Photo courtesy of Conyers (Georgia) Convention and Visitors Bureau
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As with the other states along America's eastern seaboard, Georgia entered railroad history early, in the 1830s. And like those other early entrants, Georgia eventually saw the creation of several hundred railroads throughout its history. At one time, in the 1850s, Georgia boasted of having more miles of rail line than any other southern state. Little wonder then that it was a primary target of Sherman’s March to the Sea with a Union army during the American Civil War. During that war Kennesaw, Georgia, was the point of origin, in 1862, of the failed plot that became known as The Great Locomotive Chase, wherein Union forces stole a train and attempted to race north, destroying railroad bridges en route to disrupt Confederate supply lines.
The major carriers that eventually emerged to operate in Georgia included the Atlantic Coast Line, the Louisville & Nashville Railroad, Seaboard Air Line, and the Southern. Notable regional carriers included the Central of Georgia and the Georgia railroads. Today the state is served by the Class I CSX and Norfolk Southern railroads, by Amtrak, and, at last count, by 24 short lines. Meanwhile, the long history and extensive list of railroad companies Georgia hosted has resulted in an abundance of sites of interest to the railroad tourist. Here’s the first entries to consider:
Conyers; CONYERS WELCOME CENTER; 901 Railroad Street; 800.CONYERS (266.9377) or 770.602.2606; visit.conyersga.com: Ex-Georgia Railroad station, open to the public during business hours, historic photographs, a station shoe shine stand, a 1905 Rogers “dinky” locomotive, and preserved segregated ticket windows from the Jim Crowe era. NOTE: A lightly-used CSX line runs alongside the station.
__________; WHISTLE POST TAVERN; 935 Railroad Street; 770.785.5008; www.whistleposttavern.com: CSX, light traffic; year-around, daily (varying hours). NOTE: Reportedly got its name from a tradition – no longer practiced – of drinks on the house when a passing train blew its whistle.
Cordele; SAM SHORTLINE EXCURSION TRAIN; Georgia Veterans State Park at 2459 U.S. Highway 280 W; 877.427.2457; www.samshortline.com: Seasonal, varying schedule, ride n' dine (to Plains, Georgia). NOTE: Special Excursion: Be My Valentine in February.
Duluth; SOUTHEASTERN RAILWAY MUSEUM; 3595 Buford Highway; 770.476.2013; www.srmduluth.org: Year-around, partial week, railroad buildings, equipment, displays. NOTE: Over 90 pieces of retired railroad equipment in nine categories are on display over 30 acres.
Folkston; FOLKSTON FUNNEL PLATFORM; 3795 Main Street; 912.496.2536; folkston.com/trains/trains.htm: CSX and Amtrak, heavy traffic; year-around, 24 hours; NOTE: Built for rail fans, it offers scanner service, night lights, ceiling fans, and electric outlets, and sits where CSX “funnels” virtually all of its trains into and out of Jacksonville, Florida.
__________; ROADMASTERS LODGE & CABOOSE; 504 South First Street; 912.496.7304; www.roadmasterslodge.com: CSX and Amtrak; heavy traffic; both the lodge and the caboose overlook the right-of-way. NOTES: 1]. Constructed in 1869 to serve as the office for the Folkston Roadmaster, relocated to its present location, within walking distance of the Folkston Platform.
Jesup; THE JESUP RAILFAN PLATFORM; 101 East Cherry Street; 912.427.3233; www.exploregeorgia.org/Georgia/Attractions/Wayne-County-Railfan-Platform/400245: ocated on the Chamber of Commerce lawn, this covered platform provides a view of more than 40 Amtrak, Norfolk Southern, and CSX trains daily, and enables listening to the chatter of the conductors and engineers as they pass.
Savannah; ROUNDHOUSE RAILROAD MUSEUM; 601 West Harris Street; 912.651.6823: Year-around, daily, railroad buildings, equipment, excursions, displays. NOTE: Ex-Central of Georgia Railway facility and focus; 2]. Thought to be the largest and most complete Antebellum railroad repair facility still in existence.
Waycross; OKEFENOKEE HERITAGE CENTER; 1490 N. Augusta Avenue; 912.285.4260; www.okefenokeeheritagecenter.org: Year-around, partial week, railroad buildings, equipment, displays. NOTES: Includes a restored 1912 Baldwin 100 ton 2-8-2 steam locomotive, a mail/baggage car, an REA Express car, passenger car and caboose; 2]. Panels in an early Waycross depot outline the region’s railroad history.
__________. FOLKSTON RAILROAD TRANSPORTATION MUSEUM; 3795 Main Street; 912.496.2536: Year-around, partial week, hours vary (Chamber of Commerce office), railroad buildings, exhibits, displays. NOTES: 1]. Ex-Savannah, Florida & Western/Atlantic Coast Line station, relocated; 2]. Includes pictures of Okefenokee Swamp logging operations.
Kennesaw; SOUTHERN MUSEUM OF CIVIL WAR & LOCOMOTIVE HISTORY; 2829 Cherokee Street ; 770.427.2117: Year-around, daily, railroad buildings, equipment, displays. NOTES: 1]. Permanent exhibits include The Great Locomotive Chase from the Civil Way, Railroads: Lifelines of the Civil War, and Working Safely on the Railroad. 2]. An affiliate museum of the Smithsonian Institution.
Manchester, MANCHESTER RAILFAN PLATFORM; Community Building Parking Lot (2nd Avenue near Main Street); 706.846.5341: CSX; heavy traffic; year-around; 24 hours; NOTE: Sits at the junction of CSX routes to Atlanta, Georgia, and Birmingham, Alabama, overlooking CSXs Manchester Yard.