SOUTH GEORGIA RAILWAYS
The Augusta – Athens railway was built by the Georgia Railroad and Banking Company, which was founded at the end of 1833. A branch to Madison was built before 1845.
In 1856 a small single-track railroad was opened from Richmond to Danville, Virginia. This enterprise was carried out largely with funds supplied by the State, and was managed and controlled by Ira Yale Sage, one of the first railroad moguls.
The Georgia Southern Railroad was founded in 1874 and taken over in 1881.
The Milledgeville Railway was incorporated in February 1896 by the lessees of the Georgia Railroad, to operate the former transit line from Milledgeville to the state mental hospital. With branches it totalled about five and a half miles. The line was earlier operated jointly by the Milledgeville & Asylum Dummy Railroad Company and the Old Capitol Railway. The Milledgeville Railway purchased the latter at a bankruptcy auction.
The Georgia Railroad Company was chartered on December 21, 1833 by a group of Athens citizens led by James Camak. Their goal was to build a railroad from Athens to Augusta. Construction began in 1835, starting at Augusta.
The 39-mile Athens branch, completed in December 1841, was operated with horse drawn cars until 1847. Originally built as 5-ft. gauge track, it was rebuilt to standard gauge in 1886.
The Atlanta branch was completed in 1845 and soon the 171-mile Augusta-Atlanta connection became the main line. It was also a key link in a through line from Charleston to Memphis formed by the Georgia, the South Carolina and the Memphis & Charleston.
Early on, Augustans gained control from Athens interests, with Augustan John Pendleton King serving as president of the railroad from 1841 to 1878.
The railroad’s chief engineer was John Edgar Thomson, who assumed that post in 1834. Thomson later became chief engineer of the new Pennsylvania Railroad and, in 1852, its president. The city of Thomson, in McDuffie County, was named after him.
The 78-mile branch line between Camak and Macon, completed in 1873 was merged into the Georgia Railroad system in 1878. The branch, which the Georgia Railroad had leased in 1867 while it was still under construction, was nicknamed the Macon Road.
The Central Rail Road and Canal Company was organized in 1833 by a group of Savannah businessmen who were concerned that Charleston’s new railroad to Augusta would bring a loss of shipping business for their port. Construction of their new line began in late 1835. The line was complete from Savannah to Oliver by 1839 and to Macon in 1843. (It was not until 1851, however, that a bridge over the Ocmulgee was built.) At Macon a connection with Atlanta was made by way of the Macon and Western Railroad, which had completed its line in 1846.
The Georgia Railroad & Banking Company had made early investments in the Atlanta and West Point Railroad and the Western Railway of Alabama, which together connected Atlanta and Montgomery. By the 1880s, the company owned a controlling interest in the former and a substantial interest in the latter and, as a result, had created a small but important rail system that spanned the Georgia piedmont and reached as far west as Alabama’s capital city of Montgomery.
In 1881, the Georgia Railroad was leased for 99 years to Colonel William M. Wadley, president of the Central of Georgia Railway. Wadley assigned the lease jointly to the Louisville and Nashville and the Central of Georgia.
In 1883 the lessees acquired controlling interests in the Gainsville, Jefferson & Southern Railroad and the Walton Railroad.