About the Railroad Names

Rail Roads and Ways

Nearly all railroads included the words Railroad or Railway in their names. Upon reorganization, which befell many railroad enterprises over the years, the name was often changed from railroad to railway, or vice versa. Where that change had already been made, other alterations were needed. For example, in a 1926 reorganization, the Atlanta, Birmingham & Atlantic Railway became the Atlantic, Birmingham & Coast Railroad. (The railroad-to-railway change had been made 11 years earlier.)

Grand Ambitions

The names often reflected ambitions more than reality. Among many examples are the Atlanta & St. Andrews Bay which never came close to Atlanta on its own rails, the Atlanta & Florida which did enter Atlanta but got no closer to Florida than Fort Valley, and the Albany, Florida & Northern which came no nearer to Florida than its southern end at Albany. The Georgia, Florida & Alabama only traveled within the first two states in its name, while the Georgia Coast & Piedmont ended at Collins, a hundred miles southeast of the Piedmont.

More examples:

The Douglas, Augusta & Gulf never reached Augusta or the Gulf.

The Savannah, Griffin & North Alabama ended 200 miles short of Savannah but only missed Alabama by about 15 miles.

The Greene County Railroad operated in Walton and Morgan counties, but never made it to Greene County.

The Brunswick & Pensacola was a 23-mile logging railroad on the east side of the Okefenokee Swamp.

The Georgia Pacific Railway ran from Atlanta to Mississippi, falling somewhat short of the Pacific.

The Gainesville & Dahlonega did not seem like an overly ambitious name, but the railroad never made it to Dahlonega.

Many railroads existed only on paper because the owners could not raise enough capital to actually lay any tracks. This meant that some names were unavailable to enterprises that did have adequate funding.

Airs, Belts, and Shorts

Air Line meant a direct route. The name preceded actual air travel by decades.

Short Line generally meant a relatively short railroad that connected to a longer railroad (e.g., Darien Short Line). Sometimes it meant a bypass that avoided longer and more complicated connections, for example the Waycross Short Line. Today the term usually refers to railroads that are not owned by major systems such as Norfolk Southern and CSX.

Belt Line meant a railroad that connected other railroads within a city. Examples include Atlanta Belt Railway and Seaboard Air-Line Belt Railway.

Marketing Names

Many railroads had nicknames and marketing names in addition to their corporate names. These often had Route or Line as part of the name; examples include West Point Route, Queen & Crescent Route, TAG Route, Dixie Line, and Bee Line. The name might apply to a single railroad or to two or more operating jointly. (A list of nicknames and marketing names for Georgia railroads is on a separate page.)

Possible Short Line Name Confusions

A few modern-era short line railroads have adopted names used by long-defunct railroad companies. An example is the Georgia & Florida Railway currently operating out of Albany. It is not the same as the Georgia & Florida Railway organized in 1906. Similarly, the Georgia Central is not the same as the Central of Georgia.

Several short line companies operate widely scattered lines that are not connected by their own rails. Some are operated under a single name, for example the Georgia Southern Railway, while others use more than one name. An example of the latter is the Hartwell Railway which also operates the Great Walton and the Athens Line.

Lastly, the St. Marys Railway West is not in St. Marys, and it is not affiliated with the St. Marys Railroad (which is in St. Marys).



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

Railroad History | The Depot List | Locomotives On Display | Odds & Ends | Sources & References | Home