The Georgia Railroad is one of the more famous routes to operate in Georgia. It is among the first railroads in the state and operated until the 1980s when it merged into the Family Lines System.
The impetus for the Georgia Railroad was the South Carolina Canal and Railroad Company, which was chartered on Dec. 19, 1827, and opened in 1830. Georgia leaders, including Athens resident James Camak, wanted a road to connect with the South Carolina railroad (also known as the Charleston and Hamburg Railroad) in Augusta.
As a result, the Georgia Railroad was formally chartered on Dec. 21, 1833, to build a road from Augusta to a point where it would connect with branches to Athens, Madison and Eatonton. However, its charter replaced that of an earlier road, chartered in December 1831 to build from Augusta to Eatonton.
The Georgia Railroad constructed branches to Athens and Madison, but the Eatonton branch was not, and the charter was later amended to extend the Madison line to connect with the Western & Atlantic Railroad at Atlanta.
“Work on the Georgia Railroad began at once,” Lucian Lamar Knight noted in A Standard History of Georgia and Georgians, Volume 2. “By 1837, a portion of the road was finished and cars began to run carrying both freight and passengers. Two years later seventy-eight miles of track had been laid. In 1840 the road was completed to Madison and there was also a branch line to Athens.”
Work on the road started in Augusta in 1835, and it was completed to Greensboro in 1838, Athens in 1840 and Madison in 1841. The 171-mile-long line finally reached Atlanta in 1845.
The first passengers would ride the train as far as the line extended, then transfer to horse-drawn coaches for the remainder of their trip.
The cost of construction was nearly $3.3 million.
The railroad’s principal offices were originally located in Athens but moved to Augusta in 1843. William Dearing of Athens was the railroad’s first president; J.P. King succeeded Dearing in 1841.
Connections to other lines were of vital importance to the Georgia Railroad. Among them were the South Carolina Railroad in Augusta, the Western & Atlantic Railroad in Atlanta and the Atlanta and West Point Railroad in Atlanta.
In April 1881, the Georgia Railroad system was controlled by lease by the Central Railroad of Georgia and the Louisville and Nashville systems. By 1896, the railroad operated 721 miles of track, all in Georgia.