Atlantic and Gulf Railroad (1856–79)

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Atlantic and Gulf Railroad
Reporting mark A&G
Locale United States Wiregrass Region of Georgia
Dates of operation 1856–1879
Successor Plant System
Track gauge 5 ft (1,524 mm)
Headquarters Savannah, Georgia

The Atlantic and Gulf Railroad was chartered in February 1856 by act of the Georgia General Assembly. It was also known as the Main Trunk Railroad. It traversed south Georgia from Screven to Bainbridge, Georgia. Construction began in early January 1859. Its construction was halted by the American Civil War. Construction began again after the end of the war and the line was completed to Bainbridge, Georgia by late December 1867. The route never reached all the way to the Gulf of Mexico as it had originally had intended. The company went bankrupt in 1877 and was bought in 1879 by Henry B. Plant and became incorporated into his Plant System.[1] Its main line is currently operated by CSX Transportation. Throughout its history, the Atlantic and Gulf was closely associated with the Savannah and Albany Railroad Company and its successor the Savannah, Albany, and Gulf Railroad.

History[edit]

Brunswick versus Savannah[edit]

In the 1830s, a railroad route through south Georgia to the Atlantic coast was the goal of several different competing companies. The route was desired due to the growth of cotton production in the area and the lack of navigable rivers through the area. The head of navigation on the Flint River was at Albany, Georgia, the center of cotton trade in the region; however, the Flint River was relatively small and Apalachicola Bay lacked a decent harbor. There were two major ports on Georgia's Atlantic coast at the time: Brunswick and Savannah.

The Brunswick and Florida Railroad Company received its charter from the Georgia General Assembly on December 22, 1835. Their charter allowed them to select a route between Brunswick, Georgia and Florida, and forbade another route from existing with 20 miles (32 km) of their own. On that same day, the Great Western Railroad Company received their charter. Theirs allowed for a route from Macon to the start of the Altamaha River on either side of the Ocmulgee River with the option of extending the line to Brunswick and to the Flint River. The latter soon faded into obscurity. By 1836, the Brunswick and Florida Railroad Company was advertising their desire for a route from Brunswick to Apalachicola.[2] The Brunswick and Florida faced major setbacks due to funding problems.

On December 25, 1847, the Savannah and Albany Railroad Company was chartered by the Georgia General Assembly to construct a rail line from a point along the Central of Georgia Railway near Savannah to Albany with the possibility of extending the railroad to the Chattahoochee River at any time. The bill was introduced by Nelson Tift. By 1853, some in the company were discussing a branch line to Florida. In February 1854, the stock company rebranded themselves the Savannah, Albany, and Gulf Railroad through a new charter from the state, but had also completed very little of the planned route. They also lacked the legal right to a more southern route that the Brunswick and Florida Railroad had by its charters.[1]

By April 1854, citizens in south Georgia were hoping that the two companies would avoid competition with one another and construct a "main trunk" line together.[3] In November 1855, a bill was introduced to the Georgia General Assembly by Alexander Lawton to give the Savannah, Albany, and Gulf's southern branch line the right to cross the line of the Brunswick and Florida, but it did not pass.[4]

Establishment and construction[edit]

In early 1856, a compromise was reached between the two competing companies was passed by the Georgia General Assembly. They would both build to a certain point in south Georgia, and then a main trunk line was to be built. The company chartered to build that line was incorporated as the Atlantic and Gulf Railroad Company in February 1856. Construction of the Atlantic and Gulf was forbidden until the junction of the Brunswick and Florida Railroad and the Savannah, Albany, and Gulf Railroad. After that junction had been made the line was to state from the intersection of the county lines of Appling, Ware, and Wayne. The borders of those counties have changed substantially since the passage of the act creating the railroad. The act authorized the company to extend the route to the western state line at any point between Fort Gaines, Georgia and the confluence of the Flint and Chattahoochee Rivers with the route chosen to allow for speedy access to the Gulf of Mexico through either Pensacola, Florida or Mobile, Alabama. At that time the Brunswick and Florida had only completed the first 32 miles (51 km) of its line. On March 31, 1856, the board of commissioners for the Atlantic and Gulf met in Milledgeville to plan for the opening of books and the subscription of stocks. By October 22, 1856, the commissioners showed a total of $600,000 in stock raised. On October, the state of Georgia subscribed to a total of $500,000. James P. Screven was named as the president of the company in December 1856.[5] He was also the president of the Savannah, Albany, and Gulf Railroad.

