It was midnight when the narrow gauge locomotive and its load eased out of Jefferson, Ga.
Pulling out of the North Georgia city of Jefferson in September 1906, the engineer laid the Gainesville Midland locomotive’s whistle. “Fact is, the whistle was still blowing when it passed out of hearing of Jefferson,” the Weekly Banner reported.
It was the last narrow gauge train to serve the city. George Story served as the train’s conductor.
Days later, the first standard gauge train, engineered by Ben Bird, approached town. On a Friday, the train, carrying passengers and mail, reached the water tower, but it wasn’t until Sunday that the train was finally able to reach the town’s depot, just 36 minutes behind schedule.
“A large crowd greeted the new train as it rolled up to the new depot,” the newspaper reported.
At that point, the railroad connected Jefferson and Gainesville, Ga. With only six miles of an extension completed, it would be a couple more months until the rail line connected the cities with Athens, Ga.
There, the Gainesville Midland would connect with the Seaboard Airline.
In 1883, the Gainesville Midland’s predecessor – the Gainesville, Jefferson and Southern – completed its narrow gauge line between Gainesville, Ga., and Social Circle, Ga., via Winder, Ga. The line – called the Jug Tavern Route after the original name of the city of Winder – closed in the late 1940s.
The Gainesville, Jefferson and Southern Railroad built a second narrow gauge line connecting Jefferson, Ga., with Belmont, Ga., where it joined the line to Gainesville.