The Richmond & Danville, chartered in Virginia in 1847, opened a 140-mile rail line between the two cities of its name in 1856. A 48-mile extension from Danville to Greensboro, N.C., was completed during the Civil War.
After the war, the railroad came into the possession of the Southern Railway Security Company, a holding company created to extend the interests the Pennsylvania Railroad into the South. Organized in 1871, it was controlled by, among others, Tom Scott of the Pennsylvania, William T. Walters and B.F. Newcomer of Baltimore, James Roosevelt of New York, and Henry Bradley Plant of the Southern Express Company.
In 1872, the R&D extended aid to the Atlanta and Richmond Air-Line Railway to help it complete its road between Charlotte and Atlanta. The line was to become a key link in the "Piedmont Air Line,” a system of railroads across the southeast.
By the mid-1870s, the Southern Railroad Security Company and the Pennsylvania Railroad had gained control of over 2,000 miles of railroad including the East Tennessee, Virginia & Georgia, the Western & Atlantic, the Memphis & Charleston, the Wilmington & Weldon, and the Charlotte, Columbia & Augusta. Profits were minor, however, due largely to the ruined condition of the southern post-war economy. During the latter half of the decade the group sold of its southern holdings and the Pennsylvania turned its attention to the west. In 1880, the Pennsylvania sold the R&D to the new Clyde Syndicate.
In 1881, the R&D leased the Atlanta-Charlotte line, by then renamed Atlanta and Charlotte Air-Line Railway.
In 1880, the Richmond and West Point Terminal Railway and Warehouse Company was chartered to acquire railroads which the R&D could not acquire directly due to a limitation in its charter. The Terminal Company quickly purchased over 700 miles of existing railroads and acquired the franchises for a number of projected lines including the Georgia Pacific Railway and the Rabun Gap Short Line Railway.
The Richmond and Danville bought the Lawrenceville-to-Suwanee line from the Lawrenceville Branch Railroad in 1885. This line was sold to the Atlanta and Charlotte Air Line Railway in 1908. It was abandoned in 1920.
The Richmond and Danville leased the 61-mile Northeastern Railroad of Georgia in 1886.
In 1887, the Terminal Company gained control of the East Tennessee, Virginia and Georgia Railway.
In 1888, the Terminal Company purchased the entire capital stock of the Georgia Company, which had been organized the previous year to acquire a controlling interest in the capital stock of the Central Railroad and Banking Company.
In 1889, the 566-mile Georgia Pacific Railway was completed and began operation from Atlanta to Greenville, Mississippi. It had been leased to the Richmond & Danville in January of that year.
In 1890, the Terminal Company acquired a controlling interest in the Alabama Great Southern Railroad.
The R&D grew to encompass some 3300 miles of railroad by 1890, but its financial standing became shaky soon afterwards. In 1892, the R&D and the Terminal Company entered receivership. After reorganization by J.P. Morgan, the railroad emerged in 1894 as the Southern Railway Company.
1881 map (at Library of Congress website)
1882 map (510K)
1883 map (354K)
1880s map (930K)
1893 map (at Library of Congress website)