One of Georgias oldest railroads, the Southwestern was chartered in 1845 to build a railroad from Macon through southwestern Georgia to the lower Chattahoochee River. Construction began around 1848 and proceeded slowly. By 1852, the rails had been laid from Macon only as far as the Flint River at Oglethorpe. The next year the line was extended to Americus, aided by a $75,000 investment by Americus citizens. In 1857, the Southwestern purchased the line between Americus and Albany then under construction by the Georgia and Florida
Railroad and pushed it to completion. The latter company was consolidated
into the Southwestern in late 1859.
At Fort Valley, a branch was built westward to meet the unfinished Muscogee Railroad, a 50-mile line begun in 1847 as a Columbus-to-Macon route. When the Muscogee faltered in 1853, the Southwestern stepped in to complete the connection to the Muscogee’s eastern end at Butler. The Muscogee was consolidated into the Southwestern in 1856.
At Smithville, about 12 miles south of Americus, the Southwestern built another branch that ran westward to Cuthbert. Three miles west of Cuthbert, the rails branched again with one line leading west to Eufaula and the other 19 miles southwest to Fort Gaines. Both segments were completed in 1860.
As was the case for most antebellum Southern railroads, much of the construction was done by slaves. In 1850, for example, the Southwestern was the third largest slaveholder in the state.
On June 24, 1869, the Southwestern was leased to the Central of Georgia. Under the Central lease the railroad continued to construct branch lines, adding Albany to Arlington (36 miles) in 1873, Fort Valley to Perry (12 miles) in 1875, Arlington to Blakely (13 miles) in 1881, and Blakely to Columbia (12 miles) in 1889.
For a number of years, the railroad's timetables were published under the heading "Central and South-western Railroads of Georgia." By the latter part of the 1880s, the "South-western" part had been de-emphasized, with the railroad being listed as a division within the Central's timetables.
In 1954, the Central acquired a majority of the Southwestern’s stock and made the railroad an integral part of its own system.
1855 listing from Mitchell's new traveller's guide through the United States and the Canadas.... Online at Internet Archive here.
Maps and Timetables:
1854 timetable (107K)
1860 map (172K)
Civil War period map , Macon - Fort Valley - Butler (121K)
Civil War period map, Butler - Columbus [Muscogee RR] (124K)
Civil War period map, Fort Valley - Smithville (169K)
Civil War period map, Smithville - Albany - Fort Gaines - Eufaula (212K)
1863 timetable (240K)
1870 timetable (114K)
1882 timetable (308K)