Smithonia & Dunlap Railroad

From: "A Great Farmer at Work," The World's Work, Vol. IX, No. 3, January 1905. Online at Google Books.

This seven-mile Oglethorpe County line had the distinction of being built by a farmer to serve his farm. James Monroe Smith needed to haul the products of his plantation, the state's largest at thirty square miles, to market, so after lay-by time in 1888 he put his workers to the task of constructing a railroad. The line was finished in February of the following year. It connected Smithonia, the center of Smith's agricultural enterprises, to the Georgia Railroad at Dunlap, a couple of miles southeast of Winterville.

Smith also constructed the 5-mile Smithonia, Danielsville & Carnesville, which carried his farm products north to a connection with the Seaboard Air Line Railway at Five Forks (now Colbert).

In the 1894 edition of The Official Railway List, the S&D and the SD&C jointly reported operating 20 miles of railroad with 2 locomotives, 1 passenger car, and 8 freight and miscellaneous cars.

The S&D was originally chartered as the Winterville & Pleasant Hill Railroad Company on January 6, 1888. As Smith continued buying property, Pleasant Hill became known as Smithonia, and Winterville was not actually on Smith's railroad, so the old name had become obsolete. The General Assembly confirmed the name change on November 11, 1889.

At least one of Smith's locomotives was a Porter "back truck" model (above). It was described in a Porter catalog:

This style is advisable for suburban roads, for passenger or mixed service, for either narrow or wide gauge, where considerable power combined with fast speed is required. No turn-table is needed, and the motion is easy both when running with the truck ahead or following. Very sharp curves are practible. Speeds of 15 to 25 miles per hour on curves and grades, and 30 to 40 miles per hour under favorable circumstances may be attained.

In a summary of work done by Porter locomotives,* Smith's railroad was described as a 7-mile, 57-inch gauge line with 30-pound rail. The back truck locomotive ran 84 to 168 miles per day at a regular speed of 12 miles per hour. On a 168-mile, 12 hour day it would use 3 cords of wood. It generally hauled 2 cars at a time but had pulled as many as 4 cars weighing a total of 110 tons.

The Smithonia & Dunlap was abandoned sometime around 1930.

Smith was a major participant in the brutal convict leasing programs established by the state after the Civil War. Much of his success as a farmer, businessman, and railroad builder was gained on the backs of forced labor.


1894 map (170K)

1895 map (83K)

* Light Locomotives. H.K. Porter Company, Pittsburgh, PA, Sixth edition, 1889. Online at Google Books.

Smith's house in Smithonia in 2006. It has since been expanded and altered.

The timetable above got the middle letter of Smith's name wrong.

Daily, except Sunday. Georgia law prohibited running trains on Sunday.

Above, a 1915 listing for the railroad. Smith died the same year.

Suggested Reading:

E. Merton Coulter. James Monroe Smith: Georgia Planter, Before Death and After. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1961. Reprinted 2002.

Matthew J. Mancini. One Dies, Get Another: Convict Leasing in the American South, 1866-1928. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1996.

See also Smithonia, Danielsville & Carnesville RR. Georgia's Railroad History & Heritage. © Steve Storey

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