Gainesville & Dahlonega Railroad

The 1836 courthouse in Dahlonega dates to the earliest years of Georgia railroads, but the town never saw one of them.

Little is known of this unsuccessful venture to build a rail line between the two Appalachian foothill towns, mainly because most of the early records were lost. The charter was apparently obtained in 1876, and construction began around 1878. A few miles of rails were laid at the Gainesville end, but none ever reached Dahlonega. Some accounts indicate that the tracks only got as far as the Chattahoochee River.

Poors' Manual of the Railroads for 1888 indicated that the road "from Gainesville to Chestatee, 15 miles, was placed under construction in 1878 and 4 miles completed." The following year the Manual reported: " The road from Gainesville to Chestatee, 15 miles, was placed under construction in 1878, and 4 miles, from Gainesville to the Chattahoochee River, completed in 1882." This report indicated that the projected line would be 26 miles long, from Gainesville to Dahlonega, and would be built at a 3-ft. gauge with 30-pound rail.

In 1895 Poors noted that the line had been sold under foreclosure in 1891.

The lack of further progress was chiefly due to insufficient local investment in the line. A related factor was the hilly and often rocky terrain and the need for numerous bridges and trestles, including spans over the Chestatee and the Chattahoochee rivers. Apparently the Chattahoochee bridge was completed, but few details are available in the remaining historical record.

A later effort to complete the line came with the June 1901 incorporation of the Gainesville & Dahlonega Electric Railway. Described in the Commercial and Financial Chronicle as a trolley road, it would have been "operated with electricity from a water power plant on the Chestatee River midway between the two cities."

The Chronicle also indicated that the road is "to run between Gainesville and Dahlonega, a distance of 27 miles, with a branch of 7 miles in Gainesville and to cotton mills, a total of 34 miles. The track (7 miles) in Gainesville, and between Gainesville and New Holland is completed, and remainder is expected to be completed during 1903."

In 1905 the Electrical Review reported that the Gainesville & Dahlonega Electric Railway "has conveyed to the Gainesville, Dahlonega & Northern Railway the right of way and roadbed from Gainesville to Dahlonega." The G&D ER also "conveyed to the Gainesville Electric Railway Company all the street railway constructed and completed in Gainesville, and in Hall County, Georgia, and the electric plant on the Chestatee River, together with its dam, pole-line, substations and other property, including franchises."

As it turned out, the Gainesville, Dahlonega & Northern Railway was no more successful than its predecessors in building the railroad.


See also Streetcars in Gainesville.

1883 map (32K)

Suggested Reading:

Olin Jackson and Michael A. Miller, "Early Railroads in Lumpkin & Dawson Counties." A North Georgia Journal of History, Vol I. Alpharetta, GA: Legacy Communications, 1989.

Thomas Fetters. Logging Railroads of the Blue Ridge and Smoky Mountains. Vol. 2. Tallulah Falls, Anna Ruby Falls, and Jeffrey's Hell. Hillsboro, OR: Timber Times, 2010.

William L. Norton, Jr. Historic Gainesville & Hall County: An Illustrated History. San Antonio, TX: Historical Publishing Network, 2001. Georgia's Railroad History & Heritage. © Steve Storey

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