NORCROSS, Ga. – Once a resort for wealthy Atlanta residents is today a suburb of the state capital. Named for Jonathan Norcross, a former mayor of Atlanta, the city was founded by J.J. Thrasher and is the second oldest city in Gwinnett County, incorporated on Oct. 26, 1870.
Construction of a railroad connecting Atlanta and Richmond, Va., began on the eve of the Civil War, but wasn’t completed because of the conflict. Work resumed in 1868 and the railroad was completed three years later. By 1878, the Airline Belle, a four-coach passenger train, began making two daily round trips from Norcross to Atlanta.
The present day train depot was erected in 1906 to serve Southern Railways, which ran from Atlanta north through the city.
Southern Railways traces its beginning to the nine-mile South Carolina Canal & Rail Road Co., which was chartered in December 1827. The railroad ran the country’s first regularly scheduled passenger train. Over the next six decades, as many as 150 lines would fold into one another.
Southern Railways came to be in 1894, with the combination of the Richmond & Danville system and the East Tennessee, Virginia & Georgia railroads. The company, however, had financial interests in other roads, including the Alabama Great Southern, the Georgia Southern & Florida and the Central of Georgia railroads. The railroad’s first president, Samuel Spencer, continually gained control of more railroads during his 12 years as executive.
By 1911, Southern Railways had 8,000 miles of track in 13 states. And in 1953, Southern Railways was the first major U.S. railroad to convert its operations totally to diesel power. As its motto suggested, “The Railway System that Gives a Green Light to Innovations.”
In 1982, Southern Railways merged with the Norfolk & Western Railroad to create Norfolk Southern. In 1998, Norfolk Southern, along with CSX, took control of Conrail.