Members of the Brunswick and Florida Railroad Company also met in December 1856 to discuss the changes to the charter made by the Georgia legislature. They recommended that their company refuse to junction with or surrender charter privileges to the Atlantic and Gulf Company unless it was beneficial to the development of the city of Brunswick. They also wanted the junction, if it was to take place, to be located east of the Satilla River.[6] The Brunswick and Florida Railroad Company was still busy in April 1857 trying to get the citizen of Lowndes and Berrien counties on their side and claimed that $40,000 in stock had been raised in Lowndes County alone.[7] At that same time, the Savannah Albany, and Gulf Railroad had finished grading the section of their line between the Altamaha River and the Little Satilla River.[8] That section is between modern Doctortown and Screven in Wayne County, Georgia. Portions of the Brunswick and Florida Railroad Company were being openly critical of the route of the Atlantic and Gulf Railroad until its construction was well underway in late 1859. Another line, the Brunswick and Pensacola Railroad was a second projected route that was to link the junction of the Brunswick and Florida Railroad and the Savannah, Albany, and Gulf Railroad at what is now Glenmore, Georgia to the Atlantic and Gulf Railroad at Thomasville, Georgia. That line was never constructed. The Brunswick faction began focusing on the branch line they had planned to Albany, which would evolve into Brunswick and Albany Railroad by 1861.

The Wiregrass Region that the route of the Atlantic and Gulf Railroad was to pass through was sparsely populated. It dominated by large stands of longleaf pines and wetlands, and crossed by several rivers. Most of the work was done by enslaved Africans and African Americans.

Three different routes through Lowndes County were surveyed by E.L. Heriot, Chief Engineer for the company: a route through northern Troupville a line through northern Lowndes County, and a line passing through Lowndes County and crossing the Withlacoochee River at Mineral Springs. On June 17, 1858, the company announced it had chosen the southern-most route of the three. In July 1858, a meeting of citizens from Berrien and Lowndes counties expressed their disapproval with the route chosen. They commented that the route chosen was too close to the Florida state line to be beneficial to the citizen of south Georgia and that because of it, the Atlantic and Gulf was in violation of its charter.[9]

Construction of the Atlantic and Gulf Railroad began on January 2, 1859, at the Little Satilla River near modern Screven, Georgia. Construction averaged 1.27 miles (2.04 km) a week. In July 1859, James P. Screven died and was replaced by his son John Screven as president of Atlantic and Gulf. In late 1860, Atlantic and Gulf failed to pay contractors McDowell and Callahan due to state securities stagnating and private investors failing to pay their installments. The contracting firm Callahan & Co. had been hired to construct the 24 miles (39 km) of bridging and grading west of Thomasville.[10]

Civil War[edit]

Railroad map of the South during the Civil War

The American Civil War disrupted the construction of the Atlantic and Gulf. By April 1861, the railroad had just reached Thomasville. The original completion date to Bainbridge was supposed to be October 15, 1861.[10]

In 1861, the Atlantic and Gulf and Florida, Atlantic and Gulf Central Railroad began building a branch line between Lawton, Georgia and Live Oak, Florida on the Florida, Atlantic and Gulf Central Railroad to help assist the movement of troops and supplies and to connect Georgia by Florida by rail in general. Grading of the route was completed by May 1863, but rails would not be fully added until January 1865. It was the first rail line connecting the states of Florida and Georgia. After the war, it was operated by the Atlantic and Gulf as the Florida Division.

The line from the initial point in Wayne County to Savannah continued to operate as the Savannah, Albany, and Gulf Railroad until the Georgia General Assembly consolidated that line under Atlantic and Gulf effective on May 1, 1863. The Savannah, Albany, and Gulf Railroad had previously operated under its own name between Savannah and Thomasville. At the start of 1864, works had graded the main line route to a point within about 5 miles (8.0 km) from Bainbridge. 15 miles (24 km) of the portion west of Thomasville already had crossties on the grade.

