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Streetcars in Marietta

Atlanta Northern Railway interurban car on Atlanta-Marietta run

Marietta interurban car crossing the Chattahoochee River.

Marietta was the northern teminus of an interurban line that ran between downtown Atlanta and the Cobb County city for nearly 42 years. Operated as the Atlanta Northern Railway, a subsidiary of the Georgia Railway & Electric Company, the electric-car system began operations on July 17, 1905.

The Atlanta end of the 18-mile line was at Walton, Forsyth, and Marietta Streets, where it connected with that city's streetcar system. On the Marietta end it followed Atlanta Street and then circled the city square. Along the way, from Atlanta northwards, it passed by Hills Park, Crestlawn Cemetery, Bolton, Gilmore/Oakdale, Campbell's, Smyrna, Fair Oaks, Jonesville, and Glover Machine Works. North of Campbell's the line followed alongside the NC&StL Railroad, first on the west side, then crossing over to the east side on a bridge just north of Fair Oaks (at present-day Atlanta Road bridge over the CSX railroad).

The first three miles of the route was on city trackage of the Marietta Street-Inman Yard line, with most of the remaining mileage on private right of way.

Atlanta Northern Railway interurban railcar

Atlanta Northern passenger car no. 301. (From: Street Railway Review, vol. 15, no. 9, 1905, p. 585. Online at Internet Archive here.)

Atlanta Northern Railway railcar stopped in cut along route

Most of the route was on a private right of way parallel to Ga. Hwy. 3. Here a car is seen in one of several cuts along the way; a rock slide appears to have brought the car to a halt. (From: Electrical Review, September 16, 1905).

The cars ran in the streets in Atlanta and Marietta. (From: Westinghouse ad in Freight; The Shippers' Forum, December, 1906. Online at Google Books.)

A Sept. 16, 1905 article in Electrical Review provides a look at the railway a year after its opening:

Atlanta Northern Railway
The First Single-Phase Railway in the South

On July 17 last, the Atlanta Northern Railway Company opened its line between Atlanta and Marietta, Ga., and the largest interurban electric railway in the South was added to the steadily growing list of roads employing the single-phase alternating-current system developed by Westinghouse Electric and Manufacturing Company. Since the commencement of service, exceptionally large crowds have at times been transported and successful operation of the line is assured.

The company operates some fifteen miles of track between the terminal cities of Marietta and Atlanta and enters the latter city over the track of the Georgia Railway and Electric Company. The interurban line, however, is operated entirely independently and makes no attempt to conduct a local service.

Marietta, the northern terminus of the line, is located at the foot of the Kanasaw [sic] mountain, made famous during the Civil War by one of the battles of General Sherman, and now the site of a national cemetery. The intervening country is rolling and is devoted largely to the raising of cotton. The line crosses the Chattahoochee river at Iceville and passes through the villages of Smyrna, Gilmore, and Butler. It is constructed over a private right of way which runs parallel to the track of the Western & Atlantic Railroad.

The track construction is exceptionally good, consisting of seventy-pound T-rails laid on ties which are ballasted with slag shipped from the iron furnaces of the Birmingham district. The maximum grade is three per cent and the shortest curve has a radius of 574 feet....

The rolling stock comprises six passenger and one freight car, four cars being employed in regular service to maintain a half-hour schedule between terminal points. The running time is forty-five minutes each way including some twenty stops. During the heavy rush hours, 189 passengers have been carried on a single car.

The passenger cars measure fifty feet six inches over all, and weigh about thirty tons each. They have a seating capacity of fifty-six persons. The cars were built by the Cincinnati Car Company and are mounted upon Brill 27-E trucks. The freight car was also constructed by the Cincinnati Car Company and is mounted upon standard trucks of the manufacturer. All cars are of the double-truck type with twenty-eight feet between truck centres.

The passenger cars are equipped with quadruple Westinghouse No. 108 fifty-horse-power motors.... The motors may be run continuously on any one of the five notches, so a wide range of running speed may be secured.

The freight car is equipped with four No. 108 motors similar to those used on the four passenger cars with hand control, but in order that this car may be operated on any part of the city system, as well as over the company's own tracks, the control is arranged for operation on either direct or alternating current.

(Article condensed from: Electrical Review, Vol. 47, No. 12, September 16, 1905, By George Worthington. Entire article is online at Google Books.)

The properties of the Georgia Railway & Electric Company were leased to the new Georgia Railway & Power Company in 1912. The latter company was consolidated into the Georgia Power Company in 1927.

One of the ten new 37,800 lb. interurban cars purchased in 1926. Multiple-unit controls allowed them to run as two-car trains when needed.

Each car had 52 well-padded leather seats, foot rests, and parcel racks.
(Three photos above from Electric Railway Journal, December 31, 1927. Online at Internet Archive here).

In his book The Trolley Titans, O. E. Carson described the demands of World War II on the Atlanta Northern:

At the Marietta Aircraft Assembly Plant, better known as the Bell Bomber Plant, some 20,000 women were needed in 1943 to help fill the ranks of the work force of 45,000 projected when ground for the plant was broken and its construction begun in the spring of 1942.... Even though employment at the plant on the 77-acre Cobb County site had yet to reach its peak, the number of passengers carried in 1942 exceeded 1,350,380, thus doubling the 1941 patronage of 674,791. In 1943, with many family cars stored due to gasoline and tire rationing, the Atlanta Northern gained nearly another million riders, even before the local defense effort could be fully staffed.

Carson indicated that a 2,000-foot spur from the main line to the plant was placed in service in August of 1943. In 1944, he noted, passenger traffic exceeded three million.

With the end of the war, the phasing out of the bomber plant, and competition from buses and automobiles, the future of the line became uncertain. It was sold on December 30, 1946 to a bus line operator who promptly shut it down. The last car ran on January 31, 1947.

Trolley Line Park, alongside Log Cabin Drive south of Smyrna, follows a short section of the old interurban route.

Trolley barn of Atlanta Northern Railway, Atlanta, GA

At 981 Joseph E. Lowery Blvd. in Atlanta stands the Atlanta Northern's former trolley barn. Now part of the King Plow arts complex along Marietta Street, the 1927 structure occupies the same site as the ca. 1904 barn that first served the railway. For a brief history of the building, see this page at the website of the Marietta Street Artery Association.


Suggested Reading:

O.E. Carson. The Trolley Titans; A Mobile History of Atlanta.
Glendale, CA: Interurban Press, 1981.

Jean Martin. Mule to MARTA. Vols 1 & 2. Atlanta Historical Society,

Wade H. Wright. History of the Georgia Power Company; 1855-1956. Atlanta: Georgia Power Company, 1957. Georgia's Railroad History & Heritage. © Steve Storey

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