Incorporated in 1910, the Bowdon Railway opened on January 25, 1911, as a 12-mile line from the western Carroll County town of Bowdon to the Central of Georgia at Bowdon Junction. Although it had long been a substantial place, even featuring Bowdon College, an institution established in 1856 as the fifth chartered college in Georgia, the town had no rail connections. The Georgia Pacific Railway had built its east-west route 15 miles to the north, through Tallapoosa, while the north-south Central passed 12 miles to the east, by way of Carrollton.
Within a few years after the first Bowdon Railway trains rolled into town, a connection in the opposite direction came under consideration. According to the December 1, 1916 issue of Railway Age Gazette, the railroad was comtemplating a 30-mile extension southwest to Roanoke in Randolph County, Alabama, through which the Atlanta, Birmingham & Atlantic had established its Manchester, Georgia, to Birmingham line in 1907. Bowdon Railway president J. L. Lovvorn was a native of Randolph County, but that probably was not as important to him as the leverage and benefits that his little railroad would gain through a connection to a second railroad, especially one not controlled by the Central of Georgia. Also, Roanoke was the nearest place that could offer a southern rail connection.
As it turned out, the southwestern extension would not be constructed and Bowdon remained the terminus of a short appendage to the Central.
Lovvorn not only gave Bowdon its first and only railroad, he also owned one of the earliest automobiles in town. A 1909 photograph at the Georgia Archives shows it parked on an unpaved Main Street with its owner standing alongside. Because autos were affordable only to the wealthy in 1909, it is unlikely that Dr. Lovvorn saw the machines as a potential threat to the railroad that he would establish the following year. At the time, new rail mileage continued to be constructed in the nation, and few people could foresee that automobile and truck ownership would become widespread and that roads would be improved at a rapid pace to accommodate them.
In 1944, the Official Guide of the Railways reported the Bowdon Railway was running one train daily from Bowdon to Bowdon Junction and back. Three years later, Lucius Beebe took note of the railroad in his Mixed Train Daily: A Book of Short-Line Railroads, remarking that the line existed primarily to serve Roop's Grocery Store in Bowdon. A photo in the book by his collaborator Charles M. Clegg shows the railway's motor rail car, a converted truck with a two-axle, four-steel-wheel configuration in front and a single axle with rubber tires in back.
According to Beebe, the curious vehicle was the railway's only rolling stock. If a full carload of freight needed to be moved over the line, he said, a locomotive borrowed from the Central was called upon. He gave no indication how often this occurred.
Perhaps it was the Bowdon Railway's frugality and ingenuity that allowed it to continue operating for sixteen years after Beebe and Clegg stopped by. The end came in December 1963 when debts finally overwhelmed the railroad's finances, and Bowdon once again became a town without a railroad.
Maps and Timetables:
1918 timetable (47K)
1921 map (765K)
1931 map (56K)
1953 map (204K)