Norfolk Southern Donates Southern Railway Archives, $500,000 to Atlanta History Center

Norfolk Southern Corp. said it will donate the complete collection of historical documents from Southern Railway’s company archives to Atlanta History Center and $500,000 to support the collection in perpetuity.

The collection dates to the 1840s and includes hundreds of thousands of pages of correspondence, minute books, reports, construction plans and more than 20,000 photographs.

“The history of Southern Railway is inseparable from the history of this region. This treasure trove of material belongs in Atlanta, and there’s no better home than Atlanta History Center,” Jim Squires, chairman and CEO of Norfolk Southern, said in an announcement.

Southern Railway, whose predecessors date from 1827, merged with Norfolk & Western in 1982 to create Norfolk Southern, which today is one of the nation’s largest freight railroads. The archives represent the history of Southern Railway and more than 200 predecessor companies.

“Railroads are Atlanta’s reason for being and the backbone of our growth into the transportation and commercial hub we are today,” Atlanta History Center President & CEO Sheffield Hale said in a news release. “This collection is crucial to uncovering the many stories behind the city’s transformation. We’re excited to have the opportunity to preserve this history and make it publicly available for students and teachers, researchers, and those who are simply interested in Atlanta.”

The $500,000 grant will allow Atlanta History Center to digitize, catalog and preserve the collection. Norfolk Southern and Atlanta History Center have earmarked $50,000 to hire archival interns from underrepresented communities over the next five years.

Among the historic materials in the archives are menus from President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s train trips, telegrams announcing the sinking of the Titanic, more than 30 years of editions of the Southern Railway’s Ties Magazine, as well as advertisements, contracts, an extensive collection of photographs, and construction plans for rail stations and yards. The donation is expected to be completed by early 2022.

“Moving our headquarters to Atlanta starts a new chapter in our company’s story,” Squires said. “With access to the city’s world-class technology and business talent, we will once again make Atlanta a center for railroad innovation and industry leadership. This contribution demonstrates our intention to be an engaged member of our community.”

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