In 1871 the Cherokee Railroad was organized as a replacement for the troubled Cartersville & Van Wert Railroad. The C&VW had completed 14 miles of 5-foot gauge track between Cartersville and Taylorsville but was failing financially.
The Cherokee's owners quickly extended the tracks nine miles to Rockmart. To reduce costs, the new tracks were built at narrow gauge (3-foot), which was then being promoted by Edward Hulbert and others as a less-expensive alternative to conventional technology. The narrow-gauge movement had begun in Britain a few years earlier and was beginning to spread in the U.S.
Opened in November 1871 or thereabouts, the narrow-gauge section was the second of its type in the South, according to George W. Hilton. The Tuskegee Railroad in southeastern Alabama, rebuilt in 1871 after its destruction in the Civil War, was reported to be the first.
Despite the change, the financial situation did not improve and the railroad entered receivership in 1873, was sold under foreclosure in 1878, and was sold again in 1879 to the Cherokee Iron Company, which extended the rails to Cedartown as a narrow-gauge line. In 1881 the section between Cartersville and Taylorsville, which had been built at the 5-foot gauge, was converted to 3-foot narrow gauge. Soon afterwards, narrow-gauge tracks were extended from Cedartown to Esom Hill at the Alabama line.
In 1882 the line was leased to the East & West Railroad of Alabama. The E&W purchased it outright in 1886 and consolidated it into its own operations.
Maps and Timetables:
1873 map (51K)
1877 map (49K)
1882 map (62K)
1882 timetable (18K)
George W. Hilton. American Narrow Gauge Railroads. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1990.