Passenger Trains in Georgia
|During the first century of Georgia's railroads, passenger trains were common, representing a substantial portion of rail traffic, but by the 1950s they were in a steady decline. With fewer trains to handle, landmark passenger stations began to close and some were demolished: Cordele Union Depot in 1954, Savannah Union Station in 1962 (to make way for I-16 exit ramps), Augusta Union Station in 1972, and Atlanta's Terminal Station and Union Station that same year.
Today the only scheduled rail passenger service is on Amtrak (tourist trains and MARTA excepted). Amtrak has two routes in Georgia, but both are aligned north-south; there is no direct route to the Midwest, for example.
Amtrak station at Toccoa, GA.
The train pictured at the top of this page, the Dixie Flyer, regularly traveled from Chicago to Jacksonville by way of Atlanta. (See route map.) Now, to get from Atlanta to Chicago by train, one must first go to Virginia or Louisiana. To get from Atlanta to Jacksonville requires a trip to North Carolina.
Nashville, Chattanooga & St. Louis Railway passenger train, ca. 1930.
Southern Railway ad from 1940.
Most passenger trains were known by numbers, but some had names, a few of which are remembered today. Famous interstate trains included the New York-Florida Limited, the Flamingo, the Southland, the Orange Blossom Special, the Champion, and the Ponce de Leon. The best known in-state trains may have been the Nancy Hanks, Nancy Hanks II, and Man O’ War of the Central of Georgia.
Amtrak, of course, still has named trains. In Georgia, the Crescent traverses the northern half of the state, with stations at Atlanta, Gainesville, and Toccoa. Near the coast, the Silver Meteor and Silver Star make their New York-Miami runs with stations at Savannah and Jesup.
An in-state oddity that should be mentioned was the Georgia Railroad mixed train (freight and passenger service on the same train) between Atlanta and Augusta. While Amtrak had taken over most passenger operations in 1971, these trains operated until 1983. (See The Georgia Railroad Mixed Trains by Martin K. O'Toole at Railfan & Railroad magazine.)
Mention should also go to the state's tourist railroads, which carry passengers on rail lines of greatly varying length, and the railroad museums, several of which have passenger equipment on display.
The SAM Shortline provides an opportunity to experience rail travel.
Jim Cox. Rails Across Dixie: A History of Passenger Trains in the American South. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Co., 2011.
Larry Goolsby. Atlantic Coast Line Passenger Service The Postwar Years. Lynchburg, VA: TLC Publishing, 1999.
Larry Goolsby. Seaboard Air Line Passenger Service: The Streamlined Era. Lynchburg, VA: TLC Publishing, 2011.
RailGa.com. Georgia's Railroad History & Heritage. © Steve Storey
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