Black Diamond Railroad

The Black Diamond was an unsuccessful attempt to build a railroad from the Ohio River valley through Rabun Gap in Georgia to the Atlantic coast. Its primary advocate was Col. Albert E. Boone, the self-styled "Railway Pathfinder," who promoted the venture to potential investors in the late 1890s.

The proposed route was similar to that envisioned by South Carolina Senator John C. Calhoun in the 1830s. Calhoun had proposed a connection between Charleston and Cincinnati that would extend across his state to the Chattooga River, thence through Rabun Gap to the Little Tennessee River and on to Knoxville and Cincinnati.

It was not until 1852, with the advent of the Blue Ridge Railroad, that any construction would begin. By 1859, the line between Anderson and Walhalla, SC, had been opened, and several tunnels near the Chattooga River were nearing completion, but the additional investment funding needed was denied by the state legislature. Soon afterwards, South Carolina seceded from the Union, and the Civil War prevented any further progress.

Like the Blue Ridge Railroad, Boone's line would have passed through Rabun Gap, but would not have crossed the Chattooga. Instead, it was planned that the rails would follow the west bank of that river to the Tugaloo and Savannah rivers, remaining inside Georgia all the way to Savannah. Of course, if South Carolina or some of its cities had been willing to make a major investment in the enterprise, the routing could have been altered.

Not long after the Black Diamond venture collapsed, the shortline Tallulah Falls Railway extended its tracks from Clayton to Franklin, NC. As a result, a train finally made its way through Rabun Gap. But the TF would meet its end in the early 1960s, and the gap has not had a railroad since.

1896 map of the projected route in northern Georgia (41K) Georgia's Railroad History & Heritage. © Steve Storey.

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