Southern Railway

Southern Railway passenger train

Southern Railway was formed in 1894 as successor to the Richmond & West Point Terminal Railway & Warehouse Company, a holding company which owned or controlled several rail lines in the South, including the Richmond & Danville Railroad, the East Tennessee, Virginia & Georgia Railway, the Georgia Southern & Florida Railroad, and the Alabama Great Southern Railroad.

In 1895, Southern bought the 105-mile Atlanta & Florida Railway.

In 1896, Southern leased the 100-mile Georgia Midland Railway.

Southern Railway gained control of the South Carolina & Georgia and the Augusta Southern in 1899. (The Augusta Southern was sold to the Georgia & Florida in 1917.)

Consolidation-type freight hauler built for Southern by Brooks Locomotive Works in 1896.

Southern acquired the Central of Georgia Railway and the Georgia & Florida in 1963. (The G&F was merged into the Central in 1971.)Southern Ry logo

In 1966, Southern acquired the Georgia Northern and the Albany & Northern.

In 1971, Southern purchased the Tennessee, Alabama, & Georgia Railway.

Also in 1971, Southern merged its South Georgia Railway and Live Oak, Perry & Gulf Railroad to form the Live Oak, Perry & South Georgia Railway, running from Adel, Georgia to Perry, Florida.

In 1972, Southern merged the Albany & Northern, the Georgia, Ashburn, Sylvester, & Camilla, and the Georgia Northern into a single subsidiary.

In 1980, Southern and Norfolk & Western announced an agreement to merge into a combined system encompassing over 17,000 miles of track. On June 1, 1982, the merger was completed and the Norfolk Southern Railway was born.

Baldwin ten-wheeler built for Southern in the early 1900s.

Southern's Palm Limited passenger train. (From: Railway & Locomotive Engineering, June 1906).

• Roswell - Chamblee (former Roswell Railroad) abandoned 1923.
• Villa Rica branch abandoned 1925.
• Roseland (Atlanta) - Williamson (former Atlanta & Florida) abandoned 1939.
• Coosa (Rome) - Alabama (former Rome & Decatur) abandoned 1948.
• Cornelia - Franklin, NC (former Tallulah Falls) abandoned 1961.
• Albany - Cordele (former Albany & Northern) abandoned 1977.
• Williamson - Roberta (former Atlanta & Florida) abandoned 1977.
• McDonough - Griffin (former Georgia Midland & Gulf) abandoned 1979.
• Greenville - Raymond (former Central of Georgia) abandoned 1981.
• Chambers/Silver Creek - Relay (former CofG south of Rome) abandoned 1981.

For later abandonments, see Norfolk Southern. See also subsidiary railroads such as Georgia & Florida, Georgia Northern, and Central of Georgia.

Two Southern Railway lines once crossed at Williamson, a small town southwest of Griffin. One connected Atlanta and Fort Valley and the other linked Columbus and McDonough. Both are now gone.

Maps and Timetables:

1895 timetables

Atlanta and Birmingham

Atlanta and Brunswick

Atlanta and Charlotte

Atlanta and Fort Valley

Chamblee and Roswell




Toccoa and Elberton

Cochran and Hawkinsville

1895 map

1897 map at Library of Congress

1901 map at North Carolina Maps

1916 map

1917 map

1917 timetables





Atlanta-Fort Valley







1922 map at North Carolina Maps

1927 map (700K)

1929 map at North Carolina Maps

1944 map (102K)

1909 & 1947 maps at University of Alabama Map Library

1953 map, Cochran - Hawkinsville (281K)

1955 map, Columbus - Warm Springs (516K)

1953-55 map, Warm Springs - Griffin (667K)

1953 map, Griffin - McDonough (268K)

1968-70 map, Rome - Piedmont, AL (675K)

Baldwin mallet articulated compound engine built around 1911 for Southern. (From: Railway & Locomotive Engineering, June 1911.)

Equipment summary from The Official Railway Equipment Register, Volume 33. October, 1917. Complete publication is online at Google Books.

Best Friend of Charleston replica

In 1928, Southern built a replica of the Best Friend of Charleston and exhibited it in various parts of its rail system. Here it is in Tallapoosa. The Best Friend was the first locomotive of the South Carolina Canal & Rail Road Company, which was Southern's earliest predecessor.

Southern Railway's replica of the locomotive Best Friend of Charleston

This photo shows the front of the train. (From: Smith Hempstone Oliver, The First Quarter-Century of Steam Locomotives in North America, United States National Museum Bulletin 210, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., 1956, p. 30. Online at Internet Archive here.)


Suggested Reading:

Burke Davis. The Southern Railway; Road of the Innovators. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1985.

Fairfax Harrison. A History of the Legal Development of the Railroad System of Southern Railway Company. Washington, D.C., 1901. Online at Google Books.

Maury Klein. The Great Richmond Terminal; A Study in Businessmen and Business Strategy. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1970.

Sallie Loy, Dick Hillman, and C. Pat Cates. The Southern Railway. (Images of America series). Charleston, SC: Arcadia Publishing, 2004.

Sallie Loy, Dick Hillman, and C. Pat Cates. The Southern Railway: Further Recollections. (Images of Rail series). Charleston, SC: Arcadia Publishing, 2005.

Tom Murray. Southern Railway. (MBI Railroad Color History). Osceola, WI: Voyageur Press, 2007.


Southern Railway in Georgia -- "family tree"

More info at Southern Railway Historical Association

Vintage photos of the Southern at

Southern R.R. Co. Crescent Locomotive in 1916. (Cropped photograph; complete photograph is online at Library of Congress here.)

Southern No. 6901 at the Southeastern Railway Museum in Duluth, GA.

Southern passenger car at the Southeastern Railway Museum. Georgia's Railroad History & Heritage. © Steve Storey

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