Originally the Atlantic and Gulf Railroad Company had two junctions with the Brunswick and Florida Railroad. The first was with the Brunswick and Florida's branch line from what is now Schlatterville to what is now Waycross, Georgia. The Brunswick and Florida's main line's primary junction with the Atlantic and Gulf was at Glenmore, but during the Civil War 60 miles (97 km) of the branch line which had extended all the way to Waresboro, Georgia was taken up by the Confederate government of Georgia to be used in more militarily important regions. After the Civil War, Brunswick and Florida Railroad's line was taken over by the Brunswick and Albany Railroad in 1869. The Schlatterville to Glenmore route was abandoned because of the growth of Waycross.[11]

The Atlantic and Gulf line remained opened throughout most of the civil war. It remaining opening allowed many from central Georgia and coastal Georgia to take refuge in towns like Thomasville and Valdosta in south Georgia during the Atlanta Campaign and Sherman's March to the Sea from Summer to Autumn 1864. On December 19, 1864, the Battle of Altamaha Bridge took place at Atlantic and Gulf's trestle over the Altamaha River near Doctortown. The Confederate victory temporarily kept the only train route from coastal Georgia to south Georgia open. The railroad sustained some damage the during Civil War compared to other railroads in Georgia. An estimated 6.5 miles (10.5 km) of the Atlantic and Gulfs railing was irreparably destroyed with the total damage running 25.5 miles (41.0 km). The damaged section was from Georgetown, Chatham County, Georgia to Morgan Lake near the Altamaha River. The trestles across the Ogeechee and the Little Ogeechee rivers were destroyed, but the long trestle across the Altamaha River was undamaged and ready to use by June 1865, when control of the Atlantic and Gulf was restored to its board of directors by General Henry Warner Birge.[12]

Financial decline[edit]

1870 map with connections

By November 1865, the grading of the route to Bainbridge had been completed and the rails were set to be purchased when company finances allowed. By late December 1867, the Atlantic and Gulf's line had been completed to Bainbridge, Georgia.

In 1869, the Atlantic and Gulf purchased the line under construction by the South Georgia and Florida Railroad. It had been chartered by the Georgia General Assembly on December 22, 1857 to construct a railroad between Albany, Georgia and Thomasville, Georgia and from there to the most advantageous point on the Florida line. Only the portion of the line from Pelham, Georgia to Thomasville had been completed by the time of the purchase. The line was completed all the way to Albany within a year. The line was operated by the Atlantic and Gulf as their Albany Division.

In 1871, the Atlantic and Gulf constructed a two-mile extension of its line to the Savannah River.

By January 1872, the Atlantic and Gulf was still trying to expand beyond Bainbridge to the Gulf of Mexico and was still reporting increasing profits. By August, it asked for financial aid from the state of Georgia to help with the completion of the railroad to Pollard, Alabama, but the bill failed to become law in that session or the next. In March 1874, the state of Georgia sold 75% of its shares of stock in Atlantic and Gulf.

On January 1, 1877, Atlantic and Gulf declared bankruptcy after defaulting on several bonds. It had been hard hit by the Long Depression. In November 1879, it was bought by Henry B. Plant at a foreclosure sale and reorganized in December as the Savannah, Florida, and Western Railway, which developed into his Plant System.[1]

Effect on local geography[edit]

The construction of the railroad had a profound effect upon the geography of south Georgia. The coming of railroad helped establish a number of new counties and moved several county seats. In general, the Atlantic and Gulf opened up south Georgia to settlement and population growth while also connecting it to areas from which it had previously been isolated. For decades after the railroad's establishment, new towns grew up along its route.

New counties[edit]

County seat changes[edit]

Listing of stations[edit]

Even though the Atlantic and Gulf Railroad and the Savannah, Albany, and Gulf Railroad were nominally separate entities before they merged in 1863, the Atlantic and Gulf continued with the station numbering system of the Savannah, Albany, and Gulf Railroad. Over time additional stations were created as communities grew up along the route.

