The Athens Line

The Athens Line is a shortline railroad operating since 2002 on north-south tracks passing through Athens, Watkinsville, and extending south to Bishop. The route is leased from Norfolk Southern.

The northern end of the line is at Center, a place 7 miles north of downtown Athens. Here the Athens Line connects with Norfolk Southern's route through Commerce to the NS mainline at Lula. From Center, the tracks run south through downtown Athens and the University of Georgia, continuing on through Whitehall and Watkinsville to the southern end of the line at Bishop. The rails from Bishop to Madison have been inactive since 1987.

The Athens-Center-Commerce-Lula line was completed in 1876 by the Northeastern Railroad of Georgia. It was consolidated into Southern Railway in 1899. The Athens-Bishop-Madison line was built in the late 1880s by the Covington & Macon Railroad. It later became the Macon & Northern, and in 1895 became a branch of the Central of Georgia. The Central was acquired by Southern Railway in 1963, and Southern was merged into Norfolk Southern in 1982.

The Athens Line is owned by Bennie Ray Anderson, who also owns the Great Walton Railroad and the Hartwell Railroad.

In this ca. 2005 photo, an Athens Line train sits at the spur to UGA's steam plant with Sanford Stadium in the background. The lead locomotive is in Hartwell Railroad colors. Behind it are an ex-Chessie/B&O unit followed by an ex-Illinois Central locomotive. In early 2015, UGA converted its steam plant to an electrode system, eliminating the need for deliveries of coal.

Map (57K) Georgia's Railroad History & Heritage. © Steve Storey.

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