Silver Comet Trail

While Georgia has lagged behind many other states in converting abandoned rail corridors to long multi-use trails, we do have one star in that regard. The old Atlanta-Birmingham route of Seaboard Air Line Railway now provides a 61-mile linear park across Cobb, Paulding, and Polk counties to the state line. Once in Alabama, the trail becomes the Chief Ladiga Trail, continuing on the old Seaboard route to a point west of Piedmont, where it joins an abandoned Southern Railway (originally Selma, Rome & Dalton) route to Weaver, on the north side of Anniston.

Georgia's trail was named for a streamlined passenger train that traversed the route from 1947 to 1969.

Ad from 1964 Seaboard Railroad timetable.

The oldest part of the trail is the 37-mile section between Mavell Road, in southern Cobb County, and the Polk County town of Rockmart. Abandoned by Seaboard successor CSX in 1988-89, it was gradually converted during the 1990s into a popular recreational asset. In 2003 the section from Cedartown to the state line opened to riders; it had been abandoned at the same time as the eastern section but had faced greater difficulties in funding and support.

Perhaps the most scenic area along the trail is in western Paulding County and eastern Polk County.

The 730-foot Brushy Mountain Tunnel, called the Divide Tunnel by the railroad, is just east of the Paulding County/Polk County line. From the Coots Lake trailhead it is a 2.6 mile climb on a noticeable but easy eastbound grade.

Coots Lake, view from the trail.

On the east side of Rockmart, the trail passes through Van Wert, which was the county seat of Paulding County before Polk County was carved from it. The former town was also the intended destination of the post-Civil War Cartersville & Van Wert Railroad. (Click here to enlarge).

A wide variety of landscapes can be seen on the Silver Comet Trail.

Near Van Wert is a pastoral scene known as Ma White's Bottom Land.
(Click here to enlarge).

View of Ma White's Bottoms from the trail.

A steel-arch bridge carries trail users over Euharlee Creek in downtown Rockmart. The stream flows north to the Etowah River.

Near the Euharlee Creek bridge is this old train signal. The structure in the background is a community center built to look like a railroad depot.

A display board in downtown Rockmart tells of the passenger train that once passed through here. (Click here to enlarge).

An artistic celebration of pedal power stands at the trailhead in downtown Rockmart. A circular bike rack surrounds it.

A bike pump and repair station is available at the trailhead.

Downtown Rockmart, at the trailhead.

The trail passes the city cemetery on the west side of downtown Rockmart. Be sure to walk or pedal around the hill to see its Victorian-era pavilion.

The 1901 trestle over Pumpkinvine Creek is 126 feet high and 750 feet long. It stands in Paulding County about 0.8 miles west of the Rambo trailhead on the west side of Dallas.

The Pumpkinvine Creek trestle.
(Photo by Leamon Scott)

In its early years the trail had to cross many busy roads at grade. Bridges and underpasses added since then have made the ride safer and more enjoyable.

Eastbound at the Tara Drummond Trailhead.

Westbound near the Rambo Trailhead.

Cedartown's trailhead is this replica of the town's Seaboard depot. All of the original depots along the route have been lost.

CSX trains are still in operation between Rockmart and Cedartown, a circumstance that has required the trail to depart from the railroad corridor at several places in that area. West of Cedartown it rejoins the abandoned railbed and follows it to Piedmont, AL.

To the east, between Rockmart and Powder Springs, Norfolk Southern's Rome-Atlanta line closely parallels the trail, passing under it between Dallas and Hiram. NS trains can often be heard even when they can't be seen, adding a bit of appropriate horn music to the railfan's bike ride.

While the eastern end of the trail is curently at Mavel Road in Cobb County, the abandoned rail bed actually extends another three miles to the Chattahoochee River. A recently established "Connect the Comet" group is advocating extension of the trail to the river, along with a possible connection to the new Atlanta Beltline trail system.

1918 timetable for the route. For complete page, click here.

See also Atlanta & Birmingham Air Line Railway.

Maps:

1953 topographic map, Atlanta - Hiram (236K)

1953 topographic map, Hiram - Rockmart (228K)

1953-68 topographic map, Rockmart - Cedartown (113K)

1953-68 topographic map, Cedartown - Piedmont, AL (203K)

More information:

Silver Comet at pathfoundation.org.

silvercometga.com.

Silver Comet Trail Map.


RailGa.com. Georgia's Railroad History & Heritage. © Steve Storey

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