Savannah, Florida & Western Railway

SF&W no. 45. (State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory)

Henry B. Plant purchased the Atlantic & Gulf Railroad in November 1879 at a foreclosure sale, and on December 9, 1879 organized the Savannah, Florida & Western to operate the line. The following year he began building the Waycross and Florida Railroad, from Waycross to the Florida state line, where it was to join his East Florida Railroad being constructed from Jacksonville, Florida. The result, after completion in 1881, was a 71-mile line from the emerging rail center of Waycross to the important steamship and rail connections at Jacksonville.

Known as the Waycross Short Line, the new link greatly shortened travel time along the southern coast by avoiding an older western route between Lawton, GA (now DuPont) and Live Oak, FL, built during the Civil War.

In 1882, Plant established the Plant Investment Company to acquire other railroads.

Also in 1882-83, the SF&W built the 32-mile line from Climax to Chattahoochee, Florida. This extension of its main line connected with the Pensacola & Atlantic, an L&N Railroad subsidiary line in northern Florida.

In 1884, Plant consolidated the Waycross and Florida Railroad, along with several railroads in Florida, into the SF&W.

In the same year Plant bought the Brunswick and Western Railroad. He allowed it to operate independently until 1901 when it was absorbed into the SF&W.

SF&W no. 13. (R.B. Carneal, State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory)

The Monticello Branch, from Thomasville to Monticello, Fla., was built in 1888.

In the 1889 edition of The Official Railway List, the SF&W reported operating 569 miles of railroad with 79 locomotives, 102 passenger cars, and 1,337 freight and miscellaneous cars.

In 1894 the figures were 569 miles of railroad with 92 locomotives, 136 passenger cars, and 2,257 freight and miscellaneous cars.

Plant served as president of the SF&W from 1880 until his death in 1899. After a period of legal disputes and uncertainty, his heirs broke up his empire of railroads, steamships, and hotels, selling the Plant System of railroads to the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad in 1902.

SF&W train at Jasper, Florida, on the DuPont-Live Oak line between Georgia and Florida. It was abandoned in 1988.
(State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory)

Maps, Timetables, and Other Information:

1879 advertisements (250K)

1879 map (104K)

1881 map (530K)

1882 timetable (270K)

1882 map (167K)

1886 map, SE (326K)

1886 map, SW (242K)

1887 advertisement (120K)

Standard SF&W combination depot

Suggested Reading:

Gregg M. Turner and Seth H. Bramson. The Plant System of Railroads, Steamships and Hotels; The South's First Great Industrial Enterprise. Laurys Station, PA: Garrigues House, Publishers, 2004.

Gregg M. Turner. A Journey into Florida Railroad History. Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2008.

The SF&W marketed its passenger services to the early "snowbird" market.

The Plant System kept the SF&W symbol above, but simplified it.
(State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory)

Cover of 1879 guidebook issued by Savannah, Florida & Western Railway

(From: Savannah, Florida and Western Railway Company. [from old catalog]. Guide to Southern Georgia And Florida, Containing a Brief Description of Points of Interest to the Tourist, Invalid Or Emigrant, And How to Reach Them. 6th ed. Savannah, Ga.: Morning News Steam Print. House, 1879. Online at HathiTrust Digital Library here).

 Georgia's Railroad History & Heritage. © Steve Storey

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