McDONOUGH, Ga. — On any given day, it’s not uncommon to hear the sound of a passing freight train in McDonough. The railroad roots in Henry County run deep.
The earliest railroad in Henry County dates to the 1830s with the completion of the Monroe Railroad.
The railroad, chartered in 1833, was to build a line connecting Macon and Forsyth, passing through Hampton and bypassing the city of McDonough. Trains were up and running by December 1838 and in 1845, the line was sold to Daniel Tyler, of the Macon and Western fame.
In the early 1870s, the Macon and Western Railroad merged into the Central of Georgia Railway. Southern Railway, and its successor Norfolk Southern Railway, has controlled the company since the 1890s.
Across the county, in 1882, the East Tennessee, Virginia and Georgia Railroad completed its Atlanta Division between Rome and Macon via Atlanta. After changing hands and being sold under foreclosure, the railroad merged into Southern Railway in 1895.
A third railroad — the Georgia Midland and Gulf Railroad — was completed in December 1887. The line connected Columbus and McDonough. Like the East Tennessee, Virginia and Georgia Railroad, the Georgia Midland and Gulf Railroad ultimately folded into Southern Railway.
Henry County’s railroad history is most noted for the Camp Creek Train Wreck of 1900 when a Southern Railway train crashed just outside of McDonough.
The northbound passenger train, heading from Macon to Atlanta, was running behind schedule when it pulled into the McDonough depot around 9:30 p.m. The train departed the depot, heading towards the bridge over Camp Creek, which had been washed out by excessive rain.
The engineer, J.T. Sullivan, was unable to stop the train before the crash. More than 30 people were killed.
A near-replica of the engine, also known as “Old No. 7,” is on display in Heritage Park. That engine was build in 1934.