CM&N planed to extend the line North, up to Monticello, and create a connection with what was then the St. Louis, Iron Mountain & Southern Railroad. Unfortunately, the line only got as far as Fountain Hill before the CM&N ran out of money.
In August of 1912, the railroad was taken over by another owner and given the name Ashley, Drew & Northern. The line to Monticello was finished in 1913 and for the next twenty years, the AD&N continued hauling logs and lumber for the local logging industry.
The town of Crossett had always been dominated by the Crossett Lumber Co., but in 1934, the Crossett Chemical Co. was started, which helped bring some new business to the AD&N. Another big boost came in 1936 when a large paper mill was built in Crossett. Then in 1945, the Chase Paper Bag Co. built a plant there. In 1952, even more companies started up in Crossett, including Crossett Concrete Products, Simplex Paper Corp., Bemis Bros. Bag Co. and the Textile Paper Products Co. These all helped to bring in new types of off line business for the AD&N.
On July 31, 1963, the Ashley, Drew & Northern and Crossett Lumber Co. were both purchased by Georgia Pacific Corp., the huge forest products company. GP would be the AD&N's owner for the next 33 years. Later during that time, the AD&N didn't haul actual logs much anymore, but it did continue to carry large amounts of pulpwood used in the paper industry, and also finished hardwoods, and various paper products. AD&N had about forty miles of track at this point and was one of two short lines the Georgia Pacific Company owned. The other line they owned was the two mile long Fordyce & Princeton RR., which was also nearby in Arkansas.
In 1991, GP formed the Arkansas, Louisiana & Mississippi Railroad Co., with plans to purchase the Arkansas, Louisiana & Missouri RR. Strangely, this action taken by the AD&N's own owner, would signal the beginning of the end for the AD&N. At the time, the Arkansas, Louisiana & Missouri RR. was about ready to be abandoned. GP thought that buying the line would allow them to keep a connection with the Mid South Rail Corp. in Monroe LA. This was originally the IC's Shreveport to Meridian line, which was an important route to the South for GP. Going to Monroe also provided a straight connection with Union Pacific. Sometime after GP's purchase of AL&M, it was found that moving traffic South on the AL&M was more efficient then using the AD&N's line to Monticello and connecting with the ex MoPac, then UP branch. The AD&N's 40 mile line to Moticello was well maintained, but most of the line had been built back in the logging days and had never been properly graded. The rolling right of way was slower and expensive to maintain. To make things worse, GP had converted it's paper mill from using pulpwood to tree length wood, which stopped the online movements of pulpwood that were a staple of the RR. Unfortunately, this was all it took to spell the end for the AD&N.
On June 25, 1995, Georgia Pacific announced that the AD&N no longer had enough work to warrant it's existence. On August 15, 1995, GP filed a petition with the Interstate Commerce Commission to seek permission to abandon 35 miles of AD&N's line from Whitlow Junction (where it connected with the Fordyce & Princeton) to Monticello. This was approved, and on June 29, 1996, Ashley, Drew & Northern GP28 #1812 made the railroad's last run from Crossett to Moticello and back. The last 5 miles of track from Whitlow Junction to Crossett (which the Fordyce & Princeton RR. had trackage rights over already) was sold the next day, ending the Ashley, Drew & Northern's 84 years of proud service.
There were four locomotives left serving the railroad at the end. SW900 #907, CF7's 1513 & 1514 and GP28 # 1812. These were all moved to GP's Arkansas, Louisiana & Mississippi RR.
Today, there are five main short lines that Georgia Pacific owns... The Fordyce & Princeton RR., Arkansas, Louisiana & Mississippi RR., Chattahoochee Industrial RR., Gloster Southern RR., and the Old Augusta RR. Also included are GP's Blue Rapids RR., which is simply trackage that provides operating rights to the Northeast, Kansas & Missouri RR., which serves the GP plant in Blue Rapids. There's also the Port Edwards-Nekoosa Intermill RR. that switches GP's paper mills in Port Edwards and Nekoosa WS, and also runs the line from the mills to the WC and UP interchanges. GP also use to operate the Amador Central RR., which served it's wood products plant in Martell CA. Sierra Pacific Industries purchased that line from GP in 1997 and announced the mill and railroad would be closed down soon after.
At one time, the Ashley, Drew & Northern had over 2000 freight cars in it's inventory. A very large amount for a little 40 mile railroad. AD&N's popular green & white 50' box car, and other cars, can still be seen roaming the rails today. For now, those cars can still provide a small reminder of an interesting little short line that ran in the woods of Arkansas called, the Ashley, Drew & Northern.
Information for this history was gathered from Model Railroader Magazine, Diesel Era Magazine, the Internet, and various other sources.