Original Station No. Opening Date[10] Notes[13] Image Location Coordinates

Atlantic and Gulf Railroad: Main Line[edit]

Station No. 0 September 1856 Successor depot demolished. Original location is now Chatham County DFCS. Savannah
Station No. 1 Miller's
Station No. 1 ½ Ways Station
Station No. 2 Fleming
Station No. 3 McIntosh
Station No. 4 Successor depot still in existence, but was moved in 1980 across the tracks. Walthourville
Station No. 4 ½ Successor depot still in existence. Johnston Station 31°42′37″N 81°44′41″W / 31.710201°N 81.744761°W / 31.710201; -81.744761
Station No. 5 Doctortown
Station No. 6 Successor depot still in existence, but in a slightly different location than that of the A&G's. Jesup 31°36′19″N 81°52′58″W / 31.605204°N 81.882659°W / 31.605204; -81.882659
Station No. 7 Initial starting point of Atlantic and Gulf Railroad. Screven
Station No. 7 ½ Patterson
Station No. 8 May 1, 1859 Successor depot still in existence. Blackshear 31°18′10″N 82°14′28″W / 31.302846°N 82.241144°W / 31.302846; -82.241144
Malvern
Station No. 9 July 4, 1859 Junction with the branch line of Brunswick and Florida Railroad Company.
Successor depot still in existence.
Waycross 31°12′32″N 82°21′35″W / 31.208908°N 82.359585°W / 31.208908; -82.359585
A mile away from the Waycross station. Now part of Waycross. Tebeauville
Station No. 10 October 12, 1859 Junction with the main line of Brunswick and Florida Railroad Company. Glenmore
Argyl
Station No. 11 December 21, 1859 Successor depot still in existence. Homerville 31°02′10″N 82°44′44″W / 31.036239°N 82.745626°W / 31.036239; -82.745626
Station No. 12 February 28, 1860 Successor depot still in existence, but was moved away from the railroad. Du Pont 30°59′18″N 82°52′17″W / 30.988311°N 82.871430°W / 30.988311; -82.871430
Station No. 13 March 23, 1860 Stockton
Station No. 14 June 18, 1860 Naylor
Station No. 15 July 4, 1860[14]
July 25, 1860[10]
Successor depot demolished in 1994. Valdosta 30°49′48″N 83°16′41″W / 30.830033°N 83.277970°W / 30.830033; -83.277970
Ousley
Station No. 16 October 23, 1860 Successor depot demolished. Quitman 30°46′48″N 83°33′26″W / 30.779987°N 83.557246°W / 30.779987; -83.557246
Station No. 17 Dixie
Station No. 18 January 28, 1861 Successor depot still in existence. Boston 30°47′36″N 83°47′25″W / 30.793383°N 83.790225°W / 30.793383; -83.790225
Station No. 19 April 16, 1861 Successor depot still in existence. Thomasville 30°50′02″N 83°59′02″W / 30.833991°N 83.984007°W / 30.833991; -83.984007
Station No. 20 Successor depot still in existence. Cairo 30°52′38″N 84°12′31″W / 30.877139°N 84.208558°W / 30.877139; -84.208558
Station No. 21 Whigham
Station No. 22 December 1867 Successor depot still in existence, but was moved to a local park in 1980. Climax
Station No. 23 December 1867 Bainbridge

Atlantic and Gulf Railroad: Florida Division[edit]

Junction with Main Line Du Pont, Georgia
Tarver, Georgia
Jasper, Florida
Suwannee, Florida
Rixford, Florida
Junction with Florida, Atlantic and Gulf Central Railroad Live Oak, Florida

Atlantic and Gulf Railroad: Albany Division[edit]

Junction with Main Line Thomasville
Ochlocknee
Pelham
Camilla
Baconton
Hardaway
Albany

Company presidents[edit]

Savannah and Albany Railroad[edit]

  • James Proctor Screven (1852–1854)

Savannah, Albany, and Gulf Railroad[edit]

  • James Proctor Screven (1854–1859)
  • John Screven (1859–1861)

Atlantic and Gulf Railroad[edit]

  • James Proctor Screven (1856–1859)
  • John Screven (1859–1861)
  • Hiram Robert (1861-1863) acting president
  • John Screven (1863–1865)
  • William Duncan (1865) acting president
  • John Screven (1866–1879)

Engines[edit]

Most of the engines used by the Atlantic and Gulf were named after rivers running through its route.

