Georgia Railroad and Banking Company

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Georgia Railroad 1026, an EMD GP7—on permanent display in Duluth, Georgia.
"Georgia Railroad" redirects here. It is not to be confused with Central of Georgia Railway.

The Georgia Railroad and Banking Company (reporting mark GA) also seen as "GARR",[1] was an historic railroad and banking company that operated in the U.S. state of Georgia. In 1967 it reported 833 million revenue-ton-miles of freight and 3 million passenger-miles; at the end of the year it operated 331 miles of road and 510 miles of track.

History[edit]

It was chartered in 1833 in Augusta, Georgia. In 1835, the charter was amended to include banking. Originally the line was chartered to build a railroad from Augusta to Athens with a branch to Madison.

The 5 ft (1,524 mm) gauge railroad opened in 1845 with its Chief Engineer being J. Edgar Thomson and Richard Peters as the first Superintendent.[2]

At that time the rates were as follows:

  • 5¢ per mile for passengers
  • 50¢ per 100 miles (160 km) for freight

Several other railroads were then under construction:

The Georgia Railroad decided to extend the Madison branch to Terminus (Atlanta) and thus compete with the Central Railroad and Banking Company of Georgia (later the Central of Georgia Railroad), which together with the Macon 7 Western Railroad, were competing for traffic through Charleston's rival port of Savannah, Georgia. By 1850, this railroad had built 213 miles (343 km) of track and was up to 232 miles (373 km) by 1860.[3] At the time, goods from the Mississippi and Ohio valleys had to go by riverboat to New Orleans and then via coastal steamships around the Florida Keys to get to the big population centers in the northeast. Shipping cross-country by rail to the ports of Charleston and Savannah made perfect economic sense.

Banking[edit]

The banking side of the business was quickly more successful than the railroad side. The Georgia Railroad & Banking Company was perhaps the strongest bank in Georgia for many years. The bankers used some of their wealth to buy controlling interests in the Atlanta & West Point Railroad and the Western Railway of Alabama, which provided a continuous line from Atlanta to Montgomery, Alabama, although the WofA was standard gauge, while all the other lines in the south were broad gauge.

Civil War[edit]

During the American Civil War, the Confederate States of America maintained a gunpowder factory in Augusta. Carloads of gunpowder would be transported on the Georgia Railroad to various battlefields in the "Western Campaign."

Although the Civil War saw heavy damage to railroads such as the Georgia Railroad, management used their considerable resources to restore operation as quickly as possible. The Georgia Railroad even resorted to temporarily abandoning the Athens branch to secure enough rail to reopen its main line. Returning Confederate soldiers were given free rides home to the extent that the company's limited rail network would allow.

They also honored all Confederate script issued by their bank. No depositor lost their savings even if Confederate money had no value. It helped that the Georgia Railroad and Banking Company had the financial strength to honor those promises. Meanwhile, most southern banks were busy repudiating any obligations related to Confederate currency. This helped solidify the bank's reputation as one of the premiere banks in the southeastern United States well into the 20th century.

Post-war years[edit]

The Georgia Railroad Freight Depot, designed by architect Max Corput, was completed in 1869 and is the oldest building in Downtown Atlanta.[4] The company was later rechartered as the Georgia Railroad Bank, then a subsidiary of the First Railroad and Banking Company, which eventually opened banks in Atlanta under the name of First Georgia Bank. The banking operations were merged with First Union in 1986 and First Union subsequently merged with Wachovia Corporation (now Wells Fargo).

The Georgia Railroad Bank entered the insurance business using subsidiaries such as First of Georgia, however these were subsequently sold at considerable profit to the company.

In 1881, Colonel William M. Wadley, Central Railroad and Banking Company of Georgia president, leased the railroad properties of the Georgia Railroad and Banking Company, including the A&WP and WofA. Wadley assigned half of the lease to the Central and half to the L&N. Following the panic of 1897, the Central went into receivership and its portion of the lease lapsed, whereupon it was eventually reassigned to the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad (ACL). In 1902, the ACL acquired controlling interest in the L&N and thus the Georgia, A&WP and WofA became non-operating subsidiaries of the ACL.

With the building of the Savannah and Atlanta Railroad, which connected with the Georgia Railroad at Warrenton, Georgia, the Georgia Railroad now competed with the Central of Georgia Railroad for traffic to and from Savannah. Soon the ACL came to dominate the Augusta interchange traffic through its Charleston and Western Carolina Railway subsidiary and the ACL's own spur from its main line at Florence, South Carolina, so the Georgia Railroad could compete with the Seaboard Air Line Railroad and Southern Railway for traffic from Atlanta up the eastern seaboard.

A unique feature of the Georgia Railroad and Banking Company charter was that the legislature gave the corporation large tax breaks that was legally challenged on several occasions. The charter also called for daily except Sunday passenger service. The lawyers advised management to maintain passenger service on all lines so as to not violate the charter, and thus the Georgia was perhaps the last railroad to operate mixed trains in the "Lower 48," into the Amtrak era.

CSX[edit]

The Georgia Railroad originally fell under common management with the Atlanta & West Point Railroad and the Western Railway of Alabama, commonly known as "The West Point Route."

In 1967 ACL merged with the Seaboard Air Line Railroad to form the Seaboard Coast Line Railroad (SCL). In the early 1970s SCL merged with the Louisville & Nashville Railroad and the Clinchfield Railroad to become the Family Lines System. Family Lines continued to operate the Georgia Railroad under its initial charter and thus the Georgia Railroad was maintained as a separate company, with Family Lines leasing the rail properties.

1983 saw the end of the Georgia Railroad as a separate company after Family Lines purchased the railroad properties of the Georgia Railroad and Banking Company, which had until then been the subject of the lease.

SCL subsequently merged with the Chessie System in 1986 to form CSX Transportation. The same year, Georgia Railroad Bank was acquired by First Union

1867 timetable[edit]

Distances of Depots from Atlanta
# Name Miles Notes
1 Decatur, Georgia 6
2 Stone Mountain, Georgia 16
3 Lithonia, Georgia 24
4 Conyers, Georgia 31
5 Covington, Georgia 41
6 Social Circle, Georgia 52
7 Rutledge, Georgia 59
8 Madison, Georgia 68
9 Buckhead, Georgia 76
10 Greensboro, Georgia 88
11 Union Point, Georgia 95
12 Crawfordville, Georgia 107
13 Barnett, Georgia 114 Near U.S. Highway 278 and I-20
14 Camack, Georgia 125 Old spelling
15 Thomson, Georgia 134
16 Dearing, Georgia 142
17 Saw Dust, Georgia 146 Now called Harlem
18 Berzelia, Georgia 152 Near Berzelia Pond
19 Belair, Georgia 162 Now called Grovetown
20 Augusta, Georgia 171

Trains departed from Atlanta at 8:55AM and 7:15PM and arrived there at 10:05AM and 6:00PM.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Steam Locomotives and History of the Georgia Railroad and the West Point Route, Richard E. Prince
  2. ^ Georgia's Railroad History and Heritage
  3. ^ Preliminary report on the Eighth Census 1860 by United States Census Bureau (Washington DC: 1862), page 222 [1]
  4. ^ GA Rail

External links[edit]