GAINESVILLE, Ga. — May 28, 1871, spelled an important day for the city of Gainesville — it was the day that the Atlanta and Richmond Air Line Railway opened.
In 1894, the railroad came under the control of Southern Railway. The railroad served as an important link between Atlanta and Charlotte.
As the railroad grew, so to did other lines that served Gainesville and the city quickly became and important railroad hub.
On Aug. 23, 1872, the Gainesville, Jefferson and Southern Railroad was chartered. A 55-mile segment between Gainesville and Monroe opened March 8, 1884.
In 1904, the Gainesville Midland Railway took over the Gainesville, Jefferson & Southern Railroad, which had some financial troubles. In 1959, the line between Athens and Gainesville was sold to the Seaboard Air Line Railroad.
A third line — the Gainesville and Northwestern Railroad — was chartered in 1912 and initially built between Gainesville and Cleveland. The line was abandoned in the 1930s, primarily because of a decline in the lumber business.
The Gainesville and Dahlonega Railroad was the fourth railroad to serve Gainesville. A portion of the line was apparently built in the latter half of the 1870s but soon was abandoned, according to Railga.com.
During the early 20th century, streetcars also served Gainesville.
Today, Norfolk Southern operates the former Southern Railway line through town. CSX operates the former Gainesville Midland Railroad line, though a portion of the tracks around the old train depot have been removed.
There are still two railroad depots standing in town. One of the train depots, built in 1910 and formerly Southern Railway’s building, is still used by Amtrak’s Crescent. The other depot, built in 1914 and formerly used by the Gainesville Midland, is now used as an arts center.
On display near the former Gainesville Midland depot is decapod steam engine No. 209 that served on the railroad. A Seaboard Air Line Railroad caboose is also on display near the decapod.
Originally published in the December 2005 edition of The Cross-Tie.