|Track gauge||4 ft 8 1⁄2 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge|
|Previous gauge||5 ft (1,524 mm) and converted to|
4 ft 9 in (1,448 mm) in 1886
|Length||331 mi (533 km)|
The Georgia Railroad and Banking Company (reporting mark GA) also seen as "GARR", was a 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 (533 km) of road and 510 miles (820 km) of track.
The company 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. It was converted to 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 1⁄2 in) in 1886.
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 Western and Atlantic Railroad was chartered to build a line from 7 miles (11 km) south of the Chattahoochee River, at a point named Terminus (present-day Atlanta), to Chattanooga, Tennessee (formerly Ross Landing).
- The South Carolina Railroad was building a line from Charleston to North Augusta, South Carolina (formerly Hamburg).
- The Memphis and Charleston Railroad was being built from Memphis to Chattanooga.
- The Nashville and Chattanooga Railroad and the Louisville and Nashville Railroad (L&N) were both constructing rival lines between Louisville, Kentucky, and Nashville, Tennessee.
The Georgia Railroad decided to extend the Madison branch to Terminus (Atlanta) and thereby compete with the Central Railroad and Banking Company of Georgia (later the Central of Georgia Railroad), which together with the Macon & Western Railroad, was 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. 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.
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 (A&WP) and the Western Railway of Alabama (WofA), 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.
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 scrip 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. At that time, most Southern banks were repudiating any obligations related to Confederate currency. This helped to solidify the bank's reputation as one of the premier banks in the southeastern United States, well into the 20th century.
The Georgia Railroad Freight Depot, designed by architect Max Corput, was completed in 1869 and is the oldest building in Downtown Atlanta. The company was later re-chartered 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 his company and half to the L&N. Following the Panic of 1896, 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; thus the Georgia, A&WP, and WofA became non-operating subsidiaries of the Atlantic Coast Line.
With the building of the Savannah and Atlanta Railroad, which connected with the Georgia Railroad at Warrenton, 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 via the ACL's spur from its main line at Florence, South Carolina, in order that 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 state legislature gave the corporation large tax breaks, which were 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. The Georgia was perhaps the last railroad to operate both freight and passenger trains in the "Lower 48" states, into the Amtrak era.
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; 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 a lease.
After a period of somewhat heavy use during the CSX ownership, most through traffic has been diverted from the former Georgia Railroad mainline. As of October 2018, only a single through train in each direction daily uses the line. Despite its seeming strategic value as a route for intermodal traffic to Charleston and Savannah, rumors continue to swirl that CSX will ultimately divest the line to a shortline operator.
1867 rail timetable
- Distances of depots from Atlanta
|2||Stone Mountain, Georgia||16||26|
|6||Social Circle, Georgia||52||84|
|11||Union Point, Georgia||95||153|
|13||Barnett, Georgia||114||183||Near U.S. Highway 278 and I-20|
|14||Camack, Georgia||125||201||Old spelling|
|17||Saw Dust, Georgia||146||235||Now called Harlem|
|18||Berzelia, Georgia||152||245||Near Berzelia Pond|
|19||Belair, Georgia||162||261||Now called Grovetown|
Trains departed from Atlanta at 8:55AM and 7:15PM and arrived in Augusta at 6:00PM and 10:05AM.
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