Atlanta roundhouse in 1864. (Photo by George N. Barnard/Public Domain via the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration)

ATLANTA — Atlanta is a true railroad town. If not for the railroad, the city may not exist.

Case in point: The city was originally named Terminus. That’s because the city was established at the starting point of the Western & Atlantic Railroad, which the Georgia General Assembly chartered in 1836 to connect Atlanta and Chattanooga, Tenn.

Atlanta Railroad Timeline

  • 1842: The Georgia Railroad (chartered in 1833) between Augusta and Atlanta opens
  • 1846: The Macon & Western Railroad connecting Atlanta and Savannah, Ga., opens
  • May 9, 1850: The complete Western & Atlantic line (chartered in 1836) between Atlanta and Chattanooga, Tenn., opens
  • 1853: Atlanta Union Station opens (it was destroyed during the Burning of Atlanta in 1864)
  • 1854: The Atlanta and LaGrange Rail Road (later Atlanta & West Point Railroad) connecting Atlanta and LaGrange, Ga., opens
  • 1871: A second Union Stations opens on the site of the 1853 station
  • 1889: Electric streetcars begin operation
  • 1905: Atlanta Terminal Station opens (the building was razed in 1972; the Richard B. Russell Federal Building opened on the site in 1979)
  • 1918: Peachtree Station opens in the Brookwood section of the city
  • 1920s: A series of viaducts is built atop the rail lines that run in and out of town (the area beneath these viaducts is today known as Underground Atlanta)
  • 1930: A third Union Station opens (it served the Atlantic Coast Line, the Georgia Railroad and the Louisville and Nashville and their predecessors; it was demolished in 1972)
  • 1949: The last streetcar runs (they later returned in December 2014)
  • Feb. 1, 1979: Amtrak began operations of the New York-to-New Orleans Crescent after Southern Railways exited the passenger business approximately eight years after Amtrak started operations