Bowden Lithia Springs Short Line Railroad

Bowden Lithia Springs Short Line Railroad train

This 2.5-mile Austell-to-Lithia Springs line opened in 1885 as a private enterprise, according to Poor's Manual of the Railroads 1895 edition. It was chartered as a common carrier in March 1887. Poors 1897 noted that the 3-ft gauge railroad was owned by the proprietor of the Sweet Water Park Hotel, and was operated as a private road for hotel guests.

In the 1894 edition of The Official Railway List, the railroad reported operating two and a half miles of line with 1 locomotive, 2 passenger cars, and 1 freight or miscellaneous car. The president was reported as E. W. Marsh of Atlanta, the vice president as S. S. Marsh of the same city, the general manager as Jas. A. Watson of Lithia Springs, and the general passenger, ticket, and freight agent as J. E. Howland of Lithia Springs.

The line was abandoned in 1913.

During the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, numerous resort hotels were constructed at mineral springs and other places thought to be conducive to good health. By investing in good rail connections, hotels could attract enough customers to support hundreds of rooms, even where patronage was seasonal. Examples in Georgia included Indian Springs with its Flovilla & Indian Springs Railroad, and Tallapoosa with its Tallapoosa Street Railway carrying passengers to that town's Lithia Springs Hotel.

Sweet Water Park Hotel. (From: The Southland; an exposition of the present resources and development of the South. Online at Internet Archive here.

The Sweet Water Park Hotel, which burned in 1912, stood on the south side of the railroad in present-day Lithia Springs, between Sweetwater Road and Marsh Avenue. A quarter-mile to the west were the grounds of the Piedmont Chatauqua, established by Henry W. Grady in the late 1880s. Nothing remains today of the railroad, the hotel, or the Chatauqua.

(First two images above are from The American Carlsbad and its Famous Natural Medicinal Waters (1891), online at Internet Archive here.)



The original Bowden Lithia spring.


Bowden Lithia spring in use around 1913.

Bowden Lithia spring in use around 1913. (This image and the one above it are from S. W. McCallie, A Preliminary Report on the Mineral Springs of Georgia, Geological Survey of Georgia, 1913.)


Bowden Lithia Springs listing in 1906 Official Guide

From: Official Guide of the Railways, 1906.

1907 map (26K)

Every Now and Then; Bringing Douglas County History to a 21st Century Audience by Lisa Cooper has additional information on the Sweet Water Park Hotel and the Chatauqua. Georgia's Railroad History & Heritage. © Steve Storey.

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