Rising Fawn Iron Works Railroad

Porter locomotive of the type used at Rising Fawn Iron Works

In 1874, not long after the Alabama & Chattanooga Railroad was built through the Dade County village of Rising Fawn, a group of investors constructed a 50-ton iron blast furnace about a mile east of the place. Farther east, and near the top of Lookout Mountain, they opened a coal mine which was reportedly driven into the mountain for a quarter of a mile. Coal from the mine was loaded onto an incline and then transferred to a narrow-gauge railroad which carried it nearly four miles to the furnace. The operation had barely begun, however, when the iron market collapsed with pig iron dropping in price from 50 dollars to 30 dollars per ton. The company entered receivership and was soon purchased by the Walker Iron & Coal Company which had been organized by former Georgia governor Joseph E. Brown and Tennessee Coal & Railroad Company president James C. Warner. Besides the Walker Company, Brown also controlled the Dade Coal Company which owned a large complex of coal mines and coke ovens at Cole City in the far northwestern corner of Dade County. (See Nickajack Railroad.)

After four or five years, Warner sold his interest and the company changed its name to the Georgia Mining & Manufacturing Company. The GM&MC enlarged the furnace to 100 tons capacity and operated it until 1896. Around 1903, the Georgia Iron & Coal Company took over the property and enlarged the furnace to 225 tons. The GI&CC was controlled by Atlanta businessman Joel Hurt.

A 1908 report by the Georgia Geological Survey provides an overview of the property at the time:

In addition to the furnace here described, the Georgia Iron & Coal Company owns numerous cottages, a large store, well equipped offices, machine shops, etc., all of which are located in the immediate vicinity of the furnace. The furnace is connected with the Alabama Great Southern Railroad [successor to the A&C] at Rising Fawn by a standard-gauge branch railroad one mile long. The company also owns another branch road of nearly equal length, extending from the furnace to the limestone quarry from which stone is secured for fluxing purposes. The quarry here referred to is located at the base of Lookout Mountain less than a half of a mile in a direct line north of the furnace.

No mention was made of the narrow-gauge railroad to the coal mine; perhaps it was abandoned when the Walker Iron & Coal Co. took over. The line between the furnace and Rising Fawn may have been built at narrow gauge; if so, it was later converted to standard gauge.

The Georgia Iron & Coal Company was acquired by the Southern Steel Company on October 1, 1906. The furnace was operated until 1926 when it was demolished.

Rising Fawn iron furnace, Dade County, Georgia

Rising Fawn iron furnace. Lookout Mountain in the background.
(From: S. W. McCallie, Report on the Fossil Iron Ores of Georgia. Bulletin 17, Geological Survey of Georgia, 1908.)

Blast furnace at Rising Fawn Iron Works

Rising Fawn iron furnace, probably in the 1870s.
(From: The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs: Photography Collection, The New York Public Library. Rising Fawn Iron Works. Hot Blast.)

Rising Fawn iron works railroad map

This map shows the railroad running east from Rising Fawn, passing the furnace, and then ascending the slopes of Lookout Mountain to coal mines near the top of the plateau. The railroad running north-south through Rising Fawn is the Alabama Great Southern. (Adapted from S. W. McCallie, A Preliminary Report on the Coal Deposits of Georgia. Bulletin 12, Geological Survey of Georgia, 1904.)

Rising Fawn, Georgia, view east towards Johnson's Crook

View east from Rising Fawn towards Johnson's Crook, where the iron works, mines, and railroads were located.

The iron works' old commissary.

Type of Porter narrow-gauge locomotive used at Rising Fawn iron works

Type of Porter narrow-gauge locomotive used by the iron works. (From: Light Locomotives, H. K. Porter and Co., 1889, p. 97. Online at HathiTrust Digital Library here.)

The drawing above shows the type of 30-inch gauge locomotive that H. K. Porter sold to the iron works in 1875. It ran on the 3.7-mile line that climbed the mountain on a grade that averaged 316 feet per mile. The sharpest curve on this line had a 75-foot radius. Traveling on 30-pound rails, the locomotive hauled as many as 10 two-ton (empty) cars at a time. It averaged 30 miles per day, using one ton of coal and four tanks of water.




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