A Look at the Western & Atlantic Railroad’s Early Locomotives

Photos: Top left, the Western & Atlantic logo from 1901 (Courtesy of Digital Library of Georgia); Top right, a Baldwin locomotive from 1834 (Courtesy of HathiTrust); Bottom left, the Pioneer locomotive built by Baldwin in 1837 (Courtesy of the Library of Congress); Bottom right, a view of Atlanta from the 1850s (Courtesy of the National Archives). (Graphic by The DeFeo Groupe)

The Western & Atlantic Railroad operated some of the earliest locomotives in Georgia and the Southeast.

The road, built and owned by the state of Georgia, acquired 10 locomotives during the 1840s. The following profiles and information about these early locomotives are based on Western & Atlantic annual reports and information from the Southern Museum of Civil War & Locomotive History.


Its earliest locomotive, the Florida, a 4-2-0 built in 1837, initially served on the Georgia Rail Road before it was transferred to the Western & Atlantic. It entered service on the latter in December 1842, where it pulled the first excursion train over the line in December 1842.

By the end of the decade, the locomotive was used more sparingly.

Between Sept. 30, 1847, and Sept. 30, 1848, for example, the steamer was used for passenger service, but reported 8,800 miles in service and was listed as “laid up” in the railroad’s 1848 report. It saw no miles in service between Sept. 30, 1848, and Sept. 30, 1849, and was similarly listed as “laid up for repairs” in the 1849 report.

By the 1850 report, the steamer was listed “on (the) road in complete order,” but saw just 926 miles in service between Sept. 30, 1849, and Sept. 30, 1850. It was in the shop in 1851, 1852, 1854 and 1857. It was listed as condemned in 1858 and 1859 and worn out and condemned in 1860.


The Western & Atlantic purchased another early locomotive, the Alabama, in 1845. This locomotive, also a 4-2-0, was built in 1838 and entered service on the State Road in September 1845.

The locomotive was in use for passenger service in 1848 and saw 21,000 miles between Sept. 30, 1847, and Sept. 30, 1848. By Sept. 30, 1849, the locomotive was in use west of the tunnel and operated 4,200 miles between Sept. 30, 1848, and Sept. 30, 1849.

By the 1850 report, however, the steamer was used for ditching. It was abandoned by the latte half of 1852, according to records.


Arguably the railroad’s most famous early locomotive was the Yonah, which saw action during the Great Locomotive Chase. At the time, Cooper Iron Works was leasing the engine.

In addition to being the best-known of the early locomotives, it was also the longest-tenured with the road.

Rogers, Ketchum & Grosvenor built the steamer, which entered service in April 1849. It appears the Yonah was heavily used from the start for passenger service, notching 13,065 miles in service between April 1849 and Sept. 30, 1849.

Between Sept. 30, 1849, and Sept. 30, 1850, the Yonah was the most heavily used locomotive on the Western & Atlantic, running 29,416 miles during the year pulling passenger trains.

By 1855, the locomotive was relegated to switching duty, though it returned to passenger duty the next year. In 1857, the railroad used the Yonah for gravel duty and returned it to switching service in 1858.

The railroad listed the locomotive in freight duty in its 1861 and 1862 annual reports. In 1866, it was assigned to the machine shows, and in 1868 and 1869, the railroad recorded the Yonah as stationary. In 1873, it was condemned and presumably scrapped.


LocomotiveBuilderEntered ServiceDisposition
FloridaBaldwinDecember 1842Listed as condemned in 1858 and 1859 and worn out and condemned in 1860
AlabamaBaldwinSeptember 1845Listed as abandoned in 1852
ChattanoogaBaldwinJanuary 1847Sold by 1855
ConnasaugaBaldwinFebruary 1847Listed as permanently disabled and condemned in 1854
TuscaloosaBaldwinMarch 1847Listed in 1860, but removed by 1861
MontereyRogers, Ketchum & GrosvenorNovember 1847Listed in good order in 1857, but removed by 1858
ChickamaugaBaldwinMay 1848Listed as worn out and condemned in 1860
TalulahBaldwinMay 1848Listed as condemned in 1859 and worn out and condemned in 1860
YonahRogers, Ketchum & GrosvenorMarch 1849Listed as condemned in 1873
ToccoaNorrisAugust 1849Gone by 1866


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About Todd DeFeo 356 Articles
Todd DeFeo loves to travel anywhere, anytime, taking pictures and notes. An award-winning reporter, Todd revels in the experience and the fact that every place has a story to tell. He is owner of The DeFeo Groupe and also edits Express Telegraph and The Travel Trolley.