Rabun Gap Route

From the earliest days of railroading in the South, business interests sought to connect Atlantic ports with the navigable streams of the interior, in particular the Tennessee River and the Ohio River. Blocking any direct route between those waterways and the coast, however, was the Blue Ridge, a long high wall of mountains that was especially daunting in the Carolinas and northeastern Georgia. To get beyond the barrier it would be necessary to find a relatively low gap with manageable approaches, and just such a place presented itself in Rabun County, at Georgia's far northeastern corner.

The first real attempt at a Rabun Gap route was made by the Blue Ridge Railroad, a South Carolina enterprise that accomplished a substantial amount of grading and tunneling near the Chattooga River but was not able to proceed beyond Walhalla, SC, largely because of the Civil War. Another try came in the 1890s when the Black Diamond Railroad was proposed by Col. Albert E. Boone, "The Railway Pathfinder." Boone also failed to build a rail line through the gap.

It would not be until the first decade of the 20th century that Rabun Gap finally saw a train, thanks to an extension of the Tallulah Falls Railway from Clayton, GA. The TF would eventually be extended to Franklin, NC, about 17 miles north of the gap, but would go no farther.

Rabun Gap is shown near the center of the map above. Besides providing a path through the mountains, it marked the divide between streams flowing into the Atlantic and those emptying into the Gulf of Mexico.

 


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