Georgia's Railroad History & Heritage --
Seventeen Years Online
2016 marks the seventeenth year of this website, which first went online in 1999 as a MindSpring personal web page. The railga.com domain came in October of 2002.
The project actually began, however, in the mid-1980s during a hike along the abandoned Seaboard line between Rockmart and Dallas. Wondering about the history of that railroad soon lead to many hours in three university libraries making hundreds of notes on the complicated genealogy of Georgia's railroads. During my research, I discovered that answering one question about a railroad's line of ancestry just leads to more questions about earlier ancestors and more time spent in libraries and archives.
In 1991, the State Historic Preservation Office, in partnership with the Georgia Rails Into Trails Society and the Trust for Public Land, published The Statewide Railroad Industry Context. This impressive 190-page work, authored by Alexandra C. de Kok, identified nearly all of the abandoned railroad rights of way in Georgia and included dates of construction, abandonment, and railroad company mergers. Because the project's purpose was historic preservation, it also had basic information on several types of remaining historic railroad structures such as depots and trestles.
The publication filled in many of the gaps in my research. It also suggested to me that our state's railroad heritage was as worthy of study as its railroad history. Unfortunately, it did not answer the question of what I should do with all of my notes. I had been thinking about using them as the basis of a book, but I was fairly certain that that would be a money-losing proposition.
Four years later, in 1995, Les Winn published such a book: Ghost Trains & Depots of Georgia (1833-1933), a history of the first one hundred years of the state's railroads and their depots. This unforeseen event told me clearly what do to with my railroad history notes: nothing. Besides, I was involved in another project, one more interesting at the time (and more fattening), a guidebook to Georgia's barbecue places. The Peach State Glove Box Guide to Bar-B-Que was published by Longstreet Press in May 1997.
After the barbecue book, I kept coming back to the railroad project but did not have a clear idea of where to go with it. In the meantime I bought several antique Georgia railroad maps and some old copies of the Official Guide of the Railways, first at used book stores and later on eBay. Somehow, seeing the early railroads on maps and reading their timetables made them more real than they seemed in my railroad notes.
The notes were originally written on index cards and later were typed into WriteNow, an application that was fine in its day, but seriously outmoded in the late 1990s. What I needed was an application that linked related information better than a word processor but one that was less difficult to learn and use than a database. HTML! That was the answer. And if I was going to put my notes into HTML, then I might as well make them widely available through a website.
I first created the site in GoLive CyberStudio, an HTML application that was quite easy to learn and use thanks to its mostly WYSIWYG approach. Today I'm using Dreamweaver.
As mentioned, the site was first hosted by MindSpring, an Atlanta company that merged into Earthlink in 2000. Soon afterwards, BellSouth installed DSL service in my neighborhood, so I switched to that option, obtained the railga.com domain, and started expanding the maps and photos on this website, which now number well into the thousands.
The amazing advances in computer and communications technology that have made this website possible have taken place in an astoundingly short time. After all, the first web page was created in 1990, not that long ago. It has been a fascinating period in our history. I wonder if Georgia's railroad pioneers of the 1830s felt the same way about their times.
RailGa.com. Georgia's Railroad History & Heritage. © Steve Storey.
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