Name Maker Commenced running Configuration Image Notes Final disposition

Engines used by the Atlantic and Gulf[15][edit]

Tatnall Baldwin Locomotive Works September 1856 4-4-0 Condemned January 1864
Altamaha Rogers Locomotive and Machine Works January 1857 4-4-0
Satilla No. 3 Rogers Locomotive and Machine Works March 1858 4-4-0 Continued running when A&G was reorganized as the Savannah, Florida, and Western Railway. Sold to the McDonough Lumber Co. in 1889. Bought by Henry Ford in 1924. The Henry Ford Museum
Alapaha Rogers Locomotive and Machine Works May 1859 4-4-0
Ochlockonee Baldwin Locomotive Works January 1859 4-4-0
Withlacoochee Baldwin Locomotive Works November 1859 4-4-0
Okapilco Rogers Locomotive and Machine Works November 1859 4-4-0
Aucilla Rogers Locomotive and Machine Works September 1860 4-4-0
Ogeechee Baldwin Locomotive Works September 1860 4-4-0
Piscola Baldwin Locomotive Works September 1860 4-4-0
Thronateeska Norris Locomotive Works December 1860 4-4-0
Louisiana Norris Locomotive Works January 1863 4-4-0 Bought from the Central of Georgia Railway in December 1862.
Macon Hinkley Locomotive Works January 1863 4-4-0 Bought from the Central of Georgia Railway in December 1862.
Stone Wall Baldwin Locomotive Works November 1863 4-6-0 Leased from the Memphis and Charleston Railroad in 1863.
R.M. Patton Rogers Locomotive and Machine Works November 1863 4-4-0 Leased from the Memphis and Charleston Railroad in 1863.
John Childs Rogers Locomotive and Machine Works 4-4-0 Bought from the Montgomery and West Point Railroad in 1863.
Limestone Rogers Locomotive and Machine Works 4-4-0 Bought from the Montgomery and West Point Railroad in 1863.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Storey, Steve. "Atlantic & Gulf Railroad". Georgia's Railroad History & Heritage. Retrieved 10 September 2016. 
  2. ^ "Internal Improvement". Federal Union. Milledgeville, Georgia. 11 October 1836. Retrieved 10 September 2016. 
  3. ^ "Railroad meeting in Thomasville". Albany Patriot. Albany, Georgia. 24 April 1854. Retrieved 11 September 2016. 
  4. ^ "Legislature of Georgia". Savannah Daily Georgian. Savannah, Georgia. 22 November 1855. Retrieved 12 September 2016. 
  5. ^ Johnson, Herschel V. (5 November 1857). "Governor's Message". Federal Union. Milledgeville, Georgia. Retrieved 10 September 2016. 
  6. ^ "The Satilla Mass Meeting". Southern Record. Milledgeville, Georgia. 9 December 1856. Retrieved 10 September 2016. 
  7. ^ "Brunswick Railroad Operations". Southern Recorder. Milledgeville, Georgia. 28 April 1857. Retrieved 10 September 2016. 
  8. ^ "Extension of the Savannah, Albany and Gulf Railroad". Southern Recorder. Milledgeville, Georgia. 28 April 1857. Retrieved 10 September 2016. 
  9. ^ "Main Trunk - Railroad Meeting". Southern Recorder. Milledgeville, Georgia. 10 August 1858. Retrieved 10 September 2016. 
  10. ^ a b c d Screven, John (15 February 1861). "Second Report of the President of the Atlantic and Gulf Railroad". Daily Morning News. Savannah, Georgia. Retrieved 11 September 2016. 
  11. ^ Storey, Steve. "Brunswick & Albany Railroad". Georgia's Railroad History & Heritage. Retrieved 10 September 2016. 
  12. ^ "The Railroads of Georgia". Savannah Daily Herald. Savannah, Georgia. 20 June 1865. Retrieved 11 September 2016. 
  13. ^ Caldwell, Wilber W. (2001). The Courthouse and the Depot: The Architecture of Hope in an Age of Despair. Macon, Georgia: Mercer University Press. p. 199. ISBN 9780865547483. 
  14. ^ Shelton, Jane (2007). Pines and Pioneers. Valdosta, Georgia: Lowndes County Historical Society. p. 131. 
  15. ^ Tenth Report of the President and Directors of the Atlantic and Gulf Rail Road Co. to the Stockholders, January 1, 1864. Savannah, Georgia. 1864. 

External links